The Case of the Disappearing Bookstores

Another bookstore has shut down. I am standing where it was, gaping at the spanking new toy store that has opened in its place.

I am devastated.

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But, I don’t want to lament about the loss of the reading habit or resort to emotional appeals here. I think bookstores also need to think their strategy afresh.

Bookstores have not changed much over the last few decades – same old shelves stacked with books, same old stationery section, and same old discounted shelves. I don’t see any innovation out there.

Look at vegetables for instance. From mud-encrusted raggedy heaps sold on carts to sorted, shiny stacks to cut veggies in boxes: lots has been happening there.  Why not in the book world?

We can crib that the reading habit is declining. No one likes to read books. But, then, no one likes to eat spinach either. We don’t give up on that front, right? We stuff it in ravioli, we sneak it in in raitas, and layer it in parathas. Because we know it’s good for us! The same holds true for books.

Bookstores need to innovate to sell better. Here are my ideas:-

  1. Have a store-in-store in toy shops. Have offers which bundle toys with them.
  2. Have florists add books in bouquets. Bouquets are themed around flowers. How about theming them around books? Like a ‘humour’ bouquet or a ‘love’ bouquet.
  3. Encourage weddings to include them as return gifts.
  4. Create hampers, like the ones we see with jams and bakes. Books and bakes! Position them for special events like baby showers and bridal parties.
  5. First book, then burger – Have roaming sales-people asking parents to buy the kids a book, then a burger.
  6. Have store-in-store in beauty parlours telling ladies to make their minds also beautiful.Package books with creams and lotions.
  7. Have roaming sales-people in tech-parks. Maybe, where they congregate to smoke. Tell them to fire their imagination before snuffing out their lungs.
  8. Have book-themed birthday parties. This way. bookstores can add a new revenue stream. Imagine how lovely would it be for kids to have a Harry Potter-themed party with the books as return gifts?
  9. Tie up with outbound specialists for book-themed treks/water sports/walks. How about a trek in the Himalayas built around Ruskin Bond’s books?
  10. Beer and Books: Get breweries to have drinking games based on books. The last man standing gets a beer and books hamper!

Bookstores need to move out of bookstores. If they don’t come to you, you go to them. Don’t give up please. It’s a war out there. If you cannot re-strategize to win it, who can?

 

Band, Baaja, Boys…and lots of laughs

BBB-front coverBA-pass Brajesh sold bras in Manphodgunj. Perhaps his destiny was sealed the day Babuji named him Bra-jesh. Under normal circumstances, Brahmins were not supposed to be businessmen. But Kumud Bajpai had brought along a hosiery shop as dowry and there was no looking back. Only front.

One glance and Brajesh could estimate, ‘Madam, 38D will be perfect.’

Together, they had produced and raised Binny, their twenty-year-old daughter who they lovingly called a ‘happy-go-lucky’ girl: happy to spend her father’s money while different fellows got lucky.

Now, Binny was in love with Rahul, or, to be more precise, his situation. You see, Rahul was a rich man’s son and stayed in a palatial bungalow with an army of alert minions. When they yelled, ‘Ramu, Tiwari, Jagdamba’,  servants would jump out of the pores of the house in an instant to serve them.

But, unknown to her, Raja was in love with her and had won over Brajesh’s heart by eliminating goon Ramlal from the encroachment next to Kumud Hosiery and Bedding.

To complicate things further, her parents were looking for a suitor. She had asked best friend, Manjul with feigned exasperation,

Marriz… marriz… why human beens need to do a marriz? Why?

Manjul was a pious girl, easily outraged into calling out to God.

Let’s help Chumki elope with Azhar. Hey Bhagwaan.

Let’s eat two-two ice-creams. Hey Bhagwaan.

Let’s adopt a puppy-dog. Hey Bhagwaan.

Binny’s latest plan was so alarming that Manjul was compelled to summon all possible gods, some even borrowed from other religions, to express her utter and complete shock.

Will Binny choose from between ‘gorment’-job-holder-Tarun and Sanskari-N.R.I Harsh?

