Thursday, December 15, 2016

The art of writing for the ‘normal’

British author Lisa Williamson speaks to Sapna Sarfare about her novel The Art of Being Normal which deals with youngster dealing with gender identity and need to get acceptability for who they really are.


Lisa Williamson

Some books just connect from the moment you read the first sentence. One such book has been The Art of Being Normal by British author Lisa Williamson which is a remarkable story of friendship. David Piper has a secret known to few – he wants to be girl. He meets Leo Denton who prefers being invisible to hide a secret. Their friendship begins when Leo saves David from a bully. But it also has to go through some fire. Will they know each other’s secret? What happens if others know about it? The story is about 2 people with dreams which others might not understand.
A native of Nottingham, Lisa trained as an actor before discovering the writer within. She also worked at London-based Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) which helps underage kids deal with gender identity. She speaks about her debut novel, the thought behind it and more.

I loved the book. It read like a page out of real life yet was fiction. How did that happen?             
I don’t know! I think my lack of planning actually perhaps works in my favour sometimes. I tend to start writing not necessarily knowing where the story will go. As a result, I think the action tends to unfold in quite an authentic and organic way. I also always remember something a creative writing once said, and that was to include lots of ‘strange but true’ details in your work. Life is weird, people are weird, even the ones to seem really ordinary. We all have our strange little quirks and habits so I always try to include as many of these as possible. I also always aim to end chapters on, not a cliffhanger, exactly, but with an unanswered question in the air. 

The story was different & touching. Was there any reason of picking it for your debut novel?
Yes. I was directly inspired by the young people I met through my job at the time – as administrator for the Gender Identity Development Service. I was struck by the lack of fiction featuring transgender characters, particularly aimed at a young adult audience. The books I did find tended to be quite gloomy so I set about writing an entertaining, engrossing book that explored gender identity in a way that I felt reflected some of the experiences the young trans people I’d met had had. I didn’t want it to be defined by one theme/issue. Above all, it’s a book about being a teenager and all the ups & downs this brings. 

While writing, what were the struggles you faced, as the theme is of one lead character wanting to be a girl and another hiding a secret?
I struggle with plotting. I don’t like to plot in advance because I feel it stifles me and often forces me down paths that don’t feel right. At the same time, it’s quite scary not knowing where your story is going! For ages, Leo and David lived in separate cities and I spend weeks and weeks trying to come up with realistic ways for them to meet. I then decided to have them attend the same school but again it took ages to work out how to make their lives collide without sacrificing the authenticity. On the other hand, I actually found keeping Leo’s secret very fun! I liked dropping in little clues along the way and building up to the reveal. 

I loved the fact that the topic dealt with issues like bullying, transgender people, school life, teenage issues and society in a sensitive yet light manner. How did the process go in your mind before writing?
I always wanted the book to be sensitive yet not weighed down by any one issue or theme. Life is full of light and shade so I wanted the book to reflect this. I also knew from the start that I wanted a happy, hopeful ending so even when I was writing a painful scene, at the back of my mind I knew things were ultimately going to be okay. 

How are the issues in your book seen in the west?
Things have changed a lot since I started writing the book (in 2012). There has been a huge increase in the coverage of trans issues in the arts and media and although prejudice remains, the response has been largely positive. By making trans people and issues relevant to them mainstream and visible, it’s helping to remove the sense of fear and the unknown that so many people base their prejudices on. I’ve had lots of lovely emails about the book. Equally, I’m aware I’m in a bit of a bubble. The majority of my friends are very open and liberal so it’s often shocking to me when I realise how prevalent trans phobia still is. Things are improving (slowly) but there is still a lot of prejudice and ignorance. We’ve come a long way in a short space of time but there’s still so much to do. 

How has the response been to the book? Any response which touched you or even made you think?
It's been really, really lovely! I’ve had lots of emails and tweets that have touched me deeply. I’ve had messages from young trans people saying it’s helped them come out to friends and family; others say it’s helped just knowing it exists and is sold in mainstream high street bookshops. I’ve also had messages from older trans people saying they wish they’d had a book like it when they were younger. 

What’s your next book going to be?  
My next book is called All About Mia and is out in February 2017. It’s about a girl called Mia who is a middle child, sandwiched between two very impressive sisters. 

