My Blogging Journey and Celebrating 100 Posts!

Celebrating 100 posts and reflecting on the years gone by.

This is my 100th post.

I don’t know what people write in their 100th post because I sure as heck don’t know. I didn’t think a day such as this one had any possibility of becoming a reality but here we are.

I started my blog when I was in my first year of college. But let’s go back a little further. I started reading a lot more in the 11th standard, and would read in between classes, and on my way to school even though I was always drawn to reading, devouring all the books from the library, and buying books from the Scholastic book fair. But during my late teens, there was this need to read books at all times. I would be lost in the written word, finding solace and excitement and thrill. Naturally, my choices in books were questionable but gradually my reading taste changed and has continued to do so. While in school, I had developed a deep fascination for writing. I also started writing a lot of poems( which were a cringefest) but also short stories. So when I went to college, starting a blog seemed like the right thing to do.

I figured out the logistics (googled it) and created a blog named, ‘The Literary Cat“.

For the longest time, I would write under this blog name and changed it to ‘Books and Teaa’ only recently. I started off with book reviews, short stories, and then slowly went on to writing how-tos, and listicles. However, I was involved in a number of extra-curricular activities in college and my blog wasn’t the highlight at this point in time in my life. Throughout my under-graduation, my posts were sporadic, and all over the place. I didn’t start a blog to make something out of it or to become a full-time blogger—It was created because the thoughts in my head needed a home.

Fast forward to 2016, and I had just finished my post-graduation diploma and was pursuing a Masters degree. At this point in time, two things happened.

  • I was searching for a job, and pursuing an online masters. I had time to spare.
  • I stumbled upon Bookstagram.

Here’s where things started to turn around and by that, I don’t mean I started earning money through blogging. This was never my goal. I always wanted to be known as a writer and someone who likes reading books.

Blogging has been that corner of my life which I can pick up wherever I left. I always write whenever I have an idea that can no longer be contained in my head. Here’s when the words flow smoothly, my mind running at the speed of light spewing idea after idea, and the stories writing themselves.  It’s rewarding and satisfying but at the same time A LOT of work. I still don’t understand how WordPress works and there are so many things I can improve on my site. I would like to be more active, put in more effort, and be consistent. There have also been times where I didn’t want to think I have a blog. To be honest, I still wonder why people read what I write.

If I show you the stats, it’s going to reflect poorly on me, and probably expose me as a ‘fake’ person who only claims to love writing. But wanting to do something and actually doing it are two separate things. I still haven’t figured it all out, I still can’t think of blog post ideas, and I know I will not be able to stay as consistent as I would like to be. But that’s how life is sometimes. I like to think of my blog as a safe space devoid of any obligations. I cannot force myself to do things and I don’t want to make blogging a chore, a checklist I can tick off. And neither should you.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after all these years of blogging, it’s this:

The results are going to be slow. The views on your posts won’t be too high initially, you’ll have to promote your posts relentlessly, and even then you’ll have days where you won’t see any traffic on your blog. It’s going to get frustrating and you would want to give up. But this is exactly when you shouldn’t. The fact that you’re still sitting at your desk, typing away regardless of whether or not anyone is reading the posts is when you’ll know you’re doing this for yourself. And that’s when it won’t matter. 

 

 

 

 

Do you want to start a Bookstagram? Here’s a step-by-step guide with useful tips from my all-time favorite bookstagrammers.

Complete guide to starting your own bookstagram.

Bookstagram is an online community of passionate readers who click aesthetically pleasing pictures on Instagram. You might remember that time when food blogging was the only form of social media done on IG. Long gone are those days. With fashion and beauty blogging rising in trend, Bookstagram is equally gaining the attention it deserves.

Needless to say, posting a book review on IG is easier and faster as compared to traditional forms of blogging (WordPress, medium, Blogspot etc). Not only do you get to play with your creativity, but it also helps you gain traction if you’re a budding photographer or writer.

I stumbled across Bookstagram one fine day and was blown away by this corner of the internet. Before this, I used to (and still do) blog on WordPress but coming to terms with BG was like opening a Pandora’s box. It’s been more than 2 years since I joined this lovely and accepting community, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Books and Teaa

Here’s a shot of my account.

If you’ve been playing around with the idea of starting a bookstagram, you’re in the right place. Here’s how you can create one and be consistent:

  • Picking a username: Once you have created an account, the journey begins. Choosing a name for your account is harder than picking baby names, not that I have any experience in this arena, but I’m giving you a heads up. Just a suggestion, go for a name that would be pleasing to the eye and easy to remember.
  • Bio: It’s crucial for you to introduce yourself. People want to know your name, where you’re from, and whether or not you’re a potential serial killer. If you visit other profiles, you’ll see a lot of bloggers have put up the number of books they’ve read or their current read. You can do whatever floats your boat but remember to make it interesting.
  • Device: Let’s make things clear once and for all. You DO NOT need a high functioning camera or need to be a photography wizard to start a bookstagram. Any smartphone with a camera is all you need. I started off BG with a normal phone camera, and after a few tries understood what works best for me. However, if photography is your niche, then please go ahead and invest in a DSLR. But your creativity and review is the only thing that’s going to help you create an impact.
  • Props: Here’s where the fun starts. Creating an aesthetic for your picture is the best way to unleash your inner artist. Take a white bed sheet or a white chart paper, place a few books, and maybe a cup of tea, and there you go. You have a picture. You can also use your bookshelf or nice graffiti wall or your sofa as the background. The idea here is to play around with whatever is around you. We don’t do anything too extravagant and fancy, because we believe in making magic out of simple things. Leaves, candles, dead flowers, and even borrowed human arm can make for an excellent prop. Don’t expect to get it right at the first go. If I show you the pictures I clicked when I started out, you’d want to throw up. But heyyy, that’s how you learn, don’t you?
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I decided to become a prop because my two brain cells believed it was a good idea.
  • Lighting: Pictures come out the best when taken under natural lighting. When the sun’s shining like the brightest star, you should turn into a ninja and go on a picture clicking spree. Keep a stock of pictures that would last you a week so that you can stay consistent and ahead of the game.