How long will Brajesh be able to keep the suitors on hold with excuses like,

My mother’s death-birthday is coming.

Kumud’s chacha has became a widow.

Our family pandit himself is in Planet Saturn.

Will Binny execute her dangerous plan?

Band, Bajaa, Boys! is here to take you on the laugh-o-coaster of your life!

 

The book is now available on Amazon and Flipkart.

https://www.flipkart.com/band-baaja-boys-english/p/itmehgfggdq2hdzu?pid=9789381506837&srno=s_1_2&otracker=search&lid=LSTBOK9789381506837FFE3VM&qH=35217d5aa88357c2

http://www.amazon.in/Band-Baja-Boys-Rachna-Singh/dp/9381506833/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1471851985&sr=8-1&keywords=rachna+singh

So, just be nice and order a copy please. Don’t keep asking me ‘Where is it available?’ unless you want a free lobotomy.

p.s. : I use bare hands for all surgical procedures.

‘Friend-Power’ for my new book!

My new book which I reckon as my best work so far is ready for release. Now, the familiar question – how do I market it? I see some of these things happening on social media. And I have decided not to pick any from this list

1.Posting the celebrity-holding-my-book photo: I don’t know any celebrity, even any out-of-work movie star currently featuring on Dance India Dance. The only one I might have access to is Choodsandra’s local don, Chaaku Seena. But, he won’t know the front cover from the back cover and that could be a challenge.

2. Becoming my own ‘liker’ and ‘reviewer’ : Some reviews on book-sites make me suspicious. Seems the author himself has posted a glowing review under an assumed name. I don’t want to do it. Unless one of my multiple personalities takes over and does it for me.

3. Asking other authors to promote my work – It’s like a dentist asking a peer-dentists to market her. Won’t they just prefer plucking out all their teeth without anaesthesia instead? Besides, most authors have their own ‘Author Stack’ they create in their heads. They consider the ones above them in the stack as  ‘bad writers who got lucky’ and the ones below them as ‘bad writers trying to get lucky’. I don’t even figure in anyone’s stack. I am in the soil below it.

So, what should I do? I have learnt one thing during these five years as a writer – the book will market itself if it’s good. I know it from experience now.

Hence all I will do is hope that my friends don’t make excuses and just pick a copy the moment it is out. From a bookstore or Amazon/Flipkart. And, write an honest review when they are done.

I really hope they do.

If they like it, maybe recommend to their friends or pick multiple copies as birthday/baby shower/anniversary gifts.

Frankly, I am tired of friends saying –

Hey, I did not find it in <some> bookstore.

I am meaning to pick a copy. Will do soon.

Is it available on Amazon?

Give me a free copy.

What’s the name of the book, again?

I have hope: maybe the book will do well just because it’s good and my ‘friend-power’ will carry it on its wings!

BBB-front cover

The Salim-Khan Syndrome

Would Salman Khan turned out different if Salim Khan did not make it his parental duty to always defend him? Would the black buck be still alive? Would the ‘unmanned’ car that killed pedestrians not done that? And, would ‘Being Human’ not be just a label on his tee?

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I encounter parents like Salim Saab all the time – dogged ostriches who have pulled three bagfuls of wool over their eyes and rely only on their young one’s yarn. I also spot (much fewer) parents who are quick to blame their ward for any offence committed in a 100-yard perimeter of the hapless youngster!

First, let’s tackle the former. A mother tells me how her daughter has always been singled out, teased and made fun of in school. I immediately feel sad for the teen. Then, I hear a different, rather surprising version from her school-friends.

‘She’s always bragging, looking down upon us, and is mean to us.’

More versions are offered from either side. I am flummoxed. I don’t know which one to trust! But, what is clear is that there are clearly two distinct, very different personas this child possesses.

‘My boy never hits first.’

or

‘My daughter would never hurt anyone.’

are some statements that parents often use as a comfortable duvet to hide under. Maybe, their insecure conscious has taken a hammer and pummelled any dreg of conflicting thoughts into the safety of the unconscious. Creating a world-view that absolves their children is, perhaps, a self-protecting mechanism.