BOOK: The Art of Being Normal
AUTHOR: Lisa Williamson
GENRE: Young Fiction
LANGUAGE: English
PUBLICATION: David Fickling Books
PAGES: 353 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pune Events Listings

Here are the latest events happening in Pune. Choose the favourite for a great time…


BLACK SENSATION @ONE LOUNGE FEAT.DJ JIGYESH WITH 6 OTHER DJS
Black Sensation the most talked about Black Party is happening this Friday at One Lounge where the dress code is anything Black. DJ Jigyesh will be playing the best of Commercial House along with six different DJs from Pune where all of them will go back to back! So mark your calendars.
WHERE: One Lounge, Koregaon Park
WHEN: December 16, 2016 
TIMING: 8 PM Onwards
FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT: 9665035671 

CYNTHIA FURTADO LIVE AT BETOS- BAR & KITCHEN
Cynthia Furtado is known as the most sensual singer making Pune proud. Her voice has mesmerized many who love beautiful English Songs. BETOS, a snazzy Restro-bar, is hosting Friday Live and giving this location something they all have been missing out on through artists like Cynthia Furtado and serving a wide spread of delicious food and cocktails alike. BETOS promises to attract everyone and bridge the gap between Cosmo eat out culture followed by Punekars of Koregaon Park and NIBM.
WHERE: BETOS, Runwal Diamond, Opp. Palace Orchid, Corinthians Road, Near Dorabjee's Mall, NIBM
WHEN: December 16, 2016 
TIMING: 8 PM Onwards 
FOR RESERVATIONS, CONTACT: 7219055586/98810 67072

DARK RUM FESTIVAL FEAT. DJ AKEY, CONEXXTION BROS AND AMOL SAWANT  @MIDTOWN
MIDTOWN is hosting a legendary Dark Rum Festival where one can get dark rum for just Rs.49 to getting unlimited dark rum for Rs.549, cocktails like Monk Elixir, Muddled Monk, Garden of Eden pitcher and many more. To add to the fun, this winter season DJ Akey, Conexxtion Bros and Amol Sawant will be going live Fri-Sat-Sun respectively. Midtown has been recently launched as per the New York – Times Square standards. It is elegant, classy and chic woven in colors of electric pink, gold and black.
WHERE: MIDTOWN, C-20, Ground Floor, Marvel Edge, Clover Park, Viman Nagar
WHEN: December 16-18, 2016
TIMING: 7 PM Onwards
FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT: +91 9665593753

CHRISTMAS JOY WITH MAD OVER DONUTS
In just a few weeks from now, streets will be glimmering in Christmas & holiday cheer. And India’s favourite donut brand, Mad Over Donuts, will be celebrating with its special range of Christmas donuts & coffees in the tempting flavours of Strawberry Santa, Ginger Buddy, Christmas Tree along with Hazelnut Lattes and Hazelnut Frappes  available at stores for a limited time only. The 100% vegetarian donuts are made from Mad Over Donuts’ famed handmade dough and freshly made in store.
WHERE: Select Mad Over Donuts’ outlets
WHEN: Till January 1, 2017
PRICING: Donuts start from Rs. 62*. Hazelnut Latte @ Rs. 115* & Hazelnut Frappe @ Rs. 135* (* Taxes Extra)
FOR INFORMATION, VISIT: www.madoverdonuts.com. Order online & get free delivery at: www.moddelivery.in

CONCERT CELEBRATING 175TH ANNIVERSARY OF ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK @ MAZDA HALL
Musica Varia Ensemble is a group of musicians from Germany of the highest order. The group consists of Hannah Sophie Wagner & Olga Becker on Violin, Constanze Marggraf on Viola, Martin Fuchs on Cello and Günter Fischer on Double Bass. They will be performing a very unique programme of Dvořák’s String Quintet Op. 18 and the String Quintet by Franz Lachner. These works will be performed for the first time in India. Please do not miss this concert. PHOTO CREDIT: www.poonamusic.com
WHERE: Mazda Hall, Dastur Primary School, Opp. Ladies Club, Camp
WHEN: December 16, 2016
TIMING: 7 PM
PRICING: Free Admittance

PUNE HERITAGE FESTIVAL 2017 – BLOCK YOUR CALENDARS!
At Pune Heritage Festival 2017, Punekars come together to know their shared past, trace our diverse roots, and explore the varied influences that continue to bring them closer. The Sixth Edition of Pune Heritage Festival is coming soon with activities include various heritage walks, nature trails, bus tours, lectures, workshops, exhibitions, cultural events, games & quizzes, campus tours, and much more.

