Pack of Lies

From Oran

Sunday, January 17th, 2010
Eduardo Pola

Albert Camus by Eduardo Pola

I had never read Camus, I’m ashamed to say. But no longer – I just read The Plague, and am reading The Stranger. The Plague made me claustrophobic. I began to wonder if the world didn’t begin and end at Oran, the town in which the book is set. If, after the plague had burned out, and the quarantine was lifted, there would even be a world out there. This book easily took me into this town, into the hopes and fears of the people who lived there, and were stuck there. Reading a spectacular piece of writing – an acknowledged classic, could have demoralized me. Sometimes, when you encounter the pinnacle of your art or skill, it can have that effect on you. You could say, “why bother, it’s been done, and so much better than I ever could…”. I heard a story about Sting in a bar in London on a night Jimi Hendrix performed. Halfway through Little Wing, Sting was suddenly filled with despair. With a debilitating certainty that his talent and hard work could never come close to what he was experiencing. I’m glad he didn’t give up. It may have been a rock myth, but still…

After reading The Plague, though I understood that I could never be a Camus, I also understood that I don’t write to be a Camus: I write to be me. And I don’t have the choice not to, if I want to be as much me as possible.

Interstate love song…

Saturday, January 9th, 2010
10 west

10 west

At the end of this decade, I was driving on an American highway – the Interstate 10 to be precise, in dense fog, at 2 am. I started my drive at the east-most point of I-10. If I drove West long enough, this road would take me all the way West to California. I wasn’t going West, though, just a few hundred miles away, home. Alone in the eerily beautiful swirling white fog, I thought about the ending year. 2009 brought me a new career, my first published book, a new life. I couldn’t see too far ahead of me, but I kept going, enjoying the apparitions of trees that revealed themselves as trees when I was right next to them, and the shining lights of oncoming traffic that became clear for a moment – a Mack truck, a Thunderbird, a garden variety Camry – as they passed me, and diminished into fireflies glowing for seconds in my rear view mirror before disappearing into the blackness. E.L. Doctorow said  “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Writing, to me, is exactly like driving a familiar highway to a familiar destination at an unfamiliar time. I see nothing until it is upon me, but I know, if I keep going, I will get there. My book was written much like this drive. But, I thought, not just writing, but life itself has been very much like this drive. I am full of anticipation to see what I will see next, and where I will stop, and to find out what those shapes and lights are that I can vaguely make out in the distance. I don’t mean to be trite, but I did have a moment there of really getting it: We all know what the destination is. It’s the journey that’s the fun part. It’s the revelations. So though I’ve said it before, I wish you, my reader, my friend, my family, whoever you might be, a journey of discovery. Of yourself, and the world.

rotten eggs

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

I will not be going to the movies anymore. I only end up losing hours of the short time I have left in the world, and ruining the enjoyment of friends and family with my bitching. In spite of being told otherwise, my expectations, I feel, are not unreasonable:

– Real action heroes – who really train hard, fight hard, and whom I care about.
– Unpredictability – I should not know at the outset, that the “good guys” will win, or even who the good guys are.
– Emotional content – if I do take sides, I should care deeply about who wins. At least till the movie ends. At least for a few minutes.
I could expand on all of this, and maybe one day I will. Right now I feel it would be even more time wasted talking about the insulting mediocrity of today’s blockbuster movies.
So, I’ll just say, I won’t be going to the movies anymore, I’ll just stay home and watch football. Because football gives me all that and much more. And when the season is over, and the playoffs are played off, and when the Patriots have won the Superbowl, I’ll go back to writing.
I hope 2010 will be a year of experiences and intensity and love and peace and fulfillment for you all!

Real Action Hero!

Real Action Hero!

Deccan Herald Review

Thursday, December 24th, 2009
Painfully ever after

Painfully ever after


Tranquebar Times interview

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Tranqubar Times
Tranqubar Times

Friday, December 18th, 2009


POL on Amazon

POL is now “available” on Amazon. But not really. It’s Out-Of-Stock. The good part is though, now you can review it, and rate it. So those of you who have read it, and don’t need to order it, please do review it and rate it, it would help to put it on the map… thanks!

