Don't they look adorable together :)
Don't they look adorable together :)
Wingify loves to read and there's no two ways about it. Neil Gaiman, gave a deeply thoughtful lecture on ''Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming."
Books are the way that we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told.
Since most of us were fairly convinced or already at the point of no return from the love of books, we decided to form a book club.
Our bookclub is called Biblio and is presided by someone who is currently writing a book and has a beautiful list of books that he read in 2016.
In our first meeting, all of us got together and discussed about the kind of books we like to read and our preferences for future books.
We picked our first reading for the month as Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto.
Set in Bombay during the last decades of the twentieth century, Em and The Big Hoom tells the compelling story of the Mendeses mother, father, daughter and son. Between Em, the beedi - smoking, hyperactive mother, driven frequently to hospital by her mania and failed suicide attempts, and The Big Hoom, the rock-solid, dependable father, trying to hold things together as best he can, they are an extraordinary family. Filled with endearing and eccentric characters, and marked by sparkling dialogue and restrained emotion, this is one of the most powerful and moving novels to be published in India in a long time.
Our next meeting will be in a month and all of us are excited to read this book!
So this Diwali, we moved to a new office in Pune.
It is big.
It is airy.
It overlooks a good patch of green.
Yes, you can see cows grazing.
Don't mean to boast, but three times a day, you can spot and hear the sweet melody of a beautiful blue train snaking through the terminal right behind.
Ofcourse, we plan to convert it to a mini forest.
Pets are allowed? Why? That's not even a question!
Yes, it has a balcony.
TT table now travels with us, wherever we go.
Oh, the huge white wall? Let's just say we HAD to make a Friday Movie Club just because.
So yeah, we had our Diwali party in this space and let's just say we were overboard with happiness.
Because WE LOVE THIS NEW OFFICE!!!!
Wingify Diwali celebrations 2016 this time were fun and splendid. The artsy décor, on the theme of the mela was an instant hit with everyone. So were the arrangements for food and snacks. Though there weren’t too many games this time, unlike the last Diwali, everyone participated and had a fun time. The pictures tell rest of the story of an artsy décor, chatori gali, and some crazy games.
Food and snacks were truly Indian (with the exception of pasta) and totally yum. Mouthwatering street food – golgappas, samosa chat, papri chat and more, kept everyone going back for more.
The enthusiasm that everyone showed to participate in the games was commendable. Whether it was TT relay, Bucket Race, or Jingles, people gave their best shot.
Taking forward the values that Wingify appreciates, we decided on giving the ‘gift of reading’ to all with a Kindle and the book ‘Beginning of Infinity’. Sparsh handed over the gifts to everyone, personally. We’ve captured some smiling faces receiving their gifts.
Our Sales team at Wingify has a certain affinity towards making the ‘not so happening locations’ memorable and worthwhile. This time it was Lansdowne’s turn!! Now, one would think, what could they do at a small, quaint place like Lansdowne? Our answer- A lot! Yeah, it sounds a bit rhetorical but that’s what we did.
The journey started with minimalistic planning
and hasty procurement of trip essentials (yes, that includes the booze ;) ).
While most of our teammates are usually inclined towards driving their own cars,
we hired a bus for this one. Surprisingly, everyone was on time to reach the
boarding point and we kicked off at the scheduled time (5AM – still better than
4AM for the Corbett trip). Our resident DJ’s Anmol and Rohit (with the
equipment brought in by Himanshu and Arjun) did not let a single second pass by
without an interesting track playing in the background. With all the music
playing around, not everyone could forget the tiring week which went by before
the trip and this gave Shashankh and his new (smart)phone the opportunity to
click selfies with unsuspecting sleepy heads.
However, all the fatigue vanished the moment we
entered the hills. The view was simply mesmerizing with the clouds floating
amongst the pines and occasionally drifting on the road alongside the bus. None
of us remembered to check our phones for signals once we reached the resort.
