An interview with Meraaqi

An interview with: Meraaqi – Pseudonym of Arshiyaa Taj Khan, author of Divine Trouble

Meraaqi, author of Divine Trouble

Arshiyaa Taj Khan, also known as Meraaqi is a poetess based in Mumbai, India. Inspired by the immortality of words, she started writing at the age of fourteen.

Arshiyaa is the author of Divine Trouble, her debut poetry book, and she intends to write many, many more.

Please describe your book in one sentence.

It is the liberation of everything I had imprisoned within me.

Tell us in brief, what led up to this book?

An intensely severe existential crisis.

What poets do you admire?

The Art of acknowledging how one truly feels is no less than Poetry. To me, every individual who can honestly and unapologetically express himself (or herself) is a poet; and I admire this kind of uninhibited expression, no matter who it comes from.

What’s your thought process behind a poem?

There is no thought. I only note down the words narrated by some alien inner voice that actually seems to be mine. In my opinion, the forced act of trying to think ruins the rawness I prefer in poetry.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Perhaps, the freedom that comes with it. It takes courage to write truthfully, but it is rewarding in ways that go beyond money. I enjoy the simplicity and significance of it. After all, it is only paper and pen; but the undying power of what can be done with them is thoroughly intoxicating.

Do you have an agent?

Not yet, but I would like to have one someday. The business aspect of being a writer is quite a challenge for me. I believe I am not made for corporations and numbers; I am made for aesthetics and words.

What inspires you to write?

I am almost always inspired. I know no other way.

How did you find your style? Has it changed over time?

Style is out of question, considering I am yet to find myself.

Do you have days when writing is a struggle?

Not really. I believe one mustn’t try too hard. For me, writing is never a struggle. Not writing is.

What are you reading currently? Are there any authors who have influenced your work?

I read several books at once. Most of them are related to poetry, physics, philosophy, psychology and astronomy. Many authors have influenced me but not my work. It is important to love the ones who inspire you without necessarily becoming them.

What are your favorite books to give and get as gifts?

If I answer this, I will have an entire book titled ‘Favourite Books to Give and Get as Gifts’. Instead of naming a few, I would like to suggest the kind of books that I’d absolutely love to give and receive – they should be life changing. They should question your beliefs and appeal to all the possibilities in you. They should reward you with an enhanced perspective and resurrect the enthusiasm often destroyed by adulthood. They should be different and unforgettable. They should be powerful enough to eternally claim a part of your memory.

And finally, they should be anything but mediocre. It is better to be outrageous than ordinary.

People often ask me for book recommendations but I always urge them to read only what they are instinctively drawn to. For when you choose to read someone, you allow that person to get inside your mind, and only you must have the privilege to decide who is worthy.

Hardest thing about being a writer?

It’s a lonely profession.

Best piece of writing advice?

“Don’t try.”

Don’t try to write. Just write.

Your advice to aspiring poets/writers?

You are already who you wish to be, just make peace with all the thoughts in your head that tell you otherwise.

Buy yourself a copy of Divine Trouble from here.

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Divine Trouble by Meraaqi [Book Review]

Meraaqi.jpgTitle : Divine Trouble

Author : Meraaqi

ISBN : 9781945621376

Publisher : Notionpress

Genre : Poems

Pages : 163

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars




I’m going to start by posting an excerpt from the book. This is my favorite poem:

Dare to Bloom

I am often accused of being too Gentle
In a world that demands people to be tough.
You must know that it takes Courage to be sensitive and delicate,
Like a flower that dares to Bloom in the crevice of a rock.

Beautiful, right?

Divine Trouble is a collection of beautiful, mesmerizing poems written by a Mumbai based poetess Meraaqi. It is her debut publication and for a debut it is exceptionally brilliant.
I’ve always been a lover of quotes and poetry and have read poems extensively. Most poems I have read have been beautiful, insightful and quite difficult to decipher, but, this is the first time I’ve come across poems that are so easy to decipher that they look effortlessly beautiful. Of course, the said poetess has put in a lot of effort into it to make it so.

I have been trying to find the right adjectives to describe the marvel that is Divine Trouble, but, no great combination of words can do justice to this, it is truly a masterpiece. Divine Trouble is not merely a collection of poems, it is a piece of art, and it is pure talent splashed across pages. Simple, delicate and sophisticated and at the same time fiercely reflect your vulnerable self.

The poems are simple to read, yet very eloquent and gracefully gentle. I especially love the metaphorical narrative used in the poems, like in this one:

Horse of Mirrors

There is a horse made of mirrors that comes alive with my fear.
It runs with me, showing me everything that I am afraid to look at.
And in those rare moments of bravery when I stop and make peace,
It shatters like it never existed at all.

The poems speak to you. If you’re a poem lover this book is highly recommended. Something I’m going to go back to again and again.