POL in Marie Claire India december 2009

Monday, December 14th, 2009
Marie Claire Dec 2009

Marie Claire Dec 2009


and write them into major events. Or
take marginally interesting people and
write them into giants and trolls and
goddesses. For example, the people
Ginny has sex with. There have been
men and women that I had crushes
on, that I might have wanted to have
a larger relationship, or just sex with.
And circumstances or their desires did
not allow it – well, Ginny got lucky (or
unlucky) where I did not. My mother
was quite a character and I did draw
upon her for Ginny’s mother. But I
had to distort her in order to make
her larger than life. I wanted to write
fiction about a woman somewhat like
me. After I started writing, she took
on her own character. So when I read
the book after its final edit, she didn’t
resemble me. I’m glad for that. Even if
everyone insists on assuming this is – as
one reviewer put it – “autobiography
masquerading as novel” – it is a novel,
and any resemblance to persons living
or dead is purely inspirational!
Who are your favourite writers?
Jane Austen, Kurt Vonnegut, John
Steinbeck, Italo Calvino, Lawrence
Durrell, Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
– the list keeps growing longer. I have
a weakness for comics, graphic novels
and science fiction.
De spi t e the f raught f ami l y
relationships, the book is actually
about family.
Family is an odd thing. There isn’t
always a mutual desire to be part of it
– we don’t choose our parents, or even
our children. We may love them, but
wouldn’t admit it to ourselves if we
did not. Ginny is unfortunate that she
doesn’t have any models to base her
social morals on, or the size and colour
of her family. But she is fortunate too,
in not having those models. Like a
traveller on an unknown road, she has
to make it up as she goes along.
By Manjula Narayan
The Complaints
Ian Rankin
Hachette India, Rs 595
Ian Rankin’s new hero
Malcolm Fox works for
the Edinburgh Police’s
Professional Standards Unit
aka The Complaints. He’s
a cop who catches crooked cops. If his first
outing is anything to go by, readers will soon
learn to love Fox as much as they do crabby
Scot Inspector Rebus. The author’s even been
hinting that Rebus and Fox might make a joint
appearance some day. Bet you can’t wait!
The New Anthem: The
Continent in Its
Own Words
Edited by Ahmede
Tranquebar, Rs 350
Here’s a book that brings
together voices from the
Indian subcontinent. Do stop to read ‘If You
Are Afraid of Heights’ by Raj Kamal Jha, ‘The
Ocean of Mrs Nagai’ by Sharbari Ahmed and
‘Cyclone’ by Khademul Islam. Also in the
fiction anthology are works by Amit Chaudhuri,
Tabish Khair, Padma Viswanathan, Kamila
Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid and Altaf Tyrewala.
new on shelves
novel A Pack
of Lies is an
Rs 295)
Don’t Swallow Your
Gum and Other
Medical Myths
Dr Aaron Carroll & Dr
Rachel Vreeman
Penguin, Rs 350
‘You use only 10 per cent
of your brain,’ ‘Acupuncture doesn’t really
work,’ ‘Condoms protect you from all STDs’
and ‘Eating at night makes you fat’ are some
beliefs challenged in the book. Though some of
the arguments aren’t entirely convincing, it’s
definitely a witty read.
book stills: manasa madishetty
234 marie claire india december 2009
Urmila Deshpande’s A Pack
of Lies traces the journey of
her protagonist Ginny as she
struggles to make sense of family
and of life in 1980s Mumbai. Here,
the original calendar girl – she was a
leading model – talks about her novel.
How much of the book is drawn
from your life?
Ginny is often assumed to be me
because the book is written in first
person. Yes, I am Ginny and Ginny is
me, but I am also not Ginny, and she
is also not me! There are moments in
my life that I used as starting points
to write Ginny – my relationship with
my mother, or my sisters, for example.
But I did not want to be restricted to
the truth. I wanted to take possibilities,
Marie Claire Dec 2009

Marie Claire Dec 2009

Nice review by John Cheeran…

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Thanks for this review, John Cheeran, I’m glad you liked my book!

First and Goal

Friday, November 13th, 2009
Patriots-Steelers 2005

Patriots-Steelers 2005

The very first blog I wrote was about football. American football. I was dissuaded from posting it, because, I was told, it would have little relevance to those I hoped would read my book. I wondered why. I wasn’t really talking about football, but the inspiration, awe, thrill, high and low emotions that any game we follow and are fanatic are about brings us. For me, when I lived in India, it was cricket. The game, the skill, the teams, the players, wins, losses, arguments about who was the better bowler, batsman, all of it was an endless source of captivation. It was personal. From the time I was eight or nine, I remember the atmosphere in the public bus during the test match season – the whole bus hanging on someone’s radio to listen to the scratchy, tinny commentary, as if a war were in progress, our life depended on it. Then there was tv, and I was delighted when we were playing Australia, and I got to see Jeff Thompson with his blond hair doing a little dance as he ran up to deliver devastation. As an adolescent, I had a crush on Ravi Shastri. Later, I had bitter fights with dear friends about my unpatriotic love for the Sri Lankan team. And then, I moved to Southern California, and there was no more cricket. That space was empty. I tried to understand baseball, but it was not for me. You have to grow up here, play it, or at least watch your children play it, you have to have a sense for it – a cultural sense – just like I had for cricket.

And then one afternoon late in September of 2001, soul tired from watching what was the only thing on every talk show and news show, I surfed away. And there it was, that odd and jerky and violent game, the New England Patriots playing another team in colors that I did not know, yet. I watched. I did not get it. But as the months, and years have gone by, I get it. It will be many years before I fully understand the details of the game – I did not grow up with this one either, as I had with cricket. I don’t have the history, nor do I know every last intricate rule yet. But I get the feeling, and feel the things that every sports fan feels when their team is up, and when their team is down. It allows me, again, to ride those emotions with abandon, to allow myself to be jubilant, or crash and burn without fear.

“New England is back in form” it says in the sports section today.

After losing the final game of a perfect season, after losing number twelve to a shoulder injury the following season, and after a shaky start this season, New England is back in form. And reading that made me feel almost happy. I’m finally ready to take whatever comes, be that reviews that revile me, poor sales, or even, god help me, some people reading my book and liking it. Because, whatever happens with A Pack of Lies, The Patriots have another chance at the Superbowl this February. And a chance is something to look forward to, and to enjoy, and a reason to live in a present with a sense of the future.


Friday, November 6th, 2009

Florida State Jazz: Paul McKee combo

Florida State Jazz: Paul McKee combo

If I had to perform in front of a live audience I would fail. Last night, I saw a 45 minute performance by a group of young men, and was delighted and awed. These kids are not yet twenty, and their passion is undeniable, and, unsurprising. What amazes me is how, at this young age, they sound experienced. How will they sound when they really are experienced? I always said to my son, the saxophone player in this combo, that he will never sound experienced because I hoped he would never be – and by experience I meant only adversity. But I may have been wrong – and Sheila Curran may have been right, when she said, “don’t buy into that myth that you can only be a good artist if you are in pain. If you are good unhappy, you will be good happy.”