 

  • Participate in readathons and reading challenges: Readathons and challenges help you explore your reading taste, and find people who like the same books as you. Not only do you get to read more, but you also push yourself out of your comfort zone. It helps you increase your engagement on your posts, and get more brownie points.

 

  • Hashtags: Do I even need to explain this? We live in an era of hashtags and it’s not surprising that one needs to be at the top of the hashtag game to get the most out of a post. Your hashtags should be relevant to what you have posted. If you’ve posted a book review the hashtags could be #bookreview #reviewing. Hashtags are essential in gaining more traction. You can use several other hashtags that are related to your niche, in this case, books. A few examples are: #bibliophile #bookshelf #currentread #bookdragon. IG allows us to use up to 30 hashtags, so put your thinking caps on and be as creative as you can.
  • Tags: It’s always polite to tag the publisher whose book you’re reading. It adds context and helps you get exposure in case the publisher decides to repost your picture on their feed. You can also tag feature accounts to garner likes and engagement.
  • Originality: Taking inspiration from a particular account you admire is one thing but blatantly copying their style is plagiarism. Nothing good comes out of shamelessly calling someone else’s work your own. Challenge yourself to come up with innovative ideas. A little dedication goes a long way and in no time you’ll create pictures you didn’t expect you could.
  • Consistency: If you’re ready to commit a considerable amount of your time into clicking pictures, writing reviews and posting on a regular basis alongside working or studying, then welcome aboard. You will see slow but longlasting results only if you’re consistent. Schedule your posts on the weekends so that you have ample stock to use during the weekday.
  • Interaction: Start following people whose pictures you really like or are inspired by. It’s super-important to engage with your followers and TALK to them about books. Leave a thoughtful comment on their posts, and spread the love for your favorite books. Advice: Don’t be creepy. No one likes creepy.

A few add-ons:

  1. It’s NOT important to have a theme. The whole idea is to explore your creativity and expand your horizon. If you can work around a theme, excellent. If you’re finding it hard to maintain a theme, then abandon it. Life’s too short to waste time on things you don’t enjoy.
  2. IG stories are a great way to maintain interaction with your followers. Even if you’re not posting regularly on the feed, you can always just put up a few stories talking about your recent purchase to that lovely coffee shop to a general life-update.
  3. Your captions should be crisp. They should not be a thesis essay. Ensure that they are interesting or funny. The idea is to make people stop and listen to what you have to say.
  4. Breaks are important. I recently took a 15-day break because we’re millennials and burnout is inevitable. Clicking pictures or reading felt like a chore, and I didn’t want to hate the very thing I’m passionate about. So, I went on a hiatus and came back fresh as a daisy. Don’t feel guilty for not reading or posting as much. Remember, blogging isn’t a game and one shoe doesn’t fit all. Find what works for you and stick to it.
  5. Remember to enjoy the process. It’s not about followers or likes but about sharing the love of reading with everyone. If your sole purpose is to be Instagram famous then you’ll get bored of it very soon.

 

I spoke to some of my favorite bookstagrammers who have been inspirational to me in ways more than one, and I am always in awe of how dedicated and kind they are. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Aritri Chatterjee (@liquidsunset):

BG has always been a very welcoming community and that is one of the things that pushed me to continue despite being a newcomer here.
The key to starting a BG account is to be excited about discussing books. Beautiful pictures and funny captions definitely count but if your love for books doesn’t come from within then promoting those books will be a difficult deal.
When you are new, try to interact with people on their stories and posts because people here wouldn’t already know you and communicating with them will help them know what kind of a person you are. Also, try and be consistent in your posts and interaction so that the people who follow your account have something to look forward to. Most importantly enjoy the process and if you ever feel like it is becoming a burden then take a step back and allow yourself to be ready again for BG.

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Aritri was the VERY FIRST person I spoke to when I joined BG, and we’ve connected over books since. Love how her feed is a perfect blend of her life and books she’s reading. Also, the curator of #femmemarchfest. I love a powerful woman. 

You can follow Aritri here: theliquidsunset

  • Aayushi (@_penandpapers):

When I joined BG, I saw many people with 20k+ accounts having gorgeous flat lays and I tried to be like them, which never happened. So, I came up with my own unique style of my feed. You don’t have to play the theme game if you think you’re not good at it, post random pictures. There are many BG accounts that I love who don’t do themes. Just don’t be a sheep. You need to understand that there will be times when your posts won’t get expected engagement (but you are sure that your post is great), don’t panic and don’t delete that post. Start working on the next one. Stop worrying about getting followers. You’re here to talk about books and not increasing followers. One day they’ll eventually increase. As I say, Grow a bookshelf or a garden instead! Always click pictures in good lighting and write catchy captions.