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The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History by Sanjeev Sanyal [Book Review]

ocean.jpgTitle : The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History

Author : Sanjeev Sanyal

ISBN : 9780670087327

Publisher : Penguin Randomhouse India

Genre : Indian History and Politics, Geopolitics and International Relations

Pages : 297

Source : Publisher

Rating : 4 stars


How come the fossil remains of marine animals have been found in Himalayas?

How come we can see oriental faces in the engravings by Pallavas?

Why did Vasco Da Gama worship in a Hindu Temple when he set his foot in India for the first time?

How come the Parsi Community of India embraced the local Gujarati culture so effortlessly?

Yeah, you guessed it right- This books has not only answers, but also profound explanations of all the above mentioned (and many more) questions.

History has been prescribed in our curriculum right from the primary school. But if you will ponder a bit, its easy to realize that the entire curriculum is heavily skewed towards “Mainland History”. While we discuss Ashoka and Akbar in great lengths, a minuscule space is given to the Cholas, Chalukyas and Pallavas. We talk at lengths about Ashoka and Akbar but conveniently forget Kharavela.

In this groundbreaking, one-of-its-kind book, Sanjeev Sanyal retraces history from the Indian Ocean’s and its coastline’s perspective. The book start right from the origin of Indian Ocean due to the movement of tectonic plates and ends right at the transformation of Bombay to Mumbai with the reclamation of land over the ocean. The book is full of rich details of all kingdoms that throve around the Indian coastline and islands on Indian ocean and of also those that had cultural and trade ties with these kingdoms. Some of the anecdotes are a delight to read while many others get a bit dragging and prosaic- but it doesn’t undermine the fact that the book is an extremely informative account and is a result of an honest and meticulous hard work of author. Some details in this book will challenge your notions and previous knowledge of history with new insights and a different perspective while others will make you go bewildered about the richness and obscurity of our ancient times.

A heartfelt thanks to Penguin Books India for providing The BookTrack team with a review copy of the book. Please buy a copy of this book from Amazon here and start a literary ride which will increase your knowledge quotient for sure.

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Magician in the Desert by Gaurav Rao [Book Review]

Magician in the desert.jpgTitle : Magician in the Desert

Author : Gaurav Rao

ISBN : 9789385936937

Publisher : Bloomsbury India

Genre : Economics and Business Management

Pages : 136

Source : Publisher

Rating : 3 stars



First of all, a heartfelt thanks to Bloomsbury India for proving The BookTrack team with a review copy of this book.

With the advent of Ola and Uber, the fleet management in India has undergone a drastic change. This book takes you a bit back and charts a short biography of Neeraj Gupta, founder and Managing Director of Meru Cab Company Pvt Ltd, India’s first and largest radio taxi company.

The story of Neeraj Gupta is phenomenal and important because neither he had any formal background/education of entrepreneurship nor he belonged to a financially strong background to back up his dreams. Also, his company is the first one in the country to organize the largely mismanaged and disintegrated industry of cab services and led it to great heights.

The author Gaurav Rao has done a good job in describing Neeraj Gupta’s early days when he struggled with a plethora of businesses- from a garage to wrought iron business before finally get a contract from TATA to manage its public transportation. The book smoothly describes how Neeraj Gupta built his empire with one effort at a time and how his cool and friendly personality, perseverance and a never ending aspiration to learn helped him in his way to success.

The book is short and not an extensive biography. Also the author has tried to fit his own thoughts and approach towards life, business and entrepreneurship in between which might sound a bit preachy to the reader every now and then. Nevertheless, the book is an honest and straightforward account of a self-made man who has made a dent in the Indian transportation scene.
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Ruins by Rajith Savanadasa [Book Review]

Ruins.jpgTitle : Ruins

Author : Rajith Savanadasa

ISBN : 9789351951216

Publisher : Hachette India

Genre : Contemporary

Pages : 341

Source : Publisher

Rating : 5 stars





Ruins is Rajith Savanadasa’s debut novel and for a debut he’s done an exceptionally good job. Ruins, is set against the backdrop of Sri Lanka, in the aftermath of its civil war. It is the story of an ordinary family wrestling with the ever changing needs and wants of each member in a culturally vulnerable society.

The entire story is beautifully narrated from the point of view of each character, which consists of a family servant, Latha, who is at the verge of transforming, an overly assertive husband, Mano, his Tamil born, fretful wife Lakshmi, a distressed teenage daughter, Anoushka and self-centered, angry son, Niranjan.

First off, I love that the author decided to narrate the story from various points of view of the five central characters. Through this, he is subtly prodding us readers to see that our initial impression or opinion of the characters may not have been entirely right. Every character paints a completely different picture of every other character and the story itself, making you feel differently about each character in every chapter. I think that was brilliant.

