Tag Archives: Books

My Top 3 Everything

I saw this on Twitter and decided to ask Instagram because my peeps there are more responsive.

Even so, I was surprised by the questions that came in. And really touched that I was asked. Thinking about my answers helped me pry loose the heaviness that has lain on my mind and consequently, my writing in the past year or so.

I’m just reposting what I shared there, slightly paraphrasing the questions asked.

Top 3 Red Lipsticks!

  1. Maybelline SuperStay DANCER
  2. Faces Canada Ultime Pro REBEL RED
  3. NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream AMSTERDAM

Proudest Moments:

  1. When I performed to a crowd of 200+ people minutes after running into my violent ex (who constantly made me feel stupid) — and the crowd demanded an encore.
  2. When a client told me they turned the work I’d done into a book and handed me a copy. It’s for internal circulation only but that’s for an organisation of thousands. And it made me a bona fide author.
  3. When I thought I was getting fired for a messy project but my boss said my writing skills were on par with people two levels above and that I’d been promoted.

Beauty Routine

  1. Wash & moisturise face every time I go out & on return. Feeling clean is a big beauty boost.
  2. Smile like I used to as a kid before I got conscious. It makes me feel good & I think it shows.
  3. Exercise daily, even if just a walk & 10 minutes of breathing exercises. Stress weighs my face down visibly on days I don’t.

Top 3 speakers I consider my inspiration

  1. Performance poets who can carry a crowd without ranting or gimmicks — Asia Samson (90s Love), Denice Frohman (Accents), Sonia Renee (The Body is Not An Apology)
  2. Speakers who can share a powerful idea in a way that changes how you see the world, in just a few minutes — Thulsiraj Ravilla (How low-cost eye care can be world-class), Taylor Malli (What Teachers Make)
  3. Speakers who don’t need traditional crutches (like presentations or even words) to bring forth their message — Marina Abramovic (The Artist in In), Salim Khan (speaking at Whistling Woods on storytelling)

Top 3 times when I hit rock bottom

  1. Mid 2000: I got dumped by my best friend/love-of-my-life right in the middle of board exams. I felt like a planet that had got knocked out of its galaxy. Finding my first job gave me purpose. It taught me to find identity in work, not love.
  2. 2002–2003: Boyfriend assaulted me. Told me I was ugly because I was a ‘kaali’. Said the only reason a guy would be with me was because I looked desperate. That I would always be the beautiful girl’s ugly best friend. It taught me never to care what anybody, especially a man, said about my appearance.
  3. All 2012: My live-in partner took his ongoing emotional & verbal abuse into physical. Announced a very public engagement. Wanted my family to pay for a multi-city extravaganza. When I called it dowry, threw me out of the house. I was told I should have tried to work it out somehow. Friends told me I should be ‘dignified’, not talk about it and that I should ‘appreciate his talent’. Men said I deserved to be beaten up, that I must have not cared since I looked okay.

How I managed to get back up when life pushed me down

  1. Writing always saved me. When nobody listened to me, the pages did. Later, the internet. And even later, the audience. When I write, I’m able to remember that there is a bigger world than the people who attack me, the situations that exploit me. It’s the biggest relationship in my life now — my words & me.
  2. Finding a different context helps. I get a new job, find a new hobby, reach out to people I don’t talk to much. It gives me perspective, which is the only thing I lose when I’m down. If these aren’t possible, a swim, a bath or even washing dishes keeps me going till I can find something more permanent. Anything with water.
  3. This is the newest lesson of all. I ask for help and I trust that it will be given. I tell myself that it’s okay to shatter and that I will be supported in rebuilding. People have been kind.

Top 3 times when I failed (because success stories motivate but failure story gives lessons)

  1. Not getting into IIM-Bangalore in 2000. I may never ave tried the other things I did (including writing & stage) if I’d been set on that fast track. Hurt like hell then but now I have no regrets.
  2. My biggest relationship ended in the most humiliating way possible. It feels like a failure because I learnt early to take responsibility for everything. It may have been the reason I stayed so long. Such a devastating failure, such a hard lesson. I’m still learning.
  3. 2002-Froze on stage at college personality contest. Next round, judge made fun of me. 2007-Last day of London conference. Luggage already at airport. Entered hall to find everyone in suits. Ended up presenting to VP of an MNC, wearing bright orange top & jeans. They were nice about it. 2018-Got attacked for feminist poetry. Went on stage and stood silent for 2min. Audience clapped. Ridicule will not silence me now.