What kind of children are they bringing up? Would these children grow up to have a balanced view on the social equations they create? Would they, instead, have a warped self-image and a sense of entitlement?

On the other hand, I have met parents who are quick to pull their kids by the collar even at the slightest hint of accusation. Maybe, they are acutely sensitive individuals, perhaps bullied as kids or have an acute need to be perceived as likeable and fair.

‘How did she fall down from the swing? Did you push her?’

‘How come you scored so well? Did you cheat?’

Is it possible that these parents are denting the confidence of their children? Like they are always wearing invisible boxing gloves on hands that are forever aimed just below the kid’s ear?

I am no parenting expert. All I know is that I notice these two diverse parenting styles acutely. Back in our days, this problem did not exist. As long as parents knew how many kids they had and on which tree they were perched on for most part of the day, life went on fine. Today, we are more discerning and hands-on, for a number of reasons. But, does that mean we hold a mirror to review our styles? Not that often, I feel.

 

 

Rachna’sThoughtful Parenting Hacks

Parenting is a difficult job that has bred a million insecurities and equal number of experts giving advice on how to not screw up. It is so important to raise children as wholesome as multi-grain organic bread.

Don’t worry – the experts are here to ensure that you bring up a perfect child: with zero dysfunctions / insecurities / freckles / fears / zits / disappointments / cavities. I look at this situation with extreme distress, my lament being ‘Why am I not a parenting-advice expert yet?’

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Has the time come to share my wisdom? I think it has. So, here are some of the parenting hacks that I regularly deploy. You can take a leaf out of my experience – but with a pinch of salt. (Next : Having Leaves with Salt : A Mother’s Tiffin Ideas).

  1. Sing songs to the children – A mother who sings songs to her children is, note by note, raising the kids to be poised and dignified. When I sing ‘Tu Lagavelu Jab Lipistick’ to my kids,  they learn what it takes to be graceful in the face of the unpleasant. When I add my dance routine to it, they are being groomed for facing the Donald Trumps of their times.

 

  1. Leave thoughtful notes for them – I often leave notes on their desk or in their school bags. It’s such a sweetly thoughtful thing to do, isn’t it? The most pognant one I remember placing was ‘Forgot to feed hamster. It’s dead.’ The one in which I told them ‘There is no tooth-fairy. Get a life’ was also very special.

 

 

  1. Get a shared hobby – What’s more beautiful than a mother and her children sitting together in the family room and doing something together? Now, we don’t have a family room, because we use that extra space for drying clothes during the Bangalore-monsoons. But, that does not mean we don’t have hobbies that we share! We paint, for instance. Recently, I painted a portrait of a beautiful woman. My daughter said ‘This looks like George Washington’. I am glad I had not told her what it was supposed to be. And what was simply marvellous was that she had a class project on ‘Famous Leaders’ round the corner.

 

  1. Travel with them – That gives them so much exposure, broadens their young minds, gives you porters who don’t have to be paid. You can also get into priority queues if you just snatch their toys at the right moment and ensure they bawl. Just practice your timing, dears.

 

 

  1. Teach them to stand up for the weak and oppressed – And, no, the dads don’t qualify for this category. Be firm with them.

So, my dears, I hope I have gently tilled your minds. Remember, there is no short-cut to parenting. So, read every book you can, and follow every blog possible. Make sure you learn every hack, every trick that has ever been published. And, when you get some spare time, do look for where the kids are, dear.

Feeling (not-so) Young at the Under-25 Bangalore Literature Festival

I am on my way to the Under 25 Lit Fest. Finding the venue, Humming Tree itself is a challenge. No, it’s not in some obscure place. It’s just that I am looking for Humming Bird. Another speaker tells me later she had been looking for Humming Bee. Come on, guys, if you are inviting old people, keep the damn place simple. Like something called ‘THE HOTEL’ or ‘THE VENUE’!