The family saga subtly reflects the issues, fortunes, misfortunes, uncertainties, cross-border relationships faced by them, in a society with conflicting political and cultural views, pulling together centuries of tradition, post-war trauma and poverty.

The story is also broadly based on the ancient ‘moonstone’ (loosely translated from Sandakada Pahana). It is an historic artifact which represents the cycle of rebirth. The moonstone features animals that represent four stages of life: Birth (elephant), decay (bull), disease (lion) and death (horse). Savanadasa also briefly discusses the Buddhist concept of ‘rebirth’.

The author has used a mix of various ‘Tamil’ and ‘Sinhalese’ words and expressions in his narration and has done it so cleverly so the readers can understand the meaning from the context. He has presented the war vaguely as a conflict between order and terrorism, Sinhalese and Tamil. The war hasn’t been exclusively discussed in the book but the author has skillfully portrayed the post-war trauma and the society through the five central characters’ cracked lives.

All in all, Ruins is a promising, outstanding and skillfully crafted masterpiece, with interesting setting and vivid characters. The narration is deeply-moving with a description so evocative; it is bound to transport you to the heart of Colombo.

A hearty thanks to Hachette India for sending the review copy to The Booktrack team.

Buy a copy for yourself from Amazon here.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell [Book Review]

Outliers.jpgTitle : Outliers: The Story of Success

Author : Malcolm Gladwell

ISBN : 9780316017923

Publisher : Little, Brown and Company

Genre : Nonfiction

Pages : 309

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars


I am sure most of us, at some point of time, have looked at successful people and wondered, “What do they do to excel at everything they do” and after a bit of speculation, we have snubbed away the thought saying, “Ah! It might be the stroke of luck” or “He/She must have been blessed with good genes”

In this extremely insightful book, Gladwell rebukes the belief of “Good genes for success” and gives you a reality check of what all it takes to be successful (factors that you can control) and what all takes you to success (factors that just help you without letting you know)

As expected, the book has reports of many psychological and social experiments along with scans of life histories of many successful people (The Beatles, Bill Gates etc). The book will make you realize that how seemingly insignificant things and happenings are actually responsible together to push a person to great heights. It also rejects the theory of “Self Made Men” and firmly asserts that success is a sum total of your ethnicity, your upbringing (read “Efforts and Dedication by your parents), your cultural legacy that has trickled down to you from generations ago, your geographical location, your birth time, your hard work, some random chance that proved to be life changing and so on

The “Ethnic theory of Plane crashes” chapter just blew my mind off as I had never wondered that “Where you have come from” can play such a crucial role in how you behave and act even in challenging and nerve wracking situations.

Gladwell is a master of anecdotes (those who have read his “Blink” and “The Tipping Point” will know what I mean) and in “Outliers” too he doesn’t disappoint. From cherry-picked biographical details of successful people to extremely interesting social & psychological experiments, he has written another masterpiece which is an all-in-all page turner.

Buy a copy for yourself from Amazon here.

The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger [Book Review]

The Singles Game - Lauren Weisberger.JPGTitle : The Singles Game

Author : Lauren Weisberger

ISBN : 9781476778211

Publisher : HarperCollins India

Genre : Chic Lit

Pages : 418

Source : Publisher

Rating : 5 stars

First off, a hearty thanks to the publisher HarperCollins for sending the Booktrack team this book. In “The Singles Game”, Lauren Weisberger, the author of the best selling Devil Wears Prada, dives into the world of the highly competitive tennis.

The book revolves around a tennis player, Charlie (short for Charlotte), who’s in her twenties. Charlie, determined to move ahead and make a name for herself, makes a pact with the brutal tennis coach Todd Feltner. Todd agrees to coach Charlie and in the process gives her a complete image makeover, transforming the good-girl into a warrior princess.

Under Todd’s rigorous training and guidance, Charlie excels at every match and starts getting famous. She gets endorsements from big brands and interviews on worlds biggest magazines. Charlie finds herself slowly being drifted into a world of Hollywood celebs, private parties and stylists.

The media goes wild for Charlie and as a result Charlie finds herself catapulted into a world of scandals, secret dates and heartbreaks. There comes a point when she realizes that all this fame comes at a very high price and that she is not herself anymore and wonders if the real her is still inside.

Charlie reaches a point where she has to make a hard choice and this forms the rest of the plot.

Weisberger’s narration is witty, funny and intriguing! This is the first book of hers that I am reading, but from what I have heard about her books, she delves mostly on topics like fame, success, profession, professional politics, fashion, celebrities and the like.

I must say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it kept me hooked till the end. I couldn’t wait to find out how it ends and it did not disappoint! What’s more? I could relate so much to this book and I am sure a lot of you can. I’m definitely going to pick another book by the author. Meanwhile, I’d highly recommend this book. It’s an easy read.

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