ST MIRA’S COLLEGE PRESENTS SALIM GHOUSE’S SHAKESPEAREWALLAH
WHERE: Indulakshmi Auditorium, St. Mira’s College, Near Taj Vivant
WHEN: December 17, 2016
TIMING: Gates Open by 5.30 PM; Must be Seated by 5.45 PM
PRICING: Tickets @ Rs. 500 / Rs. 200

For listings, email all details to sapnasarfarejournalist@gmail.com

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Pune Events Listings

Here are the latest events happening in Pune. Choose the favourite for a great time…



‘FLAVOURS OF BENGAL’- MAACH, MISHTI & MORE @ BOTTLEDECK
BottleDeck is bringing to Pune their first food festival – ‘FLAVOURS OF BENGAL’. Bengali cuisine specializes in bringing together the perfect blend of sweet and spicy flavours. Part of this festival will be a 3 day exhibition showcasing some cultural artifacts, paintings, clothes etc and bringing a little bit of Bengal right at your doorstep.
WHERE: BottleDeck, Kshitij Heights, Sr. No. 35, Above Kshitij Apts, Mumbai-Bangalore Bypass Road, Baner
WHEN: December 9, 2016 
TIMING: 12 Noon Onwards​
FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT7745022200 | 7745022211

JIVE INTENSIVE WORKSHOP WITH ANJALI @ THE DANCE FLOOR PUNE
Prepare for this festive season by learning some fun dance moves at The Dance Floor Pune with jive lessons. No prior dance experience required and partner not compulsory.
PHOTO CREDIT: www.pinterest.com

WHERE: The Dance Floor Pune, Dastur Meher Road, Camp
WHEN: December 9-11, 2016
FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT: 9822536789, 8983508551



A SOULFUL EVENING WITH TABLATRONICS @ PHOENIX MARKETCITY PUNE
Enjoy pleasant Indian melodies and soulful rhythms fused with euphonic electronic music with live performance by “TABLATRONICS” at Phoenix Marketcity Pune. A fusion band with unusual but natural confluence of traditional Indian and modern world music, the band includes Heiko Dijker (Tabla), Igor Bezjet (Guitar), Mark Alban Lotz (Flute), Davide (Hang Drum) and Sharat Chandra Srivastava (Violin).
WHERE: Liberty Square at Phoenix Marketcity Pune, Nagar Road
WHEN:  December 10, 2016
TIMING: 6.30 PM Onwards
FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT: 020 33444444 or Log on to www.phoenixmarketcitypune.com or www.facebook.com/PhoenixMCtyPune

#SHAREJOY & SPREAD HOLIDAY CHEER THIS SEASON @ STARBUCKS
The holidays are the most magical time of the year. Inspired by this festive spirit, Starbucks invites customers to #ShareJoy with their loved ones through a special offer at all stores only in Pune. Get 2 Short Cappuccinos or 2 Short Lattes with a delicious Butter Croissant or Cookie at Rs 200 + Taxes – the perfect combination to celebrate the season’s spirit. 
Starbucks has also introduced another cup of indulgence in its exciting range of holiday offerings with its new beverage – the Red Hat Mocha, which is a decadent mix of cocoa and strawberry flavours. This beverage is a delightful treat to the eye. It is available in hot, iced and Frappuccino versions. Decadent Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese which have become the much-loved flavours of the season.
Extending the festivities, the My Starbucks Rewards members can check exclusive collectibles such as the Ornaments, Pouches, Starbucks Tumbler and limited edition Bearista Bear which are sure to bring a smile to their loved ones (limited until stocks last). 
So head over to your neighbourhood Starbucks store with your friends, colleagues and family to enjoy our #Sharejoy offer and exciting specials while they last!
WHERE: Nearest Starbucks Outlet
WHEN: Till January 4, 2017


