The First Book I Fell in Love With

I think I was four years old when I started reading. Peter sat down, Jane sat down. Peter went to the park, and Jane, of course had to go to the park too. This was the seventies and a blond Peter and a dark-haired Jane were glued together in perpetuity. I have no idea why these books were so fascinating; I think it was the unfamiliar pictures of a green English countryside that did the trick.

And then, when I was six years old, my teacher started to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to us. And just like that, I fell in love with words and books and reading. Mr. Wonka’s amazing factory run by tiny Oompa Loompas with a wicked sense of humor started me off on a journey that continues till today.

Did that happen to you? Was there a book, or a person who inspired you to become a reader and dream of perhaps, one day, becoming a writer? What story or person motivated your love of books?


Romance, South Asian Ishtyle

I don’t think I will ever forget watching movies as a child and seeing the hero and the heroine disappear behind a tree or under an umbrella. As a child I always wondered what they were doing under there, and the focus on the bee pollinating the rose that inevitably followed never really helped me.

Till recently, the umbrella principle largely held for us as a society. We asked Choli ke Peeche Kiya Hai? and got the disingenuous Choli Mein Dil Hai Mera as the disappointing answer. However, it seems we as a society have finally arrived at the point that we can be trusted with more daring—and factual—answers.

We see love scenes being written in great detail in books, not just couples going to bed and waking up bathed in an after-sex pre-glow. Movies are featuring one-night stands and bedroom scenes and even some TV shows are adding in some mirch and masala close-ups.

rsaishtyleSo does this advance the cause of romance in our part of the world? I don’t know. It is a breath of fresh air to see sexuality up close and not left in the realm of ‘those books’ and ‘art’ movies. And yet, sometimes it feels like a collective loss of innocence on our part. Does the longing of the couple for their wedding night lose its charm if they are already co-habiting? Can clumsy embraces and stolen kisses be more titillating than overt sexual encounters?

I feel that in all mediums—books, television and films—the characters and the stories should drive the romance and intimacy. It would probably be unrealistic to expect a modern urban couple to simper and act coy. It is, however, equally off-putting to see a woman with strong values suddenly jumping into bed because a sex scene is the demand of the hour.

Romance comes in all packages, shy and sweet, bold and explorative and sizzling hot. It is up to the storyteller to take the reader by the hand and make her experience the romance, so that in each form, it is the natural conclusion, neither forced nor ridiculous. That, to me, is the true essence of romance.


In Praise of Technology

bookstoreMy best memories are of being lost in a bookstore, sitting in a corner, seven books around me, surrounded by the inimitable aroma of paper, printing ink, and carton boxes. Heaven! Increasingly, that experience is out-of-reach. It is getting harder to sandwich a few hours of book-worship in the busy days of our lives, and when one does make one’s way to a bookstore, at least in North America, the smell of coffee and cookies drowns out the smell of paper and ink.

Grudgingly, therefore, I have come to accept my virtual bookstores on the iPad, on a website or on my eReader. The excitement of finding something new remains, even if the experience has fundamentally changed. I still enjoy browsing, reading a few chapters of a book before buying, and sometimes randomly picking up a book whose cover speaks to me.

I must admit, however, that I have come to really like the recommendation feature in an electronic bookstore. If you like this book, the logic goes, you might also like…. Implemented well, this feature can help readers reduce search-pain, and skip over the drudgery of reading all the blurbs behind each book cover. Over time, I have found myself using these features extensively. So, grudgingly, I have become an ebook store fan.

What about you? Given a choice, which kind do you prefer?

Journal News & Events

Reaching Across Borders

One of the most amazing benefits of starting Indireads has been the opportunity to interact and become friends with authors on both sides of the India-Pakistan border.

Talking to them I came to two realizations, first the reinforcement of my belief in how similar we are (after all we are the same people and no line drawn in the sand can change that), and secondly, how little each side knows of the other.

My parents were born in Hyderabad Deccan, and while they moved to Karachi, they still have family there. Aunts, uncles and cousins regularly go across to attend weddings and visit on both sides, and we are all very much one big family. And in my own travels across the world, some of my best friends have been Indians, of all faiths and backgrounds.

Having been privileged to have both family and friends across the border, I feel strongly that it is important for people to begin to connect across this real border, but imagined divide, to see that the person on the other side is reflection of oneself.

If we all just begin to connect, we will see how much we have in common—music, food, colors, clothes and wise sayings—are all part of our shared culture and heritage. That’s what Indireads books celebrate and that is the inspiration for Love Across Borders, our first anthology, a collection of short stories to mark the Independence Days of these two neighboring countries, by teaching us how much we have in common to celebrate.

What are some of the things common across the sub-continent that you enjoy?


We Believe…

Two new romantic movies are in the cinemas and I can’t wait to see both Raanjhana and Lootera. Despite promises that both movies would be ‘different’, I am not really expecting anything but instant love, trials, tribulations and happy endings. And yet, I am eagerly anticipating watching the movies. I often wonder why.

I think the reason they get to me every time is pretty much the same reason I read (and now publish) romance books. Romance and love—whether in films or books—are basically the same story, about two people falling in love. But the reason why millions of people—and I—come back to the same predictable theme, is because we are believers.

We believe in the power of love; we believe that love conquers all and we believe, above all, in happy endings. And somehow we believe, in spite of heavy doses of reality in the form of depressing news in the papers and on television; despite our relationship break-ups and screw-ups and despite jeering cynics on the sidelines.