Every day I get this same DM: How to receive free books? First, they’re not free. If a publisher sends us a book, we have to review it. It’s barter system here. Secondly, don’t worry about that. You’ll get ARCs and proofs when a publisher notices you or you can just drop them a formal DM or email. Lastly, never stop reading and binge buying books!

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Aayushi is the queen of flatlays, and if you look carefully, you’ll see how she has a theme and has kept it casual. She’s been highly influential in making me pick up classics and her recommendations are always on point. 

You can follow Aayushi here: _penandpapers

  • Padmaja (@thebookishtales):

When I was starting out, I had no idea of asking for review copies, how to click good pictures and writing reviews. You have to create your own niche and make your account unique. Interaction is the key. People on BG are very supportive and friendly. The more you interact, the more people will notice you and your account. Click pictures with good lighting. I would advise clicking pictures in natural light. You can use more or fewer props, but lighting is important. Work hard on your blog. Think of creative blog posts and write posts which start discussions. Focus on quality instead of quantity.

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Padmaja’s feed always gives me a warm fuzzy feeling because she has the ability to incorporate the mundane and make it look beautiful. If there’s ever a problem, I run to Padmaja. We have way too many favorites, and are always making a dent in each other’s pockets with endless book recommendations.

You can follow Padmaja here: thebookishtales

  • Ruqaiya (@ruqkish):

Every bookstagrammers account is a labor of insane hard work and passion. It’s not easy but I’ll say that it’s worth it. Well, to grow your account you do need props, and you do need a lot of books but you don’t need that to start. I started when I had 20 books on my shelf and literally, the only props I had was a white chart paper and a cup of coffee. I won’t lie, I hated my pictures for a long time but I didn’t give up. I kept posting and reading and reviewing until I found my own style and got comfortable with it. One thing I’ve learned with my experience is that you have to be yourself unapologetically, it’s your page, you are entitled to post anything you like. Don’t try and please people with your reviews or pictures, it gets suffocating after a while. And as far as getting review copies are concerned, don’t go around asking every publisher especially if you’ve just started out. The best way to get noticed is to read a lot, review a lot, post great pictures and never forget to tag the author and publisher. Well, that’s how I started. It worked for me, so I am certain it’ll work for you too.

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Ruqaiya’s feed is all kinds of goals. Hers is a perfect example of how to maintain a theme and capture your attention. Bonus: Her captions.  Easily one of the best people to talk to and interact with. Smart, funny and oh-so-relatable. 

You can follow Ruqaiya here: ruqkish

  • Nupur Lakhe (@nupur_flipaleaf):

Although I am not much older in this Bookstagram community, I did figure it out and made my way through it.
Because we are talking about tips to start Bookstagram, I would like to mention first and foremost that Bookstagram requires time. Not only is it just about clicking pictures and posting content but it is also about interaction. The things that I learned in my stint of last one year were : do not write anything that you don’t believe in, be it a review or talking about a book casually, pictures and content go hand in hand; pretty pictures will not let you compensate for a dab content and lastly, it’s your feed, your gram! Do it just like you want to. The important thing is to stay humble and grounded.

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Nupur’s pictures make me want to live inside them. Her props and their placements are quite clever and aesthetic. I almost always grab a cup of Tea after looking at her pictures. I love how Nupur plays with words, and it’s always a pleasure having a writer buddy. 

You can follow Nupur here: nupur_flipaleaf

 

 

Now that we’ve let all our secrets out, it’s time for you to step up and join in. May 2019 be the year you jump onto the Bookstagram bandwagon because we’re eagerly waiting for you! 🙂

 

If you have any more questions or a topic you’d like me to talk about, feel free to comment down below. I’d be waiting!

Three Psychos by Yash Pawaskar

Three Psychos narrates three different stories from three different point of views. Each bizzare and unique.

When I read the blurb for this particular book, the stories seemed bizzare and completely out of the box. Three Psychos seemed too complicated and I wondered if the author would be able to engage its readers. A few pages in and I was quite impressed.

Three Psychos by Yash Pawaskar narrates three chilling stories, each unique and twisted on its own. The human mind has the habit of playing scenarios that are often a series of illusions. The protagonists in each story are living in their own bubble, often away from reality. Psychology is the study of human behaviour but how can one study such extreme behaviours? Is there one methodology or technique? That’s where we hit a dead end. Because believe it or not, humans are unpredictable and a tad bit crazy. And in the case of Three Psychos, completely crazy. I felt a series of emotions ranging from utter hate for the protagonists to empathy to denial.

The narrative technique of the writer is commendable as he was able to blend fantasy, psychological thriller and romance under one umbrella. Such qualities in a story is difficult and challenging. The writing style is easy flowing with the author giving philosophical and profound insights about life and death. Here’s one such quote:

Death teaches a lot about life. I don’t understand why people are afraid of death. It is just another part of life, albeit the last part of life as far as we know. It is just like any other phase of life: you are born, you grow up, go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids and..die. We are scared when we approach all these stages, and overcome the fear when someone who has faced it tells us that it is all right, that they have experienced it too and that you can sail through it.

However, no one has shared their after-death experience. Thus, the fear of unknown is what scares people. Who knows? Maybe it is not that bad, maybe it’s all sunshine and rainbows.