MIX BAG OF CLUB MUSIC FEAT. DJ JIGYESH @LOLLAPALOOZA
This winter season DJ Jigyesh, winner of War of DJs by MTV, will make everyone bounce to his Mix Bag of Club Music- Hip-Hop, Commercial House, EDM and BDM Tunes as he brings heat on the dance floor on Saturday at Lollapalooza make everyone groove and jump.
WHERE: Lollapalooza, Near Kunal Icon, Pimple Saudagar
WHEN: December 10, 2016 
TIMING: 8 PM Onwards
FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT: 9665035671



SATURDAY LIVE WITH AMOL SAWANT FROM RAS THE BAND @ MIDTOWN
MIDTOWN is the recently launched restaurant as per the New York-Times Square standards. The chef has come from Paris where he was the head of an authentic French Restaurant to craft the F&B Menu. Amol Sawant from Ras Band to perform live on Saturday and make people groove to his acoustic songs.
WHERE: MIDTOWN, C-20, Ground Floor, Marvel Edge, Clover Park, Viman Nagar
WHEN: December 10, 2016
TIMING: 7 PM Onwards
FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT+91 9665593753

YAWAR ABDAL, PRIYA SAXENA & AMOL SAWANT PERFORM 
@ BLUE WATER RESTAURANT
Blue Water is hosting a fun filled weekender for all. Amol Sawant from Ras Band to perform on Friday and make them groove to his acoustic songs. Sufi Nights on Saturdays is where Priya Saxena will make you immerse yourself in some melodic music. Yawar Abdal will make everyone sway to beautiful acoustic songs on Sunday which is the Acoustic Day. 
WHERE: Blue Water Restaurant, Survey No.4 Punawale, Off Aundh Ravet BRT
WHEN: December 9-11, 2016
TIMING:  7 PM Onwards

FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT: +91 7276 676644

RECITAL OF MARCELLO NARDIS & ROBERTO PROSSEDA @MAZDA HALL
Two extraordinary musicians Marcello Nardis, tenor and Roberto Prosseda, pianist will feature a programme of lieder at Mazda Hall with a complete half dedicated to Francesco Paolo Tosti, the great Italian song composer whose death centenary we celebrate this year.
 WHEN:  December 9, 2016
WHERE: Mazda Hall, Dastur Primary School, Opp. Ladies Club, Camp
TIMING: 7 PM
PRICING: Free Admittance

For listings, email all details to sapnasarfarejournalist@gmail.com



Saturday, December 3, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Amazing Secrets of the Bhagavad Gita

Best-selling author Ed Viswanathan Amazing Secrets of the Bhagavad Gita is a good opportunity to understand the popular scripture. Just do not think beyond that. Sapna Sarfare reviews the book.



The Bhagavad Gita was always an attraction. There have been many a translation and unique takes on this Hindu scripture. So when best-selling author Ed Viswanathan had come up with Amazing Secrets of the Bhagavad Gita, I was intrigued enough to pick it up.

Amazing Secrets of the Bhagavad Gita is, in a way, kind of a follow on. It also has a dialogue form narrative but this time, between a grandfather and his grandson. Of course, the tone of the conversation is more of an indulgent grandpa who answers every question with patience and at times, appreciates the kind of questions his grandson poses.

The book basically introduces you to certain aspects of the sacred scripture and in turn, about Hinduism. What is the Bhagavad Gita? What are sin and salvation according to Lord Krishna? What does Lord Krishna say about birth, death, and reincarnation in the Bhagavad Gita? Does Lord Krishna mention heaven and hell in the Bhagavad Gita? A range of topics are covered, right from sati to stress control, avatar, and yoga to even homosexuality. The Q-As are aimed at the layman who might have some questions. If looking for answers for transcendental questions, this might not be the book for you.

It is easy to go to a particular topic without having to go through pages like mad. The language is simple too.

What really works is its narrative style. The conversation between the grandfather and grandson is simple yet meaningful and is understood by the layman. The topics are put in chapter format with a brief at the beginning, then the Q-As and then a small summary at the end of what the chapter spoke about. It is easy to go to a particular topic without having to go through pages like mad. The language is simple too. One feels it is kept considering the vast readership that might be picking up the book.

The simplicity might a factor for those who probably want more & deeper questions to be replied to. The book could have taken more questions related to things spoken in the Gita. Few complex questions could have been put in. Also, the overall feel one gets in the book is that of a superiority complex of Hindu religion. The talk always slides down to how the religion is more accepting of things or better than other religions. If the writer would have stuck to explaining Hinduism’s position on certain things or just what the book explains on diverse topics, the book would have hit the bull’s eye.