  1. Maya Angelou.
  2. Anais Nin
  3. Milan Kundera

I know they’re not conventionally considered poets.But I don’t think poetry needs to be conventional. I learnt much about writing & life from their words. Isn’t that the best poetry?

Top 3 self-motivational hacks when you’re feeling low

  1. “This too, shall pass.” — Persian adage
  2. Read ‘Illusions’ by Richard Bach
  3. Listen to ‘Here comes the sun’ by The Beatles

3 most amazing books I’ve read to date

  1. ‘Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah’ — Richard Bach
  2. The Sandman series — Neil Gaiman
  3. ‘The Little Prince’ — Antonie St.Exupery

Any revelations?

  1. Help will arrive when I’ve given up all hope. It’ll arrive with friendship, support, respect. And it will come from unexpected sources. Every darn time.
  2. The more you trust the stage, the kinder the audience will be.
  3. Men are my learning opportunities, not my teachers.

My life is dramatic AF.

Songs in my playlist

These are at the top of my ‘Most Played’

  1. ‘How do you do’ — Roxette
  2. ‘Aap jaisa koi mere zindagi mein aaye’ (a capella version) — American Desi
  3. ‘Brand New Day’ — Sting

Top 3 novels that I love

  1. ‘Rachel’s Holiday’ — Marian Keyes
  2. ‘Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince’ — JK Rowling
  3. ‘The Kalahari Typing School for Men’ — Alexander McCall-Smith

Lip colours

  1. Galactic — NYX Cosmic Metals
  2. Read My Lips — Faces Canada Ultime Pro
  3. Oh Put It On! — NYX Liquid Suede


I’ve already done two book-related lists on this series so I’m narrowing this to my top 3 books by women in 2019:

  1. ‘Lois Lane: Fallout’ — Gwenda Bond
  2. ‘The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society’ — Mary Ann Shaffer
  3. ‘The Bastard of Istanbul’ — Elif Shafak

Recommended self-healing books

More books? Okay, one can never have too many. 😊

  1. Any one from the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall-Smith
  2. S.E.C.R.E.T. — Marie L Adeline (especially if you’re female & healing from sex-related traumas)
  3. Anybody Out There? — Marian Keyes


If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Life is hard. Men are crap. Books are bae.

I have opened my  bookshelf after a long time. I’ve been reading on the fly the way I eat on the fly because books are as much my sustenance as food is. I’m really looking at my books and they’re scattered (though neatly because me) in so many places. I tuck away comfort and wisdom in lots of different corners of my life, just ready for me when I need them the most. So now for the questions.

What graphic novels do you suggest I drop some hard-earned money on? It’s been over ten years since I was formally introduced to this aisle. And I’ve learnt, as with so many other things, I straddle two worlds that shouldn’t have boundaries but do. Comic afficionados don’t seem to read other things, as such. And avid book enthusiasts don’t seem to actually consider comics real books. Huh, why? Graphic novels are books that are also beautiful. I am in a great place. I have tasted and know some of what I like but I’m still open to so many more delightful things in this medium. I don’t enjoy classic superhero stuff. I’ve read and enjoyed Sandman, Fables, Transmetropolitan, Lucifer. And I’ve grown away from boy-coming-of-age stories like Blankets and Y:The Last Man. Where should I take my eyes next?

Which one of you told me about Sharp Objects and swore it wasn’t as disappointing as Dark Places but maybe even better than Gone Girl? I intend to buy it and if it doesn’t live up, I will hunt you down and do a Gillian Flynn on you. I will not be a Cool Girl.

Have any of you read Kamila Shamsie or Alexander McCall-Smith’s books other than Mma.Ramotswe? Anybody? Anybody? Huh, huh? Damn. But they’re respectively joy and comfort in paperback form.

Have any of you read Crazy, Rich Asians (the book)? Is it a bit like The Joy Luck Club, in that it’s enjoying a moment because it’s about Asian people and representation matters? I hated The Joy Luck Club TBH. I mean, I get the value of a book talking about Asians, yes. But it was so depressing and angsty and worst of all – monotonous. Memoirs of a Geisha was better but then again, I read it as a teenager and now that I know about white saviour complexes and co-opting narratives, I may think differently. Reading as a woke adult means thinking about these things too. And if it’s just about representation, American Born Chinese (a graphic novel) does a decent job putting Asian faces into literature. Lovely illustrations, too.

Who still remembers and loves Milan Kundera? I feel like he and Murakami were neck to neck in the hipster reader stakes a decade ago. I went the Moody Euro way while popular taste went with Weird Japanese. Am I standing alone with Identity, Ignorance, Slowness, Laughable Loves and The Unbearable Lightness of Being?