Well, that’s particularly because the resort is built near an army camp and
there is hardly any network coverage in the area but with a view like that, no
one really cared. Everyone checked in to the rooms and relaxed for a bit. The
rest of the day was spent in exploring the resort grounds and clicking pictures
(which was the only thing our phones could do there
We had no clue what to do the
next day (yeah the trip was planned on a short notice) and suddenly Vibhuti
came up with the idea of going for a small trek/walk for as long as we could
walk. The team that treks together stays together! I will let pictures do the
After the short but tiring
trek, all of us were in for some pampering at the Spa in the resort. Deepak
made the most out of the Jacuzzi but sadly enough we couldn’t get a picture of
him enjoying the bubble bath which surely reminded us of the Lux ads aired in
the 90’s. The Spa is located at an immensely beautiful point. Again a picture
is worth a thousand words:
We left for Delhi next
morning, taking beautiful memories, learnings and motivation to do better-
Almost eEverything I have ever wished for, has come to me in a platter, presented neatly with sides (New York is the part of sides here :)). Never at that same moment but at the time when I have completely forgotten ever wishing for it and least expecting it to happen.
I always like to start with a bit of history. Connecting dots between the various chapters of my life as they have unfolded and formed neat patterns without me realising it.
April, 2015: I was working in the marketing department of Visual Website Optimizer. As part of my job role, I had subscribed to tens of newsletters from all sorts of conversion optimization blogs, gurus, and courses. One fine day when I was skimming through my inbox, I found an email with a subject line, “Win a pass to email marketing conference in Vegas”. I hadn’t still opened the email when I had fantasized myself standing in Vegas. I was sure I was going to win this competition. I had checked how was the weather going to be in Vegas when I land there, which clothes would I be carrying, where all would I go shopping, what all restaurants and cafes I had to check out and even my Facebook statuses. This particular conference was supposed to happen in a resort called Aria in Vegas. I looked through the pictures on the web and visualized myself standing at the terrace pool and lounge of Aria.
I had thoroughly prepared for a trip that didn’t happen. Then.
Fast forward one year and few days from all of this, I was standing at the terrace pool and lounge of Aria. This was 17th of May, 2016.
12,000 kms away from home, on a solo trip, this was a big deal for me!
Now coming to the recent history, in April 2016, while we were deciding to attend couple of conferences and showcase PushCrew, I got the opportunity to represent PushCrew at Conversion Conversion, Vegas.
I got a one line email that said, “Taruna - you should consider attending.” At times like this, I want to hit the pause button on my imaginary remote control and shout out, “One moment please; I need a dance break!”
The conference in Las Vegas was for 3 days, bang in the middle of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday). I decided to extend my trip to add the two weekends, and do a personal trip to New York.
From the date I got a confirmation that I was attending a work conference in Vegas to me landing back in India, every single day could feature as an important one in my biography. I spent 3, quite literal, sleepless nights before my US VISA was approved. My family must have heard me saying, “What if they reject my VISA application?” at least a gazillion times in those 3 days. Between the dates I got my VISA and my flight date, I read up hundreds of articles on “What if I lose my passport with a US VISA 10 days before my trip to US?” Big deal. Big deal.
A lot of work, added to it this freak behavior of mine, I don’t remember sleeping properly a single night for weeks before my trip. Finally when I boarded the plane, I slept in a jiffy. All the music, and the books (over-packed) for this time were also sleeping along. After 14 hours of some wonderful sleep, I landed in New York.
Normal people in a new country look for a cab, hand over the address, sit back, relax, and reach their destination. I was advised against it. I was told to change 3 different trains with 60kgs of myself and 20kgs of my luggage, go up and down a flight of stairs (New York subways don’t have escalators), and ask around for each next step. I didn’t have a phone, I didn’t have internet.
