The Telegraph
Thursday , March 1 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Books: Love, Sex And Marriage

As the rest of the city celebrated Valentine’s Day with roses and romance, a group of youngsters trooped into Starmark at Mani Square to meet author and Bengali boy Durjoy Datta, who was in town to release his latest If It’s Not Forever… It’s Not Love [Grapevine India, Rs 100], co-authored with Nikita Singh.

With Durjoy was Sachin Garg, writer and his partner at Grapevine India Publishers. “This is going to be a highly interactive session — we will talk and you guys will laugh,” quipped Durjoy, who is now six books old.

If It’s Not Forever.... is set against the backdrop of the Chandni Chowk blast in Delhi and how it affects Deb, the young man around whom most of Durjoy’s tales are woven, is what it is about. Though unhurt, Deb is shaken by the event. He comes across a half-burnt diary of a blast victim. It has the last words of a dead man, and thus begins a journey.

The readers had many questions. “Who is your Avantika [Deb’s love interest]?” asked one. “My mother is still looking for a lal tuktuke bou for me, so no I don’t have a girlfriend,” he smiled.

With bestsellers like Of Course I Love You..! Till I Find Someone Better... (2008), Now That You’re Rich… Let’s Fall in Love! (2009), You Were My Crush!… Till You Said You Love Me! (2011) in his kitty, the engineer-MBA-turned-author got talking with t2 on books and beyond.

Why did you choose to launch this book on Valentine’s Day?

My book came out on February 1, but since we associate Valentine’s Day with love, and my books are always about love, I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet people.

Why did you start your own publishing house, Grapevine India?

Generally publishers are very unapproachable and there is this huge gap between them and writers. Technically, the author should be the main guy, but it wasn’t happening that way. So we decided to change that, to shake it up a bit!

How did writing happen?

I was a prolific blogger in college. At that time, the Chetan Bhagat phenomenon was just building up and people had started attempting to write. A lot of people came up and said, ‘Why don’t you write a book?’ But I never thought I would be able to write a book, which is 70,000 words, while a blog post is barely 250 words! I started writing chapters of 2,000 to 3,000 words and eventually it became 20 chapters.

I also had to find a co-author [Maanvi Ahuja], who brought together all the disconnected blog posts into a story.

How come five out of your six books are co-authored?

After a little while, I get bored of my stories, so I need someone who can put it all together and weave the chapters into a book. Although that has changed with time — they have started writing a lot more in the books, and I, a little less.

What’s about those long book titles?

The first one came out of a conversation with a friend. Luckily, it clicked with our audiences [readers!] and now we are just carrying on with that trend. I know they are a little corny, but I love them.

You won the 11th Teacher’s Youth Achiever’s Club Award…

It’s hugely undeserved. I was sitting with these highly sophisticated guys — there was Anushka Sharma, Vidya Balan, and when I was called on stage to say something, I froze for a moment. All I could say was that these things don’t happen to regular guys like me. It was really a shock. There are many 25-year-olds who are doing a lot more work than I am, but then I am really thankful for the mix-up!

love bites
Favourite author: Robert Ludlum
Favourite book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Favourite romantic novel:
A Walk to Remember
The best compliment you’ve got: “You’re the cutest author
I’ve ever seen.”
The worst criticism:
“You should stop writing.”
Calcutta for you:
“My parents are from Calcutta, but I was born and brought up in Delhi. Apart from the fact that Calcutta is getting painted blue and white now, I just love
the city!”


Have you ever wondered about testicular transplants or the validity of the vaginal “upsuck” concept? Well, neither had we, but after reading Bonk: the curious coupling of sex and science [Random House, Rs 399], we know about both — and in great detail! Mary Roach has made sure of that. When it comes to the physiology of intercourse, no question is left unexplored, no situation is too embarrassing and no naked body lies covered.

Though inroads into sexology had been made earlier, the study of sex didn’t get rolling in earnest until the ’70s because of the unspoken assumption that people who studied sex were, naturally, perverts.