And now I’m just going to randomly name books and authors that I fell in love with at first page and have never wavered since.  The Fault in Our Stars. Richard Bach. The Time Traveller’s Wife. Louis Sachar. S.E.C.R.E.T. Dream Angus. Erma Bombeck. The Kite Runner. Spider Jerusalem.

Does anybody know why PG Wodehouse books dropped their old cover art style of orange spines, white frames and outlined colour drawings for these pastel-ey full page watercolour thingys and can I get a little commiseration please? I miss the good old days. 



If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Hidden Politics Of Book Discussion

I follow this blog-in-Facebook-updates called LABYRINTHS. Its picture-stories trigger off ideas, feelings and on occasion, memories. Today’s story is titled The IVORY BOOK CLUB and is a conversation between two people about the quality of literature. It felt like an instant frame capture from my own life and here’s what happened in the real story.

Years ago, I inadvertently fell into a tussle with someone (let’s call her LMN) about Chetan Bhagat. She kept insisting that his writing was ‘honest’ while I reasoned that this was no measure of quality. It was quite literally a good 15 minutes of,

“But Bhagat is so honest, yaar!”

“That’s not all there is to a good book.”

“No, but I mean, it feels like he really lived through that.”

“Honesty? I am not going to debate that. But that’s not a measure of how well it’s written.”

“It’s straight from the heart. So honest.”

And then, this conversation was liberally mansplained and hijacked by the person who introduced us – my abusive now ex who was her friend. Among the many things he said were, “Pick on someone your own size” and something he called ‘The Principle of LMN’. In the months to follow, this incident would be alluded to often, by him or by me. Of note, the two also had a creepy relationship (2am phone calls asking if we had broken up because a photo had been deleted, secret messages that got shared with me ‘by mistake’).

All in all, I think it’s fair to say raging debates about culture, language and such things are never quite about the subjects on hand themselves.


If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.




Dreamdust will always smell like ink and paste

The library is where all dreams begin, sculpted in paper cuts

Turn the page. 

Follow my writings on https://www.yourquote.in/ideasmithy

BOOK Revi: Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

ewThirteen Reasons WhyThirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book after hearing everyone talk about the television show (which I still haven’t seen). The Wikipedia entry promised that this would be dark and it wasn’t lying. It’s nowhere close to Gone Girl but I’d say Gone Girl’s Amy may have been something like this book’s Hannah Baker when she was younger.

The things that happen to Hannah expose the brutal gendered violence and hostility meted out to women all over the world, even in privileged groups like white urban America. Slut-shaming, fuckboy manipulation, bullying, stalking, harassment, rape…all of these find graphic mention in the story. These are important issues that do not get addressed enough and worse, are invalidated by even the legal systems across nations.

The blurb already tells you about the dead girl’s suicide note via cassette tapes. There is a whiny, accusatory tone throughout, which I suppose stays true to this being a diary entry style confessional about a suicidal (now dead) teenager. There is a very specific point where Hannah’s narrative goes from shocked victim to mentally unstable. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing since it seems to indicate that depression could be caused by external events rather than being an illness of its own kind.

It’s not very clear why Clay is part of this story at all, given there’s absolutely no foreshadowing or indication that she even knows of his existence. Similarly, Tony is a bit too deus ex machina. All the characters other than Hannah and Clay appear one-dimensional. I’m not sure that this is a deliberate attempt to establish an unreliable narrator. It just seems like poor characterisation. Even given the first person narrative, it’s interspersed with enough of Clay’s point of view to balance out the other characters. The book does not do this.

I guess in sum, I’d say this book could have been better but considering there isn’t one mainstream one addressing these issues among teenagers in an easy-to-read way, this is as good as it gets. It’s quite readable.

View all my reviews


If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Where I bitch about things that hurt and find my way back…to a good book

I bought a Kindle earlier this year, a very late purchase I know for a voracious reader like me. I guess I still think of gadgets as luxuries and I am kind of spartan in my head. The first thing I ever saved up my pocket money for, was a book, an Archie comic double digest. A book is also the first thing I ever earned. After I began working, I made the transition into buying brand new books, awarding myself that luxury. And I’ve been rather undisciplined after that, allowing myself this one vice of buying books freely without regard to cost, storage space (a VERY BIG factor in Mumbai) or time to read. It’s one of the reasons I shied away from buying an eReader for this long. What would I do of the heaving shelves of as yet unread books?

When I finally bought the Kindle, I vowed that I would be very prudent in my ebook purchases and only buy books that I was going to read immediately and even then, only buy a new book after I’d completed an older one. My first buy was a book that I fell instantly in love with and it pulled me back into reading. Yes, I’ve never gone for long without a book but it’s such a deeply ingrained relationship now that it goes with the taking for granted, the occasional neglect, the other priorities taking over aspects.