Not very surprisingly, I was lost (Instead of reaching 8th street NY, my destination, I reached 8th avenue) and found my way back too. After much struggle and lot of walking (by my Indian walking standards), I reached my destination at Mark Street. For the next 7 days of my stay at NY, I had my colleague’s apartment to myself and I viewed and savored New York like a localite. I would wake up, get dressed, lock my temporary residence, throw the keys in my hand bag and start walking. Randomly. While randomly walking like this, I saw everything that form part of all the must-see lists in New York. Times Square, Wall Street, Trump Towers, Central Park, Rockefeller Building, Empire State Building, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, World Trade Centre, Brooklyn Bridge, 6D movies, Madam Tussauds, so much art on streets, great breakfast places, supermarkets that sold a hundred different varieties of bread, Statue of Liberty -- I saw it all. Discovering them randomly while I would go on my 20km long walks each day in a randomly chosen direction. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Maps, became my faithful companions.
On the day I had to board my flight to Las Vegas, I went through the same routine - getting lost, changing 3 trains, 60kgs of myself and some kgs of my luggage. No cab again. New Yorkers don’t do cabs. They walk. They take subways. (But they don’t get lost.)
The view from the plane when I was about to land in Vegas was breath-taking. It was the most stunning view I have ever seen. 9:30 PM at night, all I could see when I looked out from my window was lights. Lights of hundreds of different colors, forming different patterns. Not an inch of Las Vegas was not lit up. The airport itself looked like a huge, colorfully lit, casino.
I reached pretty late and my other colleagues from VWO, US who were also participating in the conference came in even late in night. I had slept in my hotel room by then. We stayed in Rio Grand Hotel and Suites. The next morning after setting up our booth and money-board (in Vegas, we had our own version of a betting game. People had to exchange their business cards for a $2 bill. Some of them got lucky and won a $50 bill. Conference attendees thoroughly enjoyed this gig of ours), we headed to the streets of Vegas. We had some nice feisty lunch and went to some really grand and expensive places. Nothing like I had ever seen in India. In the evening we attended a networking party at another resort, Aria, thrown by one of the companies who had a conference on email marketing.
I have never been able to small talk. In a group of people, I am the listener types. I can talk and feel comfortable sharing my stories only with a handful of people. But in that networking party, I decided to do what I had gone there for -- to network. I walked up to many different people shared PushCrew’s story, heard their story, exchanged cards and learnt something new and exciting. To start off a conversation, I chose topics ranging from Tinder (yes! :D), my experience in New York, of the stark cultural differences between New York and India, of my first time outside of home, and if nothing else, food! That resonated with almost every body. I soon realized that Americans loved to talk, and theatrically! I learnt how their pitch would go up and down, how they would move their hands, and how each word would be expressed with a different action. It seemed like I was part of an animated movie. So many times, I would just forget listening and be mesmerized in their expressions. (To top that, so many American men were so good-looking!) In a span of the hour and half we stayed there, I managed to talk to 7 different people. Gathering up the courage to walk to them myself. To one of the very good looking men, I even said, “I am new to all this small-talking and networking business.” “Me too!”, he replied and we ended up chatting for good 20 minutes. In my head, I was also thinking business and politely excused myself after setting up a good base for a conversation that I could take up on emails once I was back at work. All this was to prepare myself for the two days at conference.
After the networking party, I had loosened up a bit. I drummed just one fact in my head, “no one’s judging. If you screw up, nothing will change.”
Next day at conference, I talked to a lot many people who came by our booth. I also opened conversations myself with people who I saw at food and coffee tables and invited them over to our booth. When bored, I would start walking in the sponsor's area and chat up with other sponsors (while also collecting the cool swag :D). The personal biggest achievement was getting a company up and running with PushCrew after the conference had ended. Sweet ending! Here’s a video of them saying nice things about PushCrew and me saying something in my squeaky tone. I always fast-forward that bit. You should too.
During the conference, I talked to around 70 different people. To all the people I approached myself, I would always start with something completely different and then direct the conversation towards PushCrew. One leverage that PushCrew had over other sponsors was that most sponsors’ products had something to do with email marketing. In that crowd, PushCrew naturally stood out. I capitalized on that in almost every conversation I had. I also took a stroll to all other booths, heard their pitches, listened to the questions, and comments the event attendees posed to them and when these same attendees came to visit the PushCrew booth, I already had some context for the conversation.