A naked man stuck in a white box, a hospitalized patient who talks to aliens and is apparently on a mission and a teenage boy who is on a killing spree make up for the three psychos in Yash Pawaskar’s novel. You will be hooked right from the beginning and will only stop when you have all the answers. If psychological thriller is your genre, then Three Psychos would be a great pick.

You can buy the book from here: Amazon


Author: Yash Pawaskar

Publisher: Dimple Publication

Rating: 3.8/5

Format: Paperback

Pages: 157

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Three Thrilling Stories, One Gripping Novel. In the first tale, a naked man is trapped inside a white box. His only company: ‘DE22912’. How long can he survive? The second story, ‘Patient Number 9’, is about a hospitalized patient who must save Earth from an alien attack by blue pig-like creatures. The countdown has just begun. In the third narrative, an angry sixteen-year-old gets hold of a loaded revolver and is determined to make use of all ‘Six Bullets’. And no, it’s not a toy. The three psychos are part of a connected universe, set in a novel with innovative storytelling, witty narration and an entertaining mix of thrill, humour and drama.

Review: UNNS: The Captivation

A secret Mission. A childhood love affair. Death and Revenge.

Author: Sapan Saxena

Publisher: Inspire India Publishers

Pages: 244

Genre: Thriller/Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

Blurb:

“Of course you know about the seven stages of love, but have you ever lived them?”

Atharva Rathod and Meher Qasim.

Lovebirds since adolescence. Bonded by love, separated by circumstances. They part ways only to meet again. But this time, he is on a secret mission…

Are they in control of their own destiny, or its their destiny which is making them dance to its tunes? Only time would answer, as Atharva and Meher unwillingly and unknowingly transcend the seven stages of love.

A quintessential tale of love and romance marked beautifully by its own rustic old school charm.

 

My Review:

Caught in the midst of childhood love and innocence, Meher and Atharva, fight against all odds to defend what’s right to them. Atharva is a RAW agent, one of the best the indian government has ever seen. Meher, on the other hand, is working against the indian government who were responsible for the death of her father. Their paths cross but are they meant to be?

UNNS: The Captivation is a story about childhood lovers who take separate paths but destiny binds them together under circumstances that changes their life forever. Atharva, is on a mission and meets Meher after 15 years. Little does he know that the love of his life will eventually lead to his doom. The story keeps getting complicated as Atharva tries to decipher what’s happening to him. Suffering from a rare disorder, Atharva, despite his pain, keeps his eye on the mission till Meher arrives and ruins everything for him. Just when he could trust her, Meher, siding with the anti-national forces cons Atharva leading to his arrest on the charges of treason against RAW and India. A failed secret mission that lead to the compromisation of several other RAW agents. All this because Atharva was blinded by his childhood love. His credibility as one of the best RAW agents is on the line and there’s nothing he can do but surrender. His only regret: Why would Meher take advantage of his love for her?

The story does not end there. Infact, it keeps getting complicated. They meet again. Under different circumstances. But will Atharva’s love fool him once again? Or will he see right through Meher? That’s for you to read and discover.

The writing style is pretty simple. Sapan Saxena didn’t lose grip of the plot and was able to create suspense without making the reader pull their hair out. Although, there were a few errors as far as writing was concerned but since the story is indeed captivating one can skim through easily. I think novels that are a blend of romance and thrill go a long way in receiving readers’ attention and bringing parsie to the author. I really enjoyed the climax because it wasn’t cliche at all and did justice to all the characters.

If you’re into novels that have a bit of romance but at the same time are filled with suspense and thrill, then UNNS: The Captivation would be a good choice.

 

Exam Tips: Last minute study hacks.

Last minute tips and tricks to ace exams.

It’s that time of the year again.

Last year I wrote a blog post on acing examinations which was not very specific but aimed solely on how to study. Today I am going to attempt to write and explain to you some of the last-minute exam tips and hacks I’ve learnt over the years and I’m still learning. Since most of you will be appearing for your University and Board examinations, I thought I’d help you ease off a little. And as I always say, do not let these marks define who you are.