Right after I finished Gone Girl, I decided to finally give in to the Game of Thrones mania. When you’ve had a relationship with books and reading as deeply as I have, you take every step with caution. A book can and has changed my life so I only let one in with prudence. I am so sorry to say that this was a mistake.

I have been struggling with the books (I bought the entire collection – I may be prudent but I don’t do half measures) right after I finished the excerpt and began nearing end of Book 1.Game of Thones. I put it down to it being a distant genre. Fantasy and Medieval fiction have never felt like my own universes the way social Sci-fi, Literary fiction, Modern women’s fiction and Children’s fiction have. At the end of book 1, I went off to read other things and returned, hoping things would be  better. Book 2.A Clash of Kings was no better; worse if anything. I struggled and finally allowed myself to slash through the pages (no, not really but the page-turning command on a Kindle feels a bit like a finger slash) barely reading the words. I just about made it and plowed on to Book 3.A Storm of Swords. All I can say about the book is several oppressive characters and situations have ended.

I was midway through Book 4.A Feast for Crows last night when I realised it. I’d been having nightmares for the past few weeks. Well, perhaps not nightmares in the conventional sense of monsters etc. but dreams and sleeptime thoughts that were deeply unpleasant and disturbing. I’ve been waking up feeling very drained and unhappy. The last thing I read or watch or listen to at night usually carries through into my sleep and for weeks now, I’ve had blood-soaked images of rape, pillaging, torture, murder and genocide. I give up. I’m done with this wretched story.

More than once I’ve tossed and turned and had to switch on the light to get a drink of water or just lie awake, reading or listening to music, unable to sleep. Last night, I put it aside and picked up a fresh book (something I very rarely do at 3 in the morning). It’s an Indian author I picked up at one of my book binges before the Kindle purchase. Two chapters in I was hooked and already my mind in that peaceful place where a good story can lull me to sleep.


Image via Unsplash/Patrick Tomasso

I’ve woken up not just feeling better but also with the insight that I need to get up from bed slower in the mornings. Low blood pressure hits me most days and I’m just realising this. So I lay staring at the ceiling for a good ten minutes before getting up and the day has only been getting better.

I realise this may sound odd to some people but a book really is that important. Especially when it plays the role that human relationships usually do, why would I associate with a book that is brutal and seems to revel in it? I’ve already been in a relationship with a monster like that and I was lucky to get out. I don’t need a book version of the same thing. So no more GoT for me.

I got to thinking about this relationship that I have with stories and books.

When I was 20, I was reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I enjoyed the rabid revolutionary ideas and her powerful words that would pour into my head, as I was sandwiched between rush hour train commuters on my way to and from work (my first job). There was a distinct moment when I remember thinking, this isn’t good for me but it feels so good. I had the good sense to walk away from the book midway (don’t ask why I never have the good sense to do that in relationships). I’ve never regretted it. And that’s why when I hear Ayn Rand fans raving, I must look at them with the rueful knowing of someone who was intoxicated but escaped.

I also quit 50 Shades of Grey after two books but that was different. I was enraged, rather than enthralled. Luckily Adi pointed out that I might be reacting to the bad writing and not to the genre itself. I had to test out that idea so I went ahead and devoured several other pieces of erotic writing, including but not limited to S&M. I found a new area of interest and I even ended up conducting a workshop on Erotica Writing.

I shivered through The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Admittedly the title hooked me because my own first tattoo was about three years old then and I felt like I was answering to the name of that girl. The story horrified me but I completed it, it was just such good writing. I even sat through the Swedish version of the film. But I decided, I couldn’t palate the ruthless rape, murder descriptions so I have never read the other two even though both my parents have and love them.

I guess my soulmate truly is the world of books and stories. The books I’m reading shape my mood, my attitude and even my aspirations. I cannot afford to be imprudent. I have to be as cautious about what I put into my mind as I am about my body.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared – L.Marie Adeline:

Secret Shared (Secret, #2)Secret Shared by L. Marie Adeline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve read more of the genre after I read S.E.C.R.E.T. so I’m inclined to be a little kinder in my assessment of this book. There is a lot of crass bilge passed off as erotica and this is not it. S.E.C.R.E.T. felt a little tame to me. With this, I can see where the writer may have been going. S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared falls somewhere between Self-help, Pop Feminism, Erotica and Romance.