Scientists were forced to conduct clandestine studies or risk looking like creeps. Take for instance Alfred Kinsey, whose subjects had sex on a mattress laid out on the pine floor of his attic in Bloomington, Indiana. To add to the covertness, some of the funding for this came out of his institute’s budget for “mammalian behaviour studies”.

Similarly, initial sex studies were often obfuscated by academia. A copulating couple would, for example, be referred to as a “reacting unit”. To this day, sexologists are dogged by issues of respectability and perception. They have not had an easy ride, “but their cocktail parties are the best”, writes Roach.

Roach’s single-minded quest to uncover all that there is to be known about sex takes her from labs to brothels and from Kinsey’s attic to a pig farm. She travels from America to London, Taiwan, Cairo and Denmark uncovering an array of physiological functions and sexual behaviour. Orgasms, infertility, a “penile-pricking ring”, impotency, masturbation and a dildo camera, all play a part in this book. Roach has valuable lessons to share — “Penile thrusting on its own — with no foreplay or during-play”, she writes, quoting one physician, “is an inefficient way of inducing female orgasm.”

We learn how Viagra works and peruse studies that seek to establish whether the distance between the vagina and clitoris affects orgasm (a certain Marie Bonaparte, great-grand niece to Napoleon, actually got her clitoris moved closer to her vagina). Roach includes a handy little ditty: “If the distance is less than the width of your thumb, you are likely to come!”

Thumbs up: This incredibly well-researched book also happens to be a stonkingly funny read. A huge fan of the footnote, Roach is generous with her wry asides — one can almost feel her chuckling alongside or making a deadpan delivery as you read. Besides, her commitment to her cause cannot be faulted — she even convinced her husband to have sex with her while being scanned by a researcher with an ultrasound wand.

Thumbs down: This is NOT a book for the prudish or the faint-hearted. If you feel squeamish reading about the gay man who stretched his urethra to accommodate his lover’s penis or about farmers in Denmark sexually stimulating sows during artificial insemination to boost fertility rates, then don’t read this book. It brings to mind plenty of images that you perhaps don’t want evoked.

t2 says: This racy little number will provide you with enough juicy nuggets to drop into conversations for months to come. Like its subject matter, this book evokes a physical reaction — you will cringe, you will cry out (either in dismay or delight, depending), and more often than not, you will laugh out loud.

An author by accident or fate — that is something she is still in two minds about. But at the moment, all that first-time novelist Kanchana Krishnan Ayyar cares about is that “it feels just right!”

Kanchana was in town recently to launch When The Lotus Blooms at Oxford Bookstore, along with actress Moon Moon Sen. She says she discovered herself at 45 and though based in Florida, she penned a book that dealt deeply with Indian society.

When The Lotus Blooms [Supernova Publishers, Rs 350] is the story of Rajam and Dharmu, two child brides in British India. The novel traces their struggles to fulfil their duties and responsibilities against the backdrop of an orthodox and patriarchal Brahmanical milieu. While Rajam has to bear the rants of her in-laws because of her inability to bear a child, Dharmu feels lonely and lost because of her husband’s “westernised” lifestyle.

Kanchana does not shy away from sensitive issues or taboo topics. Touching upon marital abuse, child molestation, untouchability and caste prejudices, she weaves a tale with myriad characters. “Kandu, Dharmu’s youngest son, is my favourite character. He is the comic relief,” smiled the Delhi-born author.

“A lot of women write, but there are very few who can touch the heart and almost make you cry. Kanchana is one of them,” said Moon Moon, who joined the author in reading out excerpts from the book.

“The book is written with a lot of emotion. It is a clear portrayal of the problems faced by women,” said Pradip Das, a writer, sitting in the audience.

But what got her writing? “I wanted to tell the story of my mother, of her miraculous birth,” said Kanchana, adding that her mother’s letters were the main source for the book’s