  • LEARNING: Most of you might be at the revision stage right now (kudos to you, I have no idea how that feels) but I’m sure or I hope some of you still have to learn the subject material. So how do you do that when you’ve got revision to do?
  1.  You start by picking one topic a day and scheduling it with other topics you have to revise. Don’t learn every thing on the same day. If you’re short on time and studying one topic a day wont cut it then use what I call, “Divide and Conquer”. This means that you study a new topic in the morning and take up another new topic sometime in the evening/night. You revise your subject material in between the ‘learning’. This avoids cramming. Your brain needs time to process new information so be kind and revise instead of continuously hammering your brain to function.
  2. Before you start a chapter, go through the previous years question papers and see if the chapter is worth spending time on. Since time is paramount, you can’t waste it on a chapter that’s only going to amount to 2-3 marks. Don’t come at me, nerds, I know even 1 mark is extremely essential. But you’d rather lose 10 marks than 1, right? Prioritise what’s important. You’ll realize that you’ll be feeling less stressed and are able to study more. If you find some extra-time, go ahead and tackle the 2 mark chapter.
  3. DO NOT STUDY THE ENTIRE CHAPTER. When I gave my boards, I was of the opinion that I HAD to study everything. Every chapter has certain topics that are more important and always have a chance of being in the question paper. Focus more on them.  If you’re certain about a particular question, practice writing down the answers. You’ll be surpised how much time you save in the exam hall. Which brings me to my next point:
  4. Practice writing. I have always advocated using a pen and a paper while studying. Really, it works wonders. Keep making sub-points while you’re studying. Seeing answers written on paper have a higher chance of staying in your mind. I don’t know how it works but recalling answers become 10 times easier. Be creative, use diagrams, flowcharts, acronyms, anything that will help you retain information. You might feel you’re wasting time writing down answers but then when you sit down to revise, it’ll take you less time.(If you followed my advice of writing answers, you’ll already have a set of notes prepared. SEE WHAT I DID THERE? HA!
  5. Something I discovered this year was studying using Youtube. I gave my first year MA exams and was OBVIOUSLY behind schedule. Since I was required to read a lot of plays and novels and all that cool stuff, I realized watching videos on certain dramas helped. For instance, I read and watched, Dr.Faustus. I was not very sure of the context of the play and watching Youtube videos helped. Visual learners are in for a treat with this. I’m sure there are several videos on various subjects out there. Check out Salman Khan Academy, CrashCourses if you’re short on time and can’t find a quick fix.
  • ORGANIZE: I am still understanding what organization stands for. But I’ll try to break it down.
  1.     To-do-list: Make a list of the things you have to study for the day as soon as you wake up. This helps a lot. You kind of get an idea of where you stand and what you need to do. Also, ticking off things from the to-do-list is the single most best feeling in the world. Take it one day at a time. You have to try to stick to the list you’ve made if you want to avoid wasting time. BUT and there’s a big but, do not make a list that’s ambitious. I know you want to make the most of your day but always keep sometime for relaxation. Being well prepared is not directly proportional to 16 hours of studying. Even if you study for 4 hours with breaks in between, you’re doing fine.
  2. Test yourself. I think the best way to find out what you’ve learnt is to attempt question papers right after you finish a chapter. This works pretty well for me. You can dig up previous years’ question papers and see if you’ve understood the material. Again, this might not be the case for you. Maybe you’re better off answering questions after a revision. Great, do that.
  3. Study with a friend. I remember studying with my best friend for my 10th boards and during under-grad and we used to update each other on what we studied. Not only does it give you the encouragement you need, it also makes studying fun. And if you’re someone who is competitive, you’ll make sure you study way more than your friend does.
  4. Take regular breaks. Since you’re studying a few days before the exam, it might not be possible to take breaks often. What you can do is study for 2 hours and take a break for ten mins. No matter what you do, your brain needs time to process. Jumping on to different topics won’t help. I’d rather spend 10 mins watching cupcake videos then cram. (At least, I’ll learn something). I don’t think I need to say this but keep yourself hydrated at all times. Keep snacks and drinks at your disposal to avoid wasting time.
  5. If you’ve been trying really hard to study and are not able to focus at all, leave it for the time being. Just go for a walk or listen to music and come back to it. Forcing yourself is never going to work. If you find yourself still struggling, move on to the next chapter or a different subject. Tackle it again the next day or after a day or two. Sometimes you have to take a detour to find yourself home. *mic drop*
  • FOCUS ON YOUR WEAKNESS:  We all have THAT one subject that makes our insides curl and gives us nightmares. For me it was maths. I HATED IT. I no longer have to study numbers( Thank heavens for that) but I still get jittery when I think about it. Try to devote each day on such a topic. I know it’s hard but that’s the only way you’ll be able to score well. If it’s maths for you, then practice maths more than you would normally do. If it’s history or geography, study half a chapter or a full chapter everyday. The idea is to stay in touch with the subject so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming a day before the exam. If you score very well in all other subjects but don’t score well in one subject, your total goes down drastically. That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.
  • STOP COMPARING:  I cannot stress how important it is to realize who you are and what your battles are. Your dreams are different from your friends. You’re not the same. Don’t get bogged down by what your friend is accomplishing or plans on doing. It’s easy to feel lost but losing yourself in the process sucks more. Just do your thing.

Please remember, these exams don’t carve out a future plan for you. Sure, it helps you get into a good college et cetera but they’re not everything. Don’t burden yourself with what others expect of you. Focus on what you want the most and never compromise on your mental state over something as trivial as exams. I say this from experience. Most of the things you’re worrying about won’t even matter in the future. Give your 100%. That’s all.

The above tips are very subjective. One formula does not work for everyone. I hope It was of some use to you. Do you have a study hack I could use? Let me know!

 

Get Interview Ready!

Cracking interviews is hard but preparing in advance is half the battle won.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am still learning how to adult. Whatever I say in this blog post is just a sum total of my experiences while giving interviews. Call it a case study. (You can call it whatever you want).