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The promo poster pic – Beauty – 9/10, Hair 10/10, Teeth 9/10

I am smiling brightly at the young folks at the registration counter. Young is peppy-smiley, I think. Wrong. Young people don’t grin. They just look bored. And if they like you, they call you names. That’s how they express ‘liking’.  I toy with ‘monkey’. But, is that bad word good enough? I have no idea. Donkey? I don’t know. I zip my lips, as Donkey hands me my ‘Speaker’ badge.

I make my way to Stage 1 where my session is due. It is teeming with people with coloured hair and discoloured clothes. They are divided into two sections. Section 1 is listening to the people on stage. Section 2 is eating and drinking. I join Section 2.

Some songs are being sung now. The kids are enjoying the music. I am tapping my feet but also cringing at the bad word that is inserted when people are inquiring about the identity of one Miss Alice. Now, the singer is chatting with the crowd. He is saying he loves pot. In my days, pot was a vessel for cooking. Or a receptacle for receiving what was cooked the previous day. I am appalled. Tch. Tch. Tch. I want to go cane him on his fingers. But, I should not. I must pretend to be one of them. I don’t want to antagonize a room-full of young men – some of them are wearing stilettoes and might crush my fingers under their fancy heels.

But, why are some boys wearing girls’ shoes? No. No. Cannot ask. Also, must not stare.

Look cool. Like chilled. But how? How? The girl in front has hair with multiple personality disorder – it starts as black and straight but ends as blond and curly. I want to chop it off just where the black part ends. Stop. Stop. Look somewhere else.

Hey look – Danish Sait. I must tell him that my son is his fan and get a message from him. Wow! Great idea. I walk up to him. He is very polite and approachable. He also has short hair. Good boy. He is happy to give me a message. I thank profusely and return to my seat. I check the recording. I have turned on the camera after he ended the message. I have only recorded my finger. And myself saying ‘thank you so much’.

The evening is abuzz with more young people entering. Some are leaving. I have made a new young friend. And, a new ‘old’ one too. I turn to my young friend and say,

‘My phone’s out of juice’.

It is important to use young people’s language, you see.

New young friend does not hear me. New old one does. She offers to buy me juice from the food counter.

What a waste of my young moment. Damn!

It’s time for my session. I am making my way through the crowd to the stage, like a Moses parting a sea of young people. I want to get done with it. I want to go back to old people. Where we can wear our varicose vein stockings, remove our dentures and talk about the hair weaving treatments. Phew!

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Pic of the Session. Beauty : Errrr, ummm. Hair : Where? Teeth : Error 404 not found

If Harambe were in India…

Why was the Gorilla killed? Kill the parents instead.

What would you have done if it was your child?

cutcaster-photo-100464711-Confused-Gorilla

Social media is inundated with debate on Harambe. Indeed, a very sad happening but one wonders if there is ever a right versus wrong in such a situation.

Well, the only silver lining is that this did not happen in India. I wonder how much more complicated the debate would have been.

Sonia Gandhi : This kind of unfortunate thing has never happened under the UPA government

Sambit Patra: Modi ji has sent Amit Shah to have a meal with the bereaved Gorillas

Twitterati : The Gorilla was doomed since Anushka Sharma visited him

Rahul Gandhi (on twitter):  Why people are tweeting so much about an amphibian?

Roadside Romeos: Gori-la, humko apni jawaani de de

Mulayam Singh Yadav: Don’t make that an issue. Ladkon se galti ho jaati hai

Rakhi Sawant: Oh Jejuz, iska ek hi solution hai – bachche paida hi nahin karo

Sajid Khan : Gorilla ki maa ki……pooja karni hai

Kejri : Paise khaye thhe usne ji — Hamare paas poora proof hai

Nirmal Baba : Jao dus gorillaon ko chhole-bhature khila do. Kripa wahin ruki hai

Mayawati: Harambe Ji ki hatya manuvaadiyon ne ki

Tharoor: The pulchritudinous beast being dragged into such raffish, burlesque debate is reproachable.

Lalu : Dhuuttt burbak