Welcome to my blog. I may write copy here that I would not present elsewhere. This blog allows me to comment while reporting for clients which can include subscription-only platforms. I use it to take a sideways look at running stories, and all views presented here are my own.

Interested parties are invited to comment.

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Sunday, 18 December 2011

" A Good, Warm, Indian Story"

This review by the Afternoon Despatch and Courier follows a trend in many other reviews of quoting verbatim from my book and presenting the facts exactly the way I did. I guess that's a compliment!

The writer called the book "A good, warm, Indian story."

Anecdotally, Crossword bookshop Pune reports that they keep selling out of "Sonia Gandhi" as the book is doing well and they have to keep ordering in new stock. I am glad certain Pune-ites like the work.

Through the reviews I am discovering a plethora of outlets in India; it seems that there the media world does not stop growing. May it power on even as its western counterparts bemoan shrinkage and cutbacks in their recessionary spheres.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Free Press Journal; Indian review

A review published December 11, 2011 written by M.V.Kamath demonstrates more understanding of the book than many of Mr Kamath's compatriots show. He appears to have read it with fewer preconceived notions than many, though he raises a point made by some, not me, about certain "options" Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi may have been considering during India's internal Emergency years imposed by the Prime Minister Gandhi from 1975 to 1977.

The reviewer has picked out some pertinent quotes from the book and it is heartening to note that he observed the details I wrote about Indira Gandhi's prayer room; the Sanyo cassette player sitting on the window sill with Hindu devotional music all ready to play, and the icons from different religions preserved there.

It's nice to come across those who show some measure of respect for the work undertaken by writers as opposed to the supercilious who just like to demonstrate their own pseudo cleverness with sarcasm and a pithy turn of phrase. I know that the different kinds of detail I put in the book are of interest, since journalists I spoke to told me they just don't get information on the kinds of things I have discussed; yes, that even includes what my subject eats and drinks and what exercise she takes.

The distinguished Mr Kamath is a prolific author and veteran journalist of repute. I do not know him personally, and have never met him, but he has written in his review,

"By and large Rani Singh has got it all right."

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Asian Age interview

This interview appeared first in the Asian Age's Kolkota version I believe. I have a special relationship with Calcutta, as I like to call it, as my mother Parsan was educated there in an Urdu-speaking school. She still makes Bengali speakers smile as she grew up in that town and also speaks fluent Bengali. I haven't been back there since I was a child- my parents took me out of public school in England, Haberdashers' Aske's, for an extended tour of India to visit friends and relations around the country and I recall a lovely long stay with the Bala family in Calcutta.

While I am grateful for all the newspaper space being afforded me, I am highly intrigued by the way in which my answers are subbed.

My original answer to the Asian Age's first question ran;

1. how did u come to the decision on writing a biography on sonia gandhi. was the idea brewing in your mind since a long time or a particular incident provided you the impetus to write sonia gandhi's biography?

I had been covering Indian politics and quite a few Indian elections. In 2009 I provided the political analysis for Sky News for television and online for the Indian general election. Sonia Gandhi had featured in my work. Palgrave Macmillan in New York City had already decided that they wanted to produce a book on the life of Sonia Gandhi, and they were searching for a suitable writer. They had been reading my work. One day I found an email from them in my Googlemail asking me if I would be interested in writing this challenging book. I was and so I did. It was actually their idea, not mine.
Subbed to
Like many foreign reporters looking for newsworthy plots in the heat and dust of India, London- based author Rani Singh’s journalistic pursuits would often bring her to the subcontinent. The 2009 Indian election coverage proved pivotal, as it was during this particular assignment, she managed to have a closer look at Sonia Gandhi, yet little did Rani know that her trail would eventually pave the way for her to write one of the most talked about book on the iconic Gandhi bahu. Talking about how the idea for the book unfolded, the author says, “In 2009, I provided the political analysis for Sky News television for the Indian general election. Sonia Gandhi had featured in my work. Palgrave Macmillan in New York City were keen to publish a book on her life and they were searching for a suitable writer. My work caught their attention and one fine day I received an email enquiring about my views on writing this challenging book. Of course my answer was an instant yes.”

Spot the differences?

I am so grateful to journalists from newspapers and journals who read the book and take the time to construct lengthy interviews for me to answer on email.

Palgrave in New York City has just given me an update on current sales figures which they are monitoring; sales in India alone have already topped 15,000. Buyers would be from among the English non-fiction literature buying public, I am assuming, which is, after all, a fraction of the overall population.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

December 2011, still in the IANS Books Non-Fiction Top Ten, and I adore "Seal Team Six"

Thank you so much buying public, in India, the book is still in the IANS top ten non-fiction list for the week of December 1st 2011. I see that the books move around the list somewhat but to stay up in this reputed lists of bestsellers is a real honour. Clearly many are finding the book of interest!

I would love to get time to read all the other books in the top ten. How long does it take you to read a book?

I am absolutely rivetted at the moment by "Seal Team Six, Memoirs of an Elite Navy Seal Sniper" authored by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin.

The level of detail in the book in itself is fascinating; the kind of guns and equipment used, where the Navy Seals place them on their bodies, what face camouflage is used and when, how the helicopters need to compensate or risk danger when they are letting the Seals drop down by rope, these matters and many more make up the bread and meat of an incredible narrative. Wasdin turns out to be a Seal par excellence, not only because of his strength and physical abilities, but because of something he learnt at a young age due to a brutal stepfather who belted him at the drop of a hat-sometimes for no fathomable reason at all.

Wesdin says quite frankly that he learnt as a child to control his feelings to the extent that he could block out the pain of excessive beatings, which were so severe that they marked his body for lengthy periods. It gave him the ability to withstand the various training stages he went through in the US navy as he climbed higher in the elite forces to eventually reach his zenith. He could stand having his body drop to near freezing temperatures for a long time, he could manage sleep deprivation, hunger and complex procedures deep underwater with his hands tied behind his back because none of it, he says, compared to being woken up in the middle of the night when he was fast asleep and being beaten without logic or explanation.

He also writes of being taught in the Seals to only exercise the level of violence that was strictly required on the ground; unneccesary killing is not encouraged. And on one operation, he describes vividly about when he fed 14 captured starving enemy soldiers his own rations, and how he learnt to see the humanity in those he was fighting.

I would love to know what you think of "Seal Team Six" or if you have any similar recommendations.