Congratulations! You finally got the interview call you’ve been waiting for or in other terms losing your sleep over. You’re excited and nervous. While it’s not rocket science that you should prepare yourself before an interview, it is also essential to keep certain little things in mind before your big day. Following aren’t tips but just a few reminders that in my opinion set you apart from other candidates. (You see I spend a lot of time observing people because a.) I’m easily bored. b.) I get good material to write on):

  • Appearance: From what I’ve seen, there are two kinds of people. Those who dress for a red carpet event and those who look like homeless drug addicts. It’s not wrong to dress either way but since we’re trying to make a statement by not drawing unnecessary attention, we should stick to basics. The idea is to look professional. (Put on those nerd glasses for special effect). You might wear something that’s in vogue but if you end up looking like you slept in those clothes, it’s not going to work. First impression is HIGHLY important. Choose subtle, warm tones and if you cannot wear heels do not wear them. You wouldn’t want to trip right in front of the interviewer. (I’ve seen this happening and it wasn’t a good sight). Unless, you’re interviewing for a fashion magazine or something in that field, you’re allowed to be creative.
  • Being on time: I’ve already mentioned the importance of giving a good first impression and punctuality is one of the prerequisites to that. For once in your life, start early. The advantages of reaching early are plenty:  a.) Since there are a number of external factors involved such as weather, traffic, your car breaking down, your uber driver being an idiot etc you have to play it safe. Now is not the time to take risks. So in case something goes haywire, you can still make it on time.  b.) You get time to compose yourself. Go through your notes. Look around. Soak in the vibes. Do breathing exercises. Whatever it is that helps you calm your nerves. c.) You can interrogate the person before you who came out of the interview. It’s enlightening to say the least. You get a gist of what’s about to hit you and you get time to mentally prepare yourself. I think it’s one of my favourite things to do. (Also, when you’re waiting for your turn and it kind of gets dry, you can start clicking selfies. #Adulting  #IHaveNoIdeaWhatImDoing #SoNervous).
  • Organise yourself: We’re all a mess. Well, I am. I never have anything sorted. It’s not humanly possible to have everything in control but there are a few things we can take control of. The company you’ll be interviewing at will give you instructions about the documents you should be carrying. Here, make sure you have everything organised in a file in a chronological order. Get photo-copies of all your documents and certificates just in case they need to keep it. What happens is when you’re inside the interview room and you’re being grilled, you can’t spend time thinking which certificate is where. Not only do you look clumsy searching for the document that should be in your file, you come across as being unprepared. If you know where your documents are, you can easily present it when asked. ( I once dropped the entire file inside the interview room and well the rest is history).
  • Don’t talk too much: No, really. Just answer their questions as articulately as you can. If they ask for an explanation, you can drop that thesis you’ve prepared. There’s a difference between being confident and being cocky. It’s okay to brag here and there as long as you can support your statement. For instance, you might be asked to describe yourself (I loathe this question), don’t say you love food and you can eat 10 chicken nuggets in a minute. No one cares. What you can say is you love food and you love trying out different cuisines and you would like to be a food blogger someday. Avoid giving vague answers you can’t account for. DO NOT say you’re a voracious reader if you’ve only read Twilight or 50 shades of Grey .While I was giving interview for The Telegraph You internship programme, I mentioned being an avid reader and my dream of wanting to author a book someday. I got asked a lot of questions about the types of books I read, the genres I liked and if I wrote a book what would the title and genre be. Employers are smart. They can look right through you and won’t hesitate in calling you out. They are looking for people who can contribute to their organisation and prove to be an asset. Keep this in mind.
  • Prepare some basic questions: 1.) Describe Yourself. 2.) Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (Reading a book and crying over the death of a fictional character) 3.) What are your hobbies? 4.) Why do you want to work in our company? (Because you’re hiring?) 5.) How can you contribute to our organisation? You get the drill.

Since I love embarrassing myself on public platforms, I’m going to tell you one of my interview stories. So this HR of a reputed company asked me, ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’. My reply will make you cry,’Urm..I haven’t thought of it’. I never got a call from them after having cleared all the rounds. In my defence, it was my first ever interview and I wasn’t too keen on having a future. The question hit me like a ton of bricks and I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I don’t know what I’m going to do after I write this blog post, leave alone thinking in future tense. Alas, that’s life. We have to make scenarios in our heads of all the things that MIGHT happen. Jokes apart, I learnt my lesson the hard way and I’ve got no regrets. Things happen for a reason.You might not have a clear idea of where you’ll be after 5 years but just imagine how you see yourself. Employers love asking this question.

  • Stop trying to be different: Logically speaking, you’re not the first person the employer is interviewing and you won’t definitely be the last. Employers have seen it all. Trying to be someone you’re not is digging your grave. You should just have confidence in who you are and believe in giving the best. At the end of the day, you’ll know you got that job because of your competency and personality. And that, my friend, is the single most best feeling in the world.
  • Do your homework: Study about the company, their clients, their strategies. Another thing you can do is present to them an idea of what you would do had you been in their place in terms of marketing strategies or launching new products etc. This shows that you’re passionate about working in the said company and you’re willing to go the extra-mile without them asking you to. (I haven’t yet tried this but I will when I get the chance). Try this and let me know?

I love this quote from Jim Lehrer:

There’s only one interview technique that matters… Do your homework so you can listen to the answers and react to them and ask follow-ups. Do your homework, prepare.

  • Zero-Expectations: I hate to break it to you but try to be realistic. Don’t get me wrong, you should have huge expectations but only of yourself. You can’t vouch for anything else. Life is not a wish granting factory and somethings don’t go our way. You might have given your best and still you weren’t selected. Don’t lose heart, keep trying. There’s enough sun for everyone. You have something in you to have gotten this far and maybe better and bigger things are in store. This way when you do get the call, you’ll be happier.