Watching and reading romance helps me to keep my optimism and faith alive. And so I am going to watch these two ‘new’ movies, and for three hours am going to suspend reality and let myself be moved by the power of love, romance and music. I think we all deserve a little romance to brighten our lives; it makes for happier people all around.


Why Not eBooks?

From being a diehard paperback fan I have switched sides and finally joined the eBook brigade. My husband bought me a Kindle when they first came out, and I resisted using it for two years—until one day, having run out of books and options, I grudgingly opened the device. It took me three clicks to download the book of my choice and I was on my way to my first digital reading experience; it blew me away.

The initial advantages were obvious. The eReader was light and easy to hold, it was well-lit, the words scrolled automatically, the pages didn’t have to be held open, and there was no danger of my losing my place.

But the revelation was the ease, convenience and accessibility of the ebook experience. Suddenly, I had access to a world of books not available at my local bookstore, could download books instantly rather than making the time to go to a bookstore to locate the book and could actually get a better price versus the paperback version. A whole new world of reading pleasure opened up.

I still enjoy going into a bookstore and browsing shelves full of books. But as a working mother, this is not something I can afford to do on a regular basis. In my limited time off, with minimal effort, I can dive straight into my reading pleasure—and I love that ebooks make this possible for me.

If you had a choice, which would you prefer?


What Lies Beneath

Most women who read romance feel an inherent urge to hide the fact. There are very few women who will openly acknowledge owning and reading romance books, and even less who stand up and defend their right to read romance. Men have their crime/thriller books—almost always accompanied by a healthy dose of flesh and gory details, but you never see them shying away from owning their reading pleasure; while women will go to extreme lengths to hide their romance fix from their husbands, families and even their friends. And as for spicier reading—let’s not even go there.

Then along come eBooks and Fifty Shades of Grey—a marriage made in heaven if ever there was one. A secret pleasure fully enabled by the anonymous device used to read it. There are no tell-tale cover illustrations and no need to hide one’s book in bigger, more appropriate reading material.

Which is all well and good, but not terribly empowering. So that’s my grouse. Why should women hide the fact that they have eclectic reading habits—and get pleasure from handsome heroes, feisty heroines and happy endings? We all need and deserve our brand of TLC. Bollywood is unabashedly romantic and you will not find people going around hiding the fact that they like films. So what’s the big deal where books are concerned?

eBooks are a wonderful invention—convenient, easy to carry around, can be read any place at any time on any available device—they are a godsend for readers.

Nevertheless, I dream of a time when women carry their eBook of choice proudly and stand up for the right to read what they like. That is the day closet fans of dashing heroes and Fifty Shades will march out, heads held high and a romance book—an Indireads title, hopefully—tucked under their arms.




Many people fall in love slowly, often beginning with friendship and respect and then developing stronger feelings. A romance based on such love is both gentle and sweet. But for me, love must have a spark and that spark comes from passion. Passion is the emotion that fully engages one’s heart, mind and soul. It is all-consuming and with its power, can move mountains or melt stony hearts. A passionate couple truly engages—in anger, love and of course in bed. That’s what I look for in a relationship—that spark—the magic of passion. Without it, both life and fiction seem tame.

Indiwords Journal

Tu Mera Hero

Movie heroes in the West have come a long way – today many of the heroes are flawed, making them at once more realistic and more appealing. Our South Asian heroes – in print and onscreen – are generally still larger-than-life depictions. They are good hearted and righteous with strong values and are also unashamedly romantic. This clearly works as box office domination by Shahrukh, Salman and Amir proves. To add to their long list of virtues they are also impossibly handsome, like Hrithik and the newest heartthrob Ranbir Kapoor. But are these heroes realistic? Should we be moving to more realism and depicting more nuanced characters through popular culture?

Journal News & Events

Our Picks for the Summer of Love

So, phew! Thirty books to choose from, and the field is wide open. Where to start?

Well, let us give you a helping hand. Featuring a selection of books from across our three genres, we’ve got our recommendations. Once you’ve read them, come back and tell us what you would recommend.

From the Green Lime genre—fresh, fun and young love stories—we have Haveli and Against All Odds.

Haveli is a fiery romance set in the 1970’s in what was once a princely state, but which became part of Pakistan. A young girl chafes against the rules and regulations of her narrow world within her family’s old haveli and discovers love and a lot more than she bargained for.

Against All Odds introduces us to another feisty young lady—Sanjana is enormously talented and is making her mark in the world of interior designing. Her work puts her in the path of the rich and famous, in particular Abhimanyu, with whom she has had an unpleasant encounter. Caught between a world of privilege and practicality, the two will have to fight the odds to make their relationship work.

From the Golden Saffron genre—relationship based romance stories—we have The Journals of Geetanjali Rao, a poignant story about a thirty-something woman who has returned to India and unexpectedly finds love. Her experiences, narrated via the pages of her journal, chronicle a touching coming-of-age story.

And finally, from our Black Clove genre—romance combined with fantasy and mythology—we have picked The Gandharva. The story follows Dev, a fallen Gandharva warrior who cannot understand the intensity of his attraction to the human girl, Maya. Together, the two must battle a host of mythological enemies and unleash unknown powers, setting a chain of events in motion that cannot be turned back.

Enjoy our editor’s picks, follow the links to read the chapters provided for your reading pleasure and fall in love with the diversity and range of our new and exclusive Summer of Love reads.