During those 2 days at the conference, I absorbed in as much knowledge and insights as I could. Right in front of our booth was a booth of another email marketing solution. The guy from the booth would look at the name of the attendees from the pass hung around their neck, add to it some context of the workshop / session that was happening, and would seamlessly open a conversation with every other person who passed by our booths. With the same statement. Each time. It would go like, “Hey Steve, so how’s Goward’s session going on? Liking it? The guy has some great conversion optimization experience. No?” The most interesting thing was absolutely each person would stop, acknowledge the question, and begin a conversation.
The next morning, I started doing the same! :D
This was one of the many striking things I remember and learnt during those 2 days at conference.
While New York was a culture shock, a liberating experience, Vegas (unlike how it should have been) was full of learnings, insights, and helped me become a better professional. At both these places, I discovered something about me that I didn’t know I was capable of. I came back a more confident person and with a galore of stories for my near and dear ones. Those 10 days in New York were some of the best days of my life so far. I loved each moment of it and I learnt so much. Thanks to Wingify for allowing me to tick off two grand things from my bucket list: A solo trip AND A trip to New York. <3
P.S. No, I didn’t gamble in Vegas. Yes, I did go to a Strip Club.
Two hackers from Wingify attended the ITC 2016 Hackathon. This is their blog about their experience.
I attended ITC iTech 2015 and had a pretty good experience (and food :P ). The theme was Internet of Things and they gave away a Raspberry Pi to each team. Also, they clearly mentioned that the idea entirely belongs to the team (unlike the Bosch Hackathon, which made us to sign an agreement paper that the idea entirely belongs to them and they weren’t even giving away the kit).
As expected ITC announced their second annual hackathon - iTech 2016. This year the theme was to build VR/AR prototype/product. Little disappointed with the topic, as the scope is much into software, we started braining storming ideas where VR and AR can be integrated with any hardware product.
After a few brainstorming sessions with Sanjay and two of our friends in Chennai, we finalized OmniPresence Robot as final idea to submit. We took a short video explaining our idea and registered for the hackathon. Few days before the hackathon we received a reply from ITC about our selection for the hackathon along with 40 other teams.
The idea of the OmniPresence Robot is to mount a camera on the top of the robot. It should be streaming the video feed to the VR headset over wifi and as the user who is wearing the VR headset moves his head, the camera will move on the same direction. Since the video is on the VR headset, it will give an immersive feel and the user will see what the robot see. In an ideal case, the robot can be placed at any remote location with good internet access and the user can sit at his home and pan around the area. To enhanced the experience further, a kinect camera will be kept at the front of the user and as the user moves, the robot will move in the same direction. So the camera in the Omnipresence robot will act as the eyes and the motors will act legs. The control signals are captured based on the movement of head (for the camera) and movement of the body (for the wheels).
On the day of hackathon, the bus reached 4.5 hours late. Sanjay and I reached the campus by 11.45pm but two of our friends already registered for the team. The base of the robot was build in Chennai Makerspace and it has been used for various purposes. Sibi and Karthick, our friends from chennai brought the bot base and they were early. So we had no problem with the registration. The first thing to do with the hackathon was to pitch the idea to the jury panel (which wasn’t there in the previous edition). After that the hackathon started. The hackspace was familiar for me since it was the exact same place as the last year. The place is little congested but it was manageable. You get unlimited coffee, cool drinks, biscuits and chips (limited to ITC products :P).