There is no specific rule to cracking an interview. It depends on the employer and the interviewee. Subjectivity is a prominent factor dominating interviews. No two people will have the same experience giving interviews at the same company. It all boils down to what you have to offer. The above points are only for reference. Some may work for you, others might not.

If there’s something I really believe in, it is working hard to get what you want. Nothing in the world is out of your reach. You need to be willing to grab it, you need to be ready to sacrifice your sleep, you need to show up everyday. It won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them“- Walt Disney

Author Interview: Nishant Kaushik

Meet the author.

When I read ‘My father is a Hero’ I was awed by the author’s ability to capture elements in his novel that usually go unnoticed.The contribution and sacrifices that go in nurturing a child by a single father has been beautifully written. And what better way to know more about the author than to hound him for an interview? (I AM KIDDING, OKAY). The author was extremely kind and generous to offer his time to do an interview for The Literary Cat.

You can read the review of My Father is Hero here: Review: My Father is a Hero

Get to know the Author:

Nishant Kaushik is the author of six published novels. He also keeps a day job as a business, IT, and something-of-everything consultant in Melbourne. Along his journey as a novelist he has interned as a screenplay consultant, a comic book co-writer, a columnist for journals like Yowoto and Mildred – essentially, he loves experimenting with genres ranging from full-length novels to guest articles. He lives in Australia with his wife and son.

Interview:

  • Hello, Sir. Thank you for taking out time to do an interview. When did you first realise you wanted to become a writer?

NK: There was no single trigger. My interest in writing evolved over years, from spot-storytelling and essay writing competitions in school, to articles for the college magazine, followed by a couple of poems for newspaper supplements. As far as I can remember, the idea of my first novel finally occurred to me when I was 19. It was finally published when I was nearly 24.

  • What inspired you to write your latest novel, “My Father is a Hero”?

NK: My inspiration lies in my own and many other wonderful fathers I have met in my life. Unlike a mother’s love that is much talked about, a father’s love is rather understated. One often has to peel through their tough, terse exteriors to understand their love. Even today when I talk to my father, we exchange few words. But he has always shown through his actions that he has a heart of gold. This golden heart is the basis on which I fashioned my central character.

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  • Tell us a little about your book.

        NK: My Father Is A Hero is a fictional account of a single father’s determined journey towards seeing his daughter emerge as a successful, confident girl with the passion to pursue her passion. It also speaks of the struggles of a middle-class family and how love trumps all troughs that are associated with a mediocre career, self-conflicts during adolescence, and the regret of an unfulfilled dream.

  • What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

NK: I have specific requirements on the ambience around me. I cannot write at home, I must find a café that stays open until late in the night. It must be crowded enough for me to observe people, but not too crowded to find a seat. And the table must NOT be rickety!

  • Where did your love for books/storytelling/writing come from?

NK: I will attribute that to the several books written by Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain I read when I was a young boy. I wish I had sustained this habit of reading.

  • What does your family think of your writing?

NK: They are very honest about what they feel, and I guess that is how it should be. They praise my work where it is due, but also warn me against mediocrity. I recently canned a manuscript I had been working on, because my mother read a draft and felt it was going nowhere. I always rely on them for feedback.

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Nishant Kaushik with his son. ADORBS.
  • Are there any new authors who have grasped your interest?

NK: As I said I haven’t maintained the reading habit much. But Khaled Hosseini and Aravind Adiga are among a few authors whose recent books I have enjoyed reading.

  • How is Nishant Kaushik like when he’s not writing?

NK: A regular office goer who struggles to make time between daily chores, family duties, and sleep that I am always in dire need of.

  • If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about any of your novels?

NK: I would un-heed all advice I got during my early years as an author that told me I needed erotica and cuss words to make my work commercially viable.

  • A piece of advice you’d like to give to budding authors.

NK: The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to write is to not seek advice. Writing is an experience unique to every writer, and we all discover in our own ways what makes our work work. This journey is sacrosanct and we should not tamper with it too much by looking for templated tips on dos and dont’s.

 

I hope you had as great a time reading the blog post as I had writing and interviewing. Stay tuned for more interesting interviews!

Review: Selfienomics

A seriously funny guide to living the good life.

Author: Revant

Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Genre: Self-help

Pages: 191

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

 

What happens when you read a book that is bombarded with memes, hashtags, open dialogues, hard-hitting questions and a desire to perceive the world around you differently? You become enlightened. #Nirvana

One of my reading goals this year was to read self-help books because my life has a tendency to spiral around I decided to rely on people to do that for me. Well, jokes apart, it is a decision that I plan on implementing. I started this road to self-discovery with Selfienomics, a debut novel, by Revant which

a.) Is extremely funny. You know the kind of funny which makes you pause and laugh like a retarded seal?  No? Okay.

b.) Is informative and very well researched. Ofcourse, self-help books are supposed to be researched blah blah. It is well researched in the sense that it is relatable to everyone especially the current scenario of Indians and India.

c.) You get to make a choice. Revant didn’t shove his opinion down our throats instead he paved the way for open-end discussions where you are the sailor and you get to decide the direction. No judgement there.