Overall, Amazing Secrets of the Bhagavad Gita does strike a chord with those looking for a visitors' guide to understanding the Bhagavad Gita.  Pick it if you are not looking for deeper meaning.

BOOK TITLE: Amazing Secrets of the Bhagavad Gita
AUTHOR: Ed Viswanathan
PUBLISHER: Rupa Publications India
PAGES: 312
PRICE: Rs. 266 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pune Events Listings

Here are the latest events happening in Pune. Choose the favourite for a great time…


FILTER KAAPI AT JUST RE 1 @ UPSOUTH EXPRESS
Grab an authentic South Indian Filter Kaapi at just Rs. 1, if you buy a plate of idli or dosa or medu wada or any favourite South Indian dish of yours, at UpSouth Express. Or buy your cup of filter Kaapi at Rs. 15 and get your second cup of filter coffee at just Re.1. Truly great value for money combined with supreme quality! 
WHERE: UpSouth Express, at Camp & Kondhwa 
WHEN: Till December 31, 2016
TIMING: 7 AM – 10 PM


FLAVOURS OF BENGAL @ BOTTLEDECK
BottleDeck is bringing to Pune their first food festival ‘FLAVOURS OF BENGAL’. Part of this
festival will also be a 3-day exhibition showcasing cultural artifacts, paintings, clothes etc and bringing a little bit of Bengal. Chef Hanumant is proficient in the cuisine and wants the patrons to savor authentic Bengali flavours. Popular dishes like Mishti Doi, Rosgulla, and Macher Jhol will be part of the menu.
PHOTO CREDIT: www.youtube.com  
WHERE: BottleDeck, Baner
WHEN: From December 9, 2016 Onwards
FOR RESERVATIONS, CONTACT: +91 7745022200, 7745022211

DJ ‘EDWARD MAYA’ TO SET THE STAGE AT PHOENIX MARKETCITY PUNE 
Europe’s leading EDM artiste Edward Maya is ready to set the stage on fire with live performance at Phoenix Marketcity Pune on Saturday. Together with him, Queen of Electronica Ma Faiza and India’s no.1 trance DJ Get Massive will enthrall Punekars with six hours of pure EDM a.k.a electronic dance music. So roll up your sleeves and tie your laces tight to dance on the pumping beats!
WHERE: Liberty Square at Phoenix Marketcity Pune, Nagar Road
WHEN:  December 3, 2016
TIMING: 4 PM Onwards

GERMAN JAZZ GROUP MELT TRIO @ MAZDA HALL
The Melt Trio is a guitar trio that does without any comparison. After two highly praised recordings - ‘Melt’ in 2011 and ‘Hymnolia’ in 2013, they presented their third album ‘Stroy' in August 2016. Hear them perform at Mazda Hall. The brothers Peter & Bernhard Meyer are on guitars and bass, while Moritz Baumgärtner is on drums. They have invented a sound that boldly yet humbly overrode all established concepts of jazz improvisation.  
PHOTO CREDIT: www.thehindu.com
WHERE: Mazda Hall, Dastur Primary School, Opp. Ladies Club, Camp
WHEN: December 2, 2016
TIMING: 7 PM
PRICING: Free Entry

CINEMA & STAND UP TO CELEBRATE WORLD DISABILITY DAY @ LOST THE PLOT PUNE
This World Disability Day, LTP wants to create a space, one big ballroom, where the abled and the differently abled can come together on a common floor, share like experiences and focus on what can bring us close, using the two means everybody loves – laughter & cinema. Joining them is comedian Kapil Patwardhan and making her debut in the comedy circuit,  independent writer and journalist Sweta Mantrii! The films shown are Disability: A State of Mind – a film by Sweta Mantrii and Dance for Parkinson’s disease – a film by Tapan Pandit.  
WHERE: Lost the Plot Pune, Seasons Hotel, Aundh
WHEN: December 2, 2016
TIMING: From 7.15 PM Onwards,
PRICING: Entry Free and Happy Hours are on until 8 PM

For listings, email all details to sapnasarfarejournalist@gmail.com