Sunday, April 17, 2016

Axxiss and the Magic Medallions

magic medallions2.jpg

My YA novel No. 1 of a trilogy.

A massive undersea earthquake frees the evil kingdom of Gondwana from the depths of the ocean. Its empress, Cremelle, is ready to lead her partly human inhabitants, trapped below for millions of years, to conquer the earth. All that stands in her way are Axxiss, an Indian American, and five other teenagers from different parts of the globe. Who have one thing in common - a medallion that was mysteriously put around their necks and that cannot be taken off.

            What is the medallion? Why have they been chosen to wear it? Who is the dog that appears out of thin air says they have to find the keys to lock Gondwana down forever? Will he be able to save the children and guide them through the complex maze of history, space and time to find this key?

            Follow the six children as they race against time to find the key - before Cremelle can destroy the human race.

Emperor Ashoka

We forget the wisdom from our own past.

Emperor Ashoka 304-232 BCE.

Rock Edict XII.

'Restraint in speech'.


That is not praising one's own religion or condemning the religion of others without good cause...whoever praises his own religion, due to excessive devotion, and condemns others with the thought 'Let me glorify my own religion' only harms his own religion. Therefore, contact between religions is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others. Beloved of the gods, King Piyadassi (Ashoka), desires that all should be learned in the good doctrines of other religions.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

PEN Charlie Hebdo

I've not read Charlie Hebdo. My French is inadequate for satire. I've not seen their cartoons either. Last week in Paris, I asked my French publisher, Marie-Pierre, for her opinion. She was fiercely dismissive, calling the magazine crude. She was angry too. Twelve people were killed in January. One, a friend, was visiting the magazine that fatal day. He died too. For what? She asked. A cartoon of Mohammed. The magazine was irresponsible in taunting Muslims.

            Last month, American PEN, awarded Charlie Hebdo its “freedom of expression courage award”. It split writers. Rushdie and others supported PEN's choice. Rushdie wrote: "It is quite right that PEN should honour [Charlie Hebdo’s] sacrifice and condemn their murder without these disgusting ‘buts." Peter Carey, Teju Cole, and others, condemned it for 'cultural intolerance and Islamophobia.'  PEN responded, praising “their (Charlie Hebdo) dauntless fortitude patrolling the outer precincts of free speech.”

            I agree with PEN. What distinguishes a democracy from a totalitarian state is the freedom of speech.  The freedom to think imaginatively and to give expression to these thoughts. Freedom of speech cannot be neatly hedged by 'ifs' or 'buts'. It either exists or it does not.  Unfortunately, irresponsibility comes with the package. Charlie Hebdo insulted many aspects of French life, including attacking the extreme right wing Le Pen political party. The party did not respond with machine guns. Islamist extremists did.

            People can be as insulted by mocking their political beliefs, sexual preferences, social positions, history, race. Name it, there's an insult to someone out there. As the world opens up, the minds close. People are frightened by the swift changes. And to new thinking.  If we all picked up guns, it would not be a revolution but bloody mayhem. Guns are for those who lack the intelligence to counter the insult or even make a comment with their own words.  A few days ago, ISIL executed 30 Yazidis. I wondered how they had insulted the Prophet.

            Annually, fifty to sixty journalists, writers or artists are killed because of their work.  Many more imprisoned.  I admired their courage to express their thoughts in mostly these despotic nations. They were aware of the dangers. Sometimes, even a Tweet was their death sentence. Words and drawings frighten the State, as they do extremists of any kind.

            India teeters between democracy and despotism. Recently, leaning more to the latter. The State has banned books, the list grows longer daily. Publishers retract; they cannot afford long court cases. The writer abandoned. Two Tamil writers were driven from their homes by extremists. Tragically, one stopped writing. Art is dangerous. Films are tripped up by State appointed censors. If the film passes (with cuts), others lie in wait to attack it.  Or storm the theatres, forcing it off the screen.