Selfienomics talks about life in general. Food, Feminism, Politics, Religion and how to read the label off of a food item before buying. Reading the book made me realise that there are a lot of things i’m ignorant about or I consider it extremely trivial for an intellect like me to dwell upon. I was wrong. I think that’s what reading good books are like; you begin to develop the ‘why syndrome’. Why does something happen the way it does? Why are people so stupid? Why am I such an idiot? You get the drill. For a debut novel, Revant has managed to bring burning issues under one umbrella and has successfully tackled them in a delightful manner. I’m going to cite some of my favourite examples since listing all of them is not possible:

Since I have been in the process of job hunting and trying to make a career the idea of Personal Branding stuck to me.

There exists a chicken and egg problem today in relation to jobs and experience. You need a job to get experience, and you need experience to get a job. Don’t let lack of experience deter you from pursuing your interest. No one is born with experience. While experience may often be irrelevant and specific to an industry, your personal brand is relevant across all sectors. When your personal brand is of an individual who is honest and gives his or her best, opportunities are sure to open up. Focus on building your #PersonalBrand and experience will follow.

While we’re on the topic of doing something in life, I can’t help but mention the author’s advice on categorising our goals. Career goals, Moral goals, Bucket Lists, Financial Goals etc. Not only does it help us realise what we truly want but also helps in overcoming the identity crisis that is prevalent with the youth of today. By prioritising, we can be more productive and work towards our dreams.

If you aren’t able to fulfil your own dreams, make it your dream to fulfil the dreams of others.

Speaking of serious issues like Feminism, Patriotism, and birth control, the author tries to portray the harsh reality, the pros and cons of our current situation citing examples and showing where we as a nation stand.

It’s commendable how the author was able to merge concepts of economics and the business world with real life situations. All in all, Selfienomics delivers more than it promised and is a smart attempt at creating a world that is educated and accepting of each other’s differences.

Aim for an open discussion–which encourages criticism as well as allows mistakes.

 

9 Study tips to ace your exams

DISCLAIMER:  Before I begin, I’d like to make it clear that I’m no expert or know-it-all when it comes to effective studying but the following are a few tips or hacks that helped me during my university exams in college. If you’re someone who studies at the last-minute, then keep on reading! Also, all the tips are very subjective. Some might work for you, others may end up being a total fail.  It all depends on the kind of learner you are. 

 

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First things first, it is extremely important that you don’t panic. I understand that’s not possible but stressing out makes it all the more difficult. You have to take an exam in 2 days and you haven’t started studying or even worse you don’t even know what’s in the syllabus. So what? Try to relax , take a few deep breaths and forget about what “could” happen. Focus on the task in hand which is figuring out what you have to study.

 

  • Stop Procrastinating: STUDY. KEEP YOUR PHONE DOWN AND STUDY. It’s crunch time and you hardly have any time left. You should understand that you’ve wasted your entire year on TV shows and eating  and now is the time to get your act together.

 

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  • Study smartly: If you’re a Calcutta University student, you’d be familiar with the pressure and load that the syllabus entrails. Do not get intimidated and be practical. It is not humanly possible to study everything (unless you have a photographic memory then why are you even reading this?). Choose the topics that you think are important. Usually the professors inform you of the chapters that are more significant than the others. If you’ve accidentally paid attention in class then brownie points for you! If you didn’t, like most of us, then figure out what needs to be tackled first.

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  • Study Partner: Having a friend or a study partner or a study group makes studying a lot more easier ( I wouldn’t say fun because let’s face it you have an exam in two days). If you’re stuck, your friend can always help you understand the topic in a better way. I realized this worked best for me because I knew I wasn’t alone and also constant motivation and break from rigorous studying.  Here’s a little picture for motivation 😉

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  • Refer to previous years’ question papers: One of the most essential studying tips is referring to past years’ question papers. Understanding the question pattern is half the battle won and looking back on earlier questions gives you a decent idea of what the probable questions can be. I’m sure you did this for your board exams back in school so just continue with this tradition.  I’d suggest looking back at last 5 years’ questions.

 

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  • Understand more, cram less: Mugging everything from the page number to the index of your book without understanding is NOT going to fetch you marks, leave alone getting good grades. Cramming is an ineffective study method. You’re not a parrot who is to repeat everything in exact form. Try to grasp the content that you’re seeing, make your own interpretations and remember the key points. It not only saves time but helps you broaden your mind about the subject. If you’ve understood the topic well, you can write.

 

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  • Time Management: The most common pre-exam mistake we all make is studying for hours at a stretch. Stop it right away. Take a topic, study for an hour at first. Try to finish majority of the portion in that one hour. After that, take a break of say 5-10 minutes and then continue again. Start another topic, study for an hour and take a break. The break helps you retain what you have learnt and allows your memory to take in more. It is essential to stick to your time schedule. You learn faster and retain better. Remember the break should not be more than ten minutes. (Utlilise your break by checking every social media possible because social obligations)

 

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  • Write and Learn: I’m aware that writing and learning a few days before exams is impractical but it has helped me immensely. I’m a visual learner and I prefer jotting down everything I’ve learnt. Writing down what you’ve studied means putting down all the key points from your memory. I think it’s a great exercise as you find out how much you’ve learnt and at the same time you have effective notes prepared that you can leaf through on the big day!

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  • Mnemonics: “A system such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations which assists in remembering something.” What am I even talking about? Well, Mnemonics means associating things to a particular pattern or events or names that assists in memorizing better. It improves memory. If there are sub-points that you need to remember but are having difficulty retaining then you can associate them to an event in your life or any pattern. Let’s take an example:

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