We divided our work into two parts. Karthick and I started to work on camera motor control and Sibi and Sanjay started to work on wheel control based on body movement. We used HyperIMU app to understand how different sensors on the mobile phone works. It has a very neat features to set the sample rate and UDP protocols. We planned to use Intel Galileo board instead of Raspberry Pi since the logic level of Galileo is 5V which is required for the motor driver. For some reason Galileo stopped working in the while connecting wires. The same happened in the previous hackathon for my friends. Finally we ended up using the Raspberry Pi with logic level converter. We used Gyroscope’s Y axis value to calculate the Yaw of the head. Initially we were trying to calculate the slope (differentiating) and peak to calculate the speed and angle of rotation. Later we realized that the Gyroscope’s reading are angular velocity readings and differentiating it would simply gives acceleration not angular displacement. So we integrated the readings to get the angular displacement. The speed of the head rotation and camera motor speed were not in exact sync since there were some delay and losses in sending the data. There were some drifting (like a steady state error) but that didn’t affect the experience much. This was around 3 o clock I guess. By the same time Sanjay and Sibi almost finished the body tracking with kinect and it was great. Stepping one step forward will move the robot forward.
We had a good lunch the next day. And then starts the judging and so the unexpected problems. Suddenly the smoothness in the camera motor was not there when people started using it. Also we were sitting near the window and the sunlight started affecting the kinect. As a bonus to all these problem, people at the start were moving a lot and the kinect started tracking all of them. As a rule of thumb, we didn’t edit the code to correct these problem, but we tried to fix it by avoiding these disturbance (and we couldn’t). We demoed the prototype to the jury panel and it went ok.
After that they were having startup showdown before announcing the result. It was lengthy and (boring) so we played foosball and slept most of the time. And then the results were announced. They selected top 5 teams to present their ideas on the stage (we weren’t one of them). After that they announced that they will be giving away 25k for some teams which had good ideas. And the first team was us. Some money to compensate the travel cost :P They were also giving away goodies like last year but little less this time. Sure, I will attend the hackathon next year. Still one of the best hackathons.
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain and difficulty”- This quote from Theodore Roosevelt correlates with my success in getting the internship at Wingify.
First meet with Wingify
I never knew that attending a single conference at Wingify will inspire me to work for this company. Maybe it's the first sight that added so much positivity about the place. It was not my first meet, and I even don't remember the name of the conference. However, from that day, I started following the company and somehow tried my best to visit the office again. I applied for an internship opportunity in the third year of college but got rejected after the telephonic interview. Though I was disappointed, but I tried to work on my weak points; and finally, I got a chance once again during the fourth year.
Fortunately, I was selected as an intern. I managed both college and internship simultaneously, as two months of college were yet to be completed. Thanks to the engineering Lead, Ankit Jain, and my mentor, Himanshu Kapoor, who allowed me to work from home whenever I had practicals or exams.
Moving from Windows to Linux
Yes, I never realised why people switch to Linux when Windows has all the functionalities and Ubuntu lacks rich graphics. I realised the importance of Linux when I started using industry-level tools. The hunt started for finding the right Linux distros and finally, I landed on Elementary OS - It’s better than Ubuntu graphics - wise, although its performance and packages are similar to Ubuntu. I realised that Git, Grunt and Bower commands work pretty well in Linux than in Windows.
Choosing a project
I was given a list of available projects, and my mentor shared the whereabouts of proceeding with each project. I started my work on the support system for the VWO application, as currently, this is done only over emails. Although we use a third-party service, but it will be much easier for customers to access the support system within the application instead of using a mail service.
We finalised the MEAN stack for this module and used a third-party API. There is a limitation of API calls, so we also added a cache mechanism in the application by storing the already accessed data in MongoDB. After various meetings with the support team, reporting manager, company's CTO and mentor, we have finally developed the application and soon it will be passed on to the testing team.
Experience of a project
The stack was new to me, and I never worked on NodeJS before, but the 3.5 months actually made me realise that MEAN stack is much smoother and efficient stack. Everybody in the company supported and appreciated the work. Whenever I was stuck in achieving a functionality, I always received guidance from my mentor. I became more familiar with industry-level automation tools like Grunt and Bower and learnt to work collaboratively, using GitHub. The internship stint went really well, lot of learning definitely, smiling faces and you will always find helping hands for any problem.