            Anyone can rush to court and take out an injunction against a book, a writer, an artist if his or her "feelings are hurt". There are 1.2 billion possible feelings to hurt.  Every writer and artist faces this minefield daily. Some self-censor their thoughts. The State did nothing to defend or protect our most famous artist, M.F. Hussein. He died in exile. The writer, Shobha Dey, mocked the Maharastrha government's edict on Marathi Films. She was summoned to the legislature.

            At times, India is beyond satire. Charlie Hebdo would have a field day here. For a day or two at least, before our home bred extremists burned it down.



Tuesday, July 8, 2014


The link to the interview with me on my new novel, CHANAKYA RETURNS,  in The Hindu Literary Section.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


My new novel published by Aleph.

CHANAKYA RETURNS covers a vast canvas of power, love, history, politics, betrayals, sex and more.  It is narrated by Chanakya (370-282 BC), reincarnated in the contemporary world as the adviser to Avanti, the daughter of the head of a nameless state in India. In the course of the novel, Chanakya poses an eternal question: What shapes our lives—The Power of Love or the Love of Power? His protégée, Avanti, has to choose between love and power. The choice Avanti makes has all sorts of implications not just for herself and her dysfunctional family, but for the people of the state her family has ruled for years…

In his previous existence, the historical Chanakya was exiled from his homeland and took his revenge on the king, who was the cause of his misfortune, by defeating him in a war. He was then responsible for anointing Chandragupta as ruler of the Mauryan Empire, and advising him on every aspect of statecraft. In the novel Chanakya is acerbic, witty and ruthless, and provides the same services to Avanti. He manoeuvers the awkard young daughter of a charismatic powerful politician across the chessboard of power to become a brilliantly successful politician in her own right.

Available at:



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Letter to Hon'ble PM of India

As we have such a social media savvy PM, I went to the PMO website as I wanted to write to the Prime Minister. The website does impress, a few boxes to click and the one on the top right has 'Interact with Hon'ble PM'.

Exactly what I wanted, a dialogue with our PM and I imaged that, as two giant intellects conversed in cyberspace, our mail would enter the archives of history. I felt he was just waiting for someone to talk to him, a human being, not another politician or a bureaucrat. I clicked on 'Interact with...' and find I have a choice of subjects. Ahh, knowing how loquacious we Indians are there is, not a word limit, but a character limit. One thousand characters, max.

I click on 'Subject' and discover there are 16, ranging from 'Agriculture' through 'Education' to 'Social Injustice'. I believe this makes it easier for the PM, a very busy man, so that he is immediately prepared to respond and converse on the subject. There can be nothing more confusing when opening a mail on 'Agriculture', and turning one's mind in preparation to discuss the price of onions,  to find the letter is on 'Women's' Issues' or 'Defence'.

I dither over such a wide choice. I have to think carefully as I don't want to confuse my PM. I hover over 'Social Injustice'. It isn't quite right - I haven't been beaten/raped/imprisoned by our cops. Yet. I wish there was one more category 'Other Important Issues'. It takes a good ten minutes of such dithering to decide which subject my letter comes under.

I choose 'Law & Order'. I click on it, fill in my name, address (correctly), and then compose my 1,000 characters. I don't want to dazzle him with my examples, I just want to discuss the subject with him and expect him to keep within the 1,000 character format when he replies to my letter.

When I finish my abbreviated note to the PM, I copy the 'Verification Code' and hit 'Submit'. The site responds immediately, a complaint about commas. It does not like too many of them, so, despite a great reluctance, I delete a few of them to keep the site happy. Once more, I copy the code and hit submit.

There is a pause. I imagine my letter instantly appearing on the PM's screen and him leaning forward to read it carefully. His hand hovers over 'Reply' even as he composes his response to my letter. A moment letter, a line pops up on the screen. 'Thank you for writing to the PM. Your letter has been forwarded to the department concerned'.  

Whatdoyumean? I wrote to the PM, not to a department. I expect him to read it and to reply. I want to have a discourse.  That's the whole point of 'Interact with the Hon'ble PM' at the top of the website.

I don't want to interact with a minor babu, somewhere in labyrinth of the Minister of Home Affairs, now staring at my letter on his screen. Is he thinking :Should I print it and rush over to show it to the PM, and wait for him to read, cogitate and reply? Or should I just hit the 'Delete' button and return to sleep?


Dear Prime Minister,

Congratulations on your astonishing victory and I am confident you will lead India to a great future. As a writer/filmmaker, I am very concerned with the extreme right wing Hindu elements, who have taken it on themselves to censor and intimidate writers, artists and filmmakers with their narrow interpretation of our ancient religion. We hope they are not encouraged to further extremism due to the BJP victory. This is a law & order problem when they physically attack artists, filmmakers or publishers. As a democracy, we must respect the opinions of others, even if we do not agree with them. As Prime Minister, you have spoken of the inclusiveness of all Indians, and this must include those who hold different views to the extremists. I hope you will discourage their activities. With my best wishes for your leadership. Timeri N. Murari.



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A magical story about my lost dog.


This is a magical story about my lost dog.

            I have three mongrel dogs, around 18 months old. Two brothers came straight from their mother to us when they were a month old. As pups, they looked like huskies with their blonde coats. The third, Prince, a month or two older, had survived the harsh street life of Madras. My cook found him and brought him to us. He has a faint resemblance to an Alsatian’s colouring but with a very curly tail. He fitted in but his experiences had scarred him and he would not take a daily walk on the road. The gate could remain wide open and he would not put a foot outside. He was frightened of the street.  A handsome dog wearing a red collar with a nametag attached

            On September 18th night, my stupid watchman left the gate open. Prince and one brother, chasing a cat, raced up the 50-metre earthen lane that leads to my house. Moments later came thunder, lightning and heavy rains. The brother raced back, Prince vanished into the storm. Dog experts tell us that the first 48 hours are vital in finding a lost dog. It hasn’t gone far.  After that the odds mount – a month is ‘forget it you’ll never see it again. He’s moved too far searching for his home.’  

I searched for him, whistling and calling, but he was nowhere in sight. The next day, Maureen, my staff and I walked the streets looking for him. Two days later, my gardener saw him half down my road by a teashop and tried to catch him. Too frightened, Prince ran. It turned out he had been hiding first in a building site and then down a lane.  It was raining again but we searched all the roads and lanes.  Like every road, we have our share of street dogs, always in the same spot, looking well fed.  No Prince. I created a poster with his photograph and offered a generous reward for the finder. These were distributed throughout the neighbourhood and stuck on walls. A woman called, she’d seen him at 4 am nearby. Maureen and I went out at four the next day, walked and called. Then someone said he was seen at night and we walked at nights. He had vanished again.  The Hindu newspaper, in its pet’s page, had him with his photo as a missing dog. Two weeks later, the paper ran it again. A local paper also ran a story of him, with his photo. He was also on two Face book sites. I must add that people do respond and call in but this time – silence. No one had seen him.

Two good friends,  Angelika, a German woman living in the city, and Kiran who had German contacts,  suggested we consult a dog psychic living in Germany. A German dog psychic!! And living 10,000 miles away! As two weeks had passed since his sighting, I would try anything. I knew the odds were stacking up against us finding him. I Googled ‘dog psychic’ and found a few in America, and very expensive. Germany was closer, for what that was worth. The psychic needed his photo, our photos, staff photos and shots of our house, the lane. Obediently, we sent them off. Three days later, she emailed in German (translated for us). She wrote that he was very frightened and desperate. That stressed us further as we knew he hated the streets. She continued that ‘Prince showed me that he was hiding under a blue tarpaulin in a building site.’ She added that it was near us.  There are seven building sites on my road alone, and we visited every one. In one, there was a blue tarpaulin but he wasn’t under it. How on earth, sitting in Germany did she see that through his eyes? How are they ‘talking’? She speaks German, possibly English, he has a dog’s grasp of English, Tamil and Telugu!

A week later, in the evening, the ironing man (we send our clothes out to be ironed) just down the road, called saying Prince had just run past him very fast. I raced over. He and another man gave chase on their scooters but lost him when he turned a corner. Everyone now searched up and down roads, lane, houses. Again, he had vanished. We left our gate wide open24x7 and at night placed a couple of his toys – my chewed Nike tennis shoe, a plastic ball – in the hope that passing by he’d recognise his toys. No further word from the psychic.

It was now four weeks. I escalated and had 15,000 flyers printed up and slipped into two major newspapers distributed in my area. Surely, someone would see him now. I did get a call and went to the place but none had seen him in that area.

It was nearing five weeks and we felt desperate for Prince, frightened, alone, hungry, thirsty. Was he alive?  Kiran called the pyshic to tell her Prince was still lost. A day later, the psychic emailed Angelika and we got the translation in the evening: he is still alive, lost, frightened, and confused. Searching for food a human had thrown a stone at him. (I felt almost ill). She wrote on: ‘He’s showing me an arc or arch, a house with outside stairs leading to the roof, a muddy field, a dirt road,  a broken wall, an old house, a sloping road. It could be on the edge of town. I told him to stay where he is as Maureen and Tim will find you. Don’t move away.’ It was confusing.

The nearest arch, the grand kind soldiers march under, is five miles away. Too far. At dawn, we are out on our hunt. Not far is, not an arch, but a pillar, a possibility. We scour the area but there are no old houses or broken walls nor stairs. Later, we cruise and I spot a metal arch over a school entrance and nearby a broken wall, with a muddy area behind it. We walk all around calling and whistling. Not a response. For five weeks, I’ve been stressed, and cannot work in my worry for him. It sounds hopeless.

In the evening, after our daily walk, we get a SMS on Maureen’s dying phone from a friend, Devika. We’re in a mobile store trying to revive it. The psychic’s mail had been forwarded to Devika, an animal lover. Devika writes that there are some old houses and lanes near the local telephone exchange. That is about a mile away, along very busy, noisy, chaotic roads. It’s a zigzag route too. We drive over, park and see a muddy lane beside the exchange. We walk down it, calling and whistling, the lane curves sharply to a dead end.

But, at the end, is an old house with an outside STAIRCASE leading up to the roof.  We hurry into the muddy compound, calling and whistling. No Prince. The watchmen on the lane, shake their heads when I show them his photograph. When we get back to the road, we stop and stare. Right opposite, there is a splendid ARCH spanning the entrance to an apartment block.

We check with that watchman and an autorickshaw driver. They are helpful but, no, they haven’t seen the dog.

Next to this grand arch entrance is a dark lane about 100 yards long. We walk down, calling, whistling. At the end is an old house, a half broken wall. The watchman there says he hasn’t seen any dog. We walk back up, feeling more depressed, calling and whistling. Parallel to this lane is another dark one, just as long. We turn into it.

I am a few feet ahead, Maureen’s behind. She says: ‘There’s a dog here.’

I turn. There is a bundle of something at her feet. It’s silent; its tail flickers. The light is so bad, it’s only a shape and I bend down. It’s a muddy colour. Prince has a darker coat.   But it looks like him. The dog has a collar and hanging from it is a glitter of metal. I scoop him up. It is PRINCE. His tail now a windshield wiper. It is my happiest moment when he rests his tired head against my shoulder and nuzzles my neck, and then nuzzles Maureen as we hug and kiss him. I know he is as happy to have heard our calls and my whistle.

He had come in from behind us, so it meant he was down that first lane and followed my calls. He had been missing 37 days. Though we’re holding him, we can’t believe we have found him. He looks as dazed, all three thinking we’re dreaming.

  I carry him to the car and when reach home, the word spreads we’ve found him. He is heartbreakingly thin, very dirty and has scars on his forehead and cheek that look like dog bites. He had been in a fight. He had lost two kilograms but someone, somewhere, had given him scraps of food to keep him alive. He drinks a large bowl of water as if he has not had a drink for days.  He is traumatized, still afraid though in his home. The two brothers sniff him suspiciously, and keep their distance. For the five weeks they had a monopoly of our love and attention and now Prince is back home. Fussed over by us all, fed, washed, brushed.

That psychic is unbelievable. How did she see through his eyes?  I cannot explain it or even understand how she does it. I gather she is well known too. She will visit Chennai in January and we will have her over for a grand meal. We have to see how Prince reacts to her in person.