In S.E.C.R.E.T., a depressed (and repressed) widow is inducted into a secret society that helps women explore and express their sexual side. By the end of that story, she decides to join the organisation, having completed her own personal journey. In S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared, the sequel, she takes on life with her parallel job as a Guide to another similarly stuck woman.

The book flits between Cassie, the original protagonist, and Dauphine, the newest member of S.E.C.R.E.T. The stories are written in first person voice with chapters alternating between the two women. I found this a bit disorienting because the voices of the two women are not very distinct (possibly because they are very similar when they start with S.E.C.R.E.T.). It gets better later in the book but the transition to Dauphine finding her resolution and Cassie maturing felt too abrupt for me. The ending, just like the first book, is surprising. The sex element, just like S.E.C.R.E.T., felt a bit tame to me. But considering everything else that was going on with the story, I wouldn’t hold it against the book.

It’s not a story about sex or even a story that uses sex as a plot device or a self-help metaphor (like the first book did). It’s just a story set in a sexual context. Read that way, it might be more enjoyable.

I read an uncorrected proof of this book on NetGalley, a few weeks before its launch. That may explain the spellos and some of the rawness of writing that I saw. S.E.C.R.E.T. was considerably polished and I expect its sequel to be equally so, when it hits the stands.

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The Divorce Papers: Susan Rieger – Wholesome, Smart and Funny

The Divorce Papers: A NovelThe Divorce Papers: A Novel by Susan Rieger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a story of a divorce, with minor sub-plots of corporate politics and a side romance. I enjoyed the epistolary format (this one used not only correspondence but also notices, newspaper clippings, invitations, lists and legal documents). In addition, the pre-millenial nostalgia wave was charming with its old fogies protesting the informality of email, the blatant sexism in its dying moments before it became politically incorrect to be so.

I thoroughly loved the key protagonists, Mia Mieklejohn Durkheim and her reluctant divorce lawyer Sophie Diehl. They are fiery, willful women who sail through their personal battles with wit and dignity but also plenty of laughter. The ugly divorce, down to custody battles and infidelity is laid out without flinching but miraculously in a funny, engaging manner.

The only part that held me back from giving this book a full five stars was the amount of legalese and bureaucratic paperwork that one had to read through. I imagine that the author tried to de-jargonize the language as much as possible without compromising on the flavour of a law proceeding. Still, since the documents told the story, they had to be pored over and official documents are never interesting to read. In addition, to a person not absolutely in love with numbers and accounting, the long lists of monies would be definite roadblocks. This said, I’m not sure if the book could have been written any other way. It makes a very clear point of the fact that a divorce is not not closure or therapy but a commercial exercise to fairly divide all the assets and wealth within a marriage.

I skimmed through most of the legal papers and completely skipped the number lists, relying on the letters, emails and other parts to get the gist of the story. And I found the book thoroughly enjoyable. I got this off NetGalley.

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Donny and Ursula Save The World – Sharon Weil: A Love Story For Naturalists & Conspiracy Theorists

Donny and Ursula Save the WorldDonny and Ursula Save the World by Sharon Weil
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A quirky little novel that manages to touch on several large issues – the danger of commercializing agriculture, the importance of orgasms, Mother Earth’s good housekeeping, conspiracy theories. And in the midst of all this is a strange but lovely love story.

Donny is a regular Joe, a slob who enjoys smoking, video games and hoarding comic books. He meets Ursula at a party and decides to follow his head (the wrong one) and pursue her. But wooing the prudish, New Age travel service operator turns out to be much more than he imagined. In the quest to get her into bed, he stops smoking, spruces up and ingests copious quantities of vile-tasting liquids that Ursula serves him as natural, healthy drinks.

Ursula’s character is detailed a great deal more with some nice touches like her postcard-populated world map, her surreptitious mushroom mothering and her struggle to get her body to belly dance. Even so, the more ordinary character of Donny and how he falls in love with her, despite himself, is what catches your attention.

The story starts of seeming to be a regular if somewhat flaky love story but suddenly races into the sub-plots of conspiracy theorist Paul (Donny’s best friend) and his adventures in survival camp. Along the way a slimy Mr.Ed, representing government/commercial interests gets a tiny story of his own. And about two-thirds into the book, the naturalist element takes over with M.Earth setting the plot right.

The book’s blurb says that it is about an orgasm that saved the world but in truth, the connection is a bit tenuous. The tenses shift like crazy, giving the narrative a slightly flaky feel. Yet, somehow the concept is new and delivered with a light touch so the book entertains and engages. I enjoyed the wry humor in the titles and the sometimes paragraph-short chapters interspersed with long rambling ones. I got this book off NetGalley.

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