Food and Parties at Wingify
Working at Wingify is also amazing because of the food and perennially available stacks of snacks and drinks. The quality of lunch that Wingify provides is many times better than what I used to have at my hostel mess. In addition, pizza parties, lavish parties in restaurants, etc. are pretty common in Wingify.
Summing up experience
At Wingify, everyone wholeheartedly contributes to the growth of the company. It is a pleasure to work with great minds with loads of knowledge. The focus is on achieving the common end objective through mutual support while maintaining a congenial environment. I’m looking forward to an extended stint here while contributing to organizational and my growth.
That's my experience summed up in pictures !
As I am sitting here at the
Delhi Airport waiting for my flight back to Chennai, I could just not stop
myself from thinking about my time as an intern back at Wingify which ended
last week. Here’s what I wrote down after getting carried way with several cups
of coffee (thanks for luring me with that smell costa coffee)
So here it is then!
It was 5 o'clock in the morning and I was quite drowsy. Reason being the all nighter I pulled the other night for the last exam of our end sems. **phew**
Here I was at the Delhi airport just a day after my semester exams, ready to start with my internship. Talk about eagerness here!
A small part of me was also happy that I was moving out of Chennai! (at least for some time)
Joined them the next day in their main office at the heart of NSP, Delhi.
Now I was naturally excited to work in a company which had grown and become one of the best startups in India in such a short span of time. On top of that, this was my first internship in a well-established product based start-up and I was hoping that I could learn all that I could and perform in accordance to their standards.
I was introduced to Ankit Jain (Lead software Engineer at Wingify) and Ajay Sharma (Senior Software Engineer) by my HR. We had a brief chat where I was told I would be working with the Backend Development team for VWO, their flagship product.
Talking about VWO, it's the world's easiest A/B testing tool. And we are quite good (read "The Best") at it! The month before I joined, we had monthly sales crossing a little over 1 million dollars.
After getting up and ready with my development environment, I was given my first project.
Integration of Statsd and graphite (Project #1)
StatsD collects and aggregates metrics and then ships them off to Graphite which stores the time-series data and enables us to render graphs based on these data.
Graphite consists of three parts.
carbon - a daemon that listens for time-series data.
whisper - a simple database library for storing time-series data.
webapp - a (Django) webapp that renders graphs on demand.
The setting up of the the overall stack was a bit archaic but I finally got it right and the metrics for our internal service were being graphed correctly by Graphite. And they looked pretty too!
Coming back, the service on which we integrated StatsD and graphite runs on several servers. So while plotting the graphs we wanted to know the server from where the stats are being pushed on to the buckets of statsd. Well that was much about it.
Bumblebee - An experimental slack bot VWO (Project #2)
Wingify has this culture of organizing hackathons at the end of every month, where people from the engineering team come together to hack on something which they want to see at VWO.
To be honest, I was quite clueless on what to build for the first half an hour or so and after a little nudge from Ankit I decided upon bumblebee. Bumblebee makes use of the beautiful VWO API to provide functionalities (if not all) to the VWO account holder right at the comfort of his slack channel. Like you can get details of all the campaigns of your account, check their status (whether they are running, paused et el). Update status to Start/Stop/Pause a particular campaign. Share your campaign with someone else and some more things.
It was written in python and Ankit was too kind to let me open source it. Here is the link for the curious.
Optimization much? (Project #3)
My 3rd project revolved around optimization of an internal service. I had to increase the efficiency (read performance). I implemented some rough 3 approaches and the last one bumped the performance by up to 23.6%. I could have tried for dropping it down further to a lower one but sadly the end to my internship was looming around the corner so I dropped it. And that was the 3rd and the last project I did as an intern at Wingify.
How was my experience?
My experience? I loved it there!
- Solving hard engineering problems. Check
- Extremely talented engineering team. Check
- Approachable mentors. Check
- Awesome Work Culture. Check
- Delhi :P. Check
Jokes apart. I made some really good friends back there and learned a ton from everyone. I am proud that I was part of a team which is building something which people love and has an impact on thousands of customers.
So what now?
Looking back at the time when I received a call from Nupur about my acceptance as an intern at Wingify. I was thinking about whether to join it over the other 6-7 odd companies which accepted my application as a summer intern. After the two months that I have spent here at Wingify, I now believe that I did just the right thing on choosing Wingify over others!
Until next time Delhi!
A couple weeks back, we wrote about the books that our CEO read in the first half of 2016. After publishing the post, it wasn't hard to figure that our readers not only loved that collection, they came forward and asked us to showcase more reading list recommendations from other #booknerds at Wingify.
So I turned to our resident writer, Sairam Krishnan, to enquire about the books he read in the first half of 2016. Sairam is currently writing a book on the history of Pondicherry, his hometown and heads marketing initiatives at PushCrew. As I got talking to Sairam, he mentioned how a writer has to manage time between reading and producing his own work. Reading, for a writer, is not an undertaking purely for pleasure, it is often, the very fuel for his craft.
So, here it is. Books that he has read and liked in 2016 (so far).
1. Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
I'm coming to Vonnegut late, and I didn't know what to expect at all. But I think I'll have to read more of him to figure out how he executes the simplicity of prose he achieved here. This is a powerful story, rich in sidesteps and about-turns, and its effectiveness lies in the way it's told, sharpened for maximum impact. You read a sentence, and before you understand the bigness of its idea, it's already in your head. This is extraordinary writing.
2. Everybody's Friend - Raghu Karnad
The Bodley Head Prize runner up that became the author's first book, Farthest Field, this is a superb curtain-raiser to the book.
3. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Stephen King
This is an essential addition to any writer's table, and should be read in full at least twice a year, so we never forget why we chose to put pen to paper in the first place. And the hows in it don't hurt either.
4. A Wish A Day for a Week - Amartya Sen
A perfect bite-sized introduction to the respected economist's beliefs and ideas for India's future path, this little Kindle single is a must read.
6. The Believer - Michael McCants
A brief essay that narrates the intriguing rise to power of the 'caliph' of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and an important addition to the reading material about ISIS and its ideology.
5. The Unhurried City: Writings on Madras - CS Lakshmi (Editor)
The poems (though some of them have been translated without soul) were beautiful, representative, and immensely enjoyable. So too the stories. The only gripe I have about that section is that it ended too soon. Surely a few more stories translated from the Tamil masters would have given this book more weight.In all, still an important addition to an Indian reader's bookshelf, but I can't help but feel that this could've been so much better.
6. Lake Wobegon Days - Garrison Keillor
A blurb at the back of my edition says that the book is "..really good company." I agree; there are few better compliments for a book.
7. Where the Rain is Born: Writings about Kerala - Anita Nair (Editor)
It's only about 300 or so pages, this anthology, but it feels like a lot more, and by the time you're done, you've been to a world and back. That's what any literature of place aims to do, and that's what this book achieves gloriously. Next time you are going to Kerala, take this book with you.
8. Murder in Melur - Stuart Blackburn
A novel of this quality should be read and enjoyed more, and I hope that, with time, it gets the larger readership it deserves. Very highly recommended.
9. Teresa’s Man, and Other Stories from Goa - Damodar Mauzo
In all, a rather good read. A shout-out to the cover design, though. I sought out Archana Sreenivasan after, and followed her on Instagram. Will be watching her work in the future.
10. A Little Learning: The First Volume of an Autobiography - Evelyn Waugh
11. The Smile of Murugan: A South Indian Journey - Michael Wood
This book deserves to be read more, and can even act as an introduction to modern, cut-off-from-their-roots Tamils to their own culture. I'll certainly do my share of evangelising it.
12. An Atlas of Impossible Longing - Anuradha Roy
I have been a fan of Roy's for some time, having read her in bits and pieces on Tumblr, Facebook and so on, and I suppose that part of me was satisfied. She is undeniably gifted, with a knack of the gasp-inducing moment, and an enviable eye for metaphor. The title, when it appears in the novel, is one such moