Pack of Lies

9/13/2012 ~ Marathi translation of A Pack of Lies

Monday, September 17th, 2012

My Marathi is good enough to talk to my sister (whose Marathi is worse than mine), and not at all good enough to read the translation.

This translation happened with my technical and legal consent. There was a clause in the contract with my publisher which allowed them to sell the translation rights.  Needless to say, I learned my lesson. Neither the translator, to my shock and disappointment, nor the publisher, made ANY contact with me during the translation process. Two copies of this Marathi version arrived in my mailbox, and that was how I found out.

To start with, the title of the book translates back to English approximately as “I Will Lie” which immediately said to me that the title was chosen for market impact .  It does not say what I intended. I was not, to put it mildly, delighted. I opened the book, and with some apprehension, read the acknowledgements. And at that point I figured that I would probably drop an eyeball if I read any more. There was a clear mistake in understanding what I meant by “my sisters”, and the translator has taken the liberty of assuming my meaning without bothering to check. At that point I gave up. It seems to me, from what I could tell from reviews of the book, that basically this is now a terrible book. The publisher’s blurb on the cover also sensationalizes it for no reason, as “explosive” and so forth. Sleaze.

My mother, Gauri Deshpande, worked on several translations. She talked to the authors, or, in the case of Sir Richard, did an enormous amount of research and put a lot of thought into it, sometimes agonizing over single words. Shashi Deshpande, who translated my mother’s “Deliverance”, too, did the same. I can’t understand why a translator would not even have a phone conversation with an author whose book she is translating – I am neither dead nor unapproachable.

Anyone who has actually read it in both languages, if there is such a person, I would love to hear what you have to say. Maybe it is not as terrible as I fear. But from what little I have read, I fear it is.

2/18/2012 ~ Blog Review of Gauri Deshpande’s “Deliverance”

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Deepa Deosthalee, in her blog Book Impressions, reviews Deliverance, and comments on A Pack of Lies.


An excerpt from the review:

“… Whether it was motherhood, womanhood, marriage, relationships or life itself, Gauri Deshpande had the ability to be brutally honest, much to the chagrin of the male establishment of the time. In this, her most autobiographical story, she examines her difficult relationship with her daughters, not sparing herself or them and in the process, filtering her own experiences into evocative literature — the hallmark of many a great woman writer.


Interestingly, her daughter Urmilla Deshpande followed in her footsteps by exploring the same relationship from her point-of-view in her novel A Pack of Lies a couple of years ago. Gauri would have been proud even though her daughter’s portrait of her was far from flattering. In fact, reading both these stories as companion pieces makes for an interesting study of how differently two people can look at the same situation from different vantage points…”











3/21/2011 ~ “A Pack of Lies” reviewed on Curious Book Fans

Monday, March 21st, 2011

This is a cool site – the reviews are honest and insightful, and, will point readers to books they may not encounter on the usual bestseller lists. Worth a look, I really like this site. Even though they don’t rave about my books. Or maybe because they don’t rave about my books 🙂

01/22/2011 ~ Jazz and Poetry Symposium II video

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

In April 2010, my dear friend Joseph Hellweg read from A Pack of Lies to the music of the immensely awesome students of the Jazz department at FSU’s music school.

03/01/2011 ~ new review of “A Pack of Lies”

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Happy new year! A Pack of Lies, which was published October 2009, is still being read and reviewed, I’m very pleased! A friend sent me this link today. Nice new year present, an inspiration that might help me to finish the book of short stories I have promised to deliver to my editor by the end of January…

Sheila Kumar, the reviewer, has alluded a few times to “autobio masquerading as fiction” as several have done before, but she has stopped short of making any further assumptions, and has actually given me the benefit of reading the book as fiction. More on this later, it’s time I wrote about it. A book to finish first – a challenge from my dear editor.

The text of the review:

Mommie dearest


Sometimes, telling a tale of childhood can also be an exorcism of sorts.

A Pack of Lies, Urmilla Deshpande, Tranquebar, Rs. 295.

The pulling down of the covering veil is not a gentle gesture here; it is a brutal act of ripping. Yet, when the reader reaches the end of this coming-of-age novel, autobio masquerading as fiction, the utter imperative behind it does not fail to impress. Deshpande has a story to tell and she tells it, consequences be damned.

It is the improbably named Virginia who comes of age in the early 1980s here. The girl was never the shy, retiring sort to begin with; add a strange, preoccupied mother who swings between languid condemnation and an equally languid neglect all through, throw in generous pinches of dope, drink, men, women, modelling contracts, unsavoury relationships and the occasional bout of introspection, and you get a very readable account of a young life lived to the hilt.

Of course, it is anything but a pack of lies. The novel deals with truths, mostly unpalatable. Virginia a.k.a Ginny, named after the doomed Woolf is ironically enough, not much of a Woolf fan. She tires early of trying to live up to her moody mother’s unpronounced expectations and decides to go her own way. That particular road involves the jettisoning of any remnants of inhibitions, taking up with a glamorous woman mentor, an unsavoury boss who quickly become Ginny’s live-in partner, and sundry other quick gropings and one-night sessions with attractive men who come her way. There is a career of sorts in photography that is slowly coming together, there is the occasional reunion with her separately re-married father and mother and their new families. There is the immediate bonding with her sister who lives with her father and his awful new wife, as well as the small stepsister born to her mother late in life. Tumult but not all bad, either.

Real lives

It’s the old cliché come alive: Ginny isn’t really short of money, she even has her own apartment in Mumbai. What she lacks desperately and seeks hungrily, is unconditional love and acceptance, mainly from her parents. Ginny’s mother, the distant writer with longings both the girl and the reader can only guess at, as well as a predilection later on for drink, tends to steal several scenes from the young girl throughout the narrative and is someone who leaves quite an impact.

What shines through is the truth (again, masquerading as distinct possibility) that Ginny’s story is a true one. Love, lust and life, the three strands inform the narrative in a clear-eyed manner. The story is written in a no-frills, direct style, and the reader warms to the heroine despite the best efforts of the writer to create a no-sympathy-needed character. That ultimately is the book’s winning formula.

© Copyright 2000 – 2009 The Hindu

About to write…

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Saint George Island

So, even though I am not writing at the moment, I assure myself that I am collecting material. Looking, seeing, smelling, tasting, eating, listening – it’s all data collection. It will, I tell myself, churn about, or maybe just sit there and ripen, and surely and quickly turn into a clever, or dour, or exciting, or, most hopefully, erotic stream of words that will get me to my deadline. Working/not working – toward a collection of erotic short stories. Erratic.

Kashmir Blues and A Pack of Lies are sitting on Amazon’s shelves collecting cyber dust. I write because I want to. But I do now wish for my writing to be read. I would give it away free, but then, in this world it would be judged as worthless. Also, potatoes and health insurance don’t come free, or art and literature would be too. I’d write for my own delight, and then for the thanks and praise after (abuse would be fine too, it would mean the abuser read my writing). And I’d eat potatoes and be well.

There’s no oil on the beach where I was working last week. They said it was a hundred miles to the west of us, and probably wouldn’t make it there. Trucks and booms lay ready and waiting though, just in case. I collected a lot of sand and salt wind and serenity. Monday morning, there will be words.

Sharmila Phadke in Loksatta

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

clip from Loksattaगौरीच्या मुलीचं पुस्तक


Wednesday, January 27th, 2010


For those of you who don’t know it, I have no degrees, and basically no formal education. In the last ten years, my attempts to “go back to school” have been thwarted by my visa status. Late last year, that obstacle was resolved, so when my son, now a sophomore, said to me that I should “take some classes”, I decided to investigate the matter. As it turns out, I will have to fulfill requirements such as English, social sciences, math, and so on. And I will of course, not being a US citizen, have to take the TOEFL – Test Of English as a Foreign Language. As I scoured the website of the community college looking for ways to get a PhD without putting in thousands of semester hours, I began to feel pretty poor, and sorry for myself.

And then my phone rang. I thought, looking at the area code, that it was someone I knew. It wasn’t. A voice, somewhat nervous, young, male, asked for me. When I identified myself, he said, very quickly, that he had just read POL and liked it, and wanted to tell me so. He hung up rather quickly. Perhaps he was a bit embarrassed, or maybe he didn’t actually think I would answer the phone and wasn’t prepared for it. I don’t really know. But I do know this: he made my day.

I never thought it would concern me, I was pretty blasé about writing and putting it out there. Readers were not real to me then. They are now. I care deeply what every person who reads my book thinks of it. I would talk to every last one of you, and to hear that you loved the book is validating, of course, but just to know that you read it is surprisingly fulfilling. I really didn’t expect this. At all.

When my mother got fan mail, or met a fan at a reading or a conference, she would be thoroughly delighted. Sometimes she would say to us, full of smiles and happiness, “that was not just a fan, he/she was a propeller!”

Well, I don’t know if the person who called me today in the midst of my episode of self-doubt and confusion was a fan or a propeller – but I understood something about my mother today, and, this perfect stranger reminded me why I publish what I write. Thank you, Mr. Joshi.

(And this is not an invitation to other readers to call me – I’m just saying – thank you all for reading my work!)

giant steps

Monday, January 25th, 2010



My mother told me once that Werner Herzog walked from Munich to Paris to heal his friend who was very ill. She told me this when her own publisher and close friend fell ill, and wondered if she should begin to walk to Pune from Hong Kong, where she was, and if he would recover by the time she got to him. He got well by himself, and she did not need to make the journey. But she was quite serious, I believe, when she said it. I remembered this story yesterday as I neared the end of my walk. I started going on long walks only after my mother died. I don’t know whether walking long distances will heal a loved one or not, and won’t go too far into the idea that my mother could have been alive today if only I had walked across continents to be by her side.

For one reason and another and another – my cholesterol, my reflection in the bathroom mirror, my burgundy velvet dress that no longer zips up – I have started walking everyday, what seem to me like long distances. Today I thought, when I was done, that from now on I would walk for someone other than myself. That I would dedicate each day’s walk to a person somewhere in the world who was sick, or hungry, or sad, or lonely. I could walk for entire countries. For war-mauled Iraqis, for the citizens in darkness in North Korea, for the starving children of India, for those left in the rubble that is Haiti . The sick parts of the world, and all the sad people in it, are more numerous by far than I have walks, or even steps left in me. But if Werner Herzog is right, and we all walked a little for someone else, maybe we could heal the world.

I am not given to sentimentality, or any kind of spirituality – I just cannot help but feel there is a kind of no-nonsense practicality in this idea. Tomorrow’s walk has a purpose. And at the end of all my walking, even if I heal no one else, I will be a healthy corpse.

pale male

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Red Tailed Hawk

Red Tailed Hawk

There is this hawk in New York City. I became aware him of when his nest was being removed from the building he had built it in. Many people have followed his story. Celebrities living in the building protested the disturbance of his home. Photographers follow him. There are websites about him. Books have been written about him. He is a star. And he is a beautiful hawk. As all hawks are. The funny thing is, he doesn’t know he is a star. He would be just as beautiful whether anyone photographed him or not, whether anyone saw him or not. Pale Male, as he is called, because of his unusually pale coloring, is a hawk, and that is all he will ever be. Isn’t it enough to be a hawk, if that is what you are?

My love for hawks is quite large in my heart. Always has been, not related to Pale Male, I have never seen him. I wrote a short story recently, called “Hawk”. It is the only short story I have ever written. It is rough, and needs work, but I found out after writing it that my short-story writing skills may be better laid to rest, what little I have of them. I’m too old to start working on something I know won’t improve much in the time I have left. But, if someone asks to read it, I will post it. And I promise I will take any comments and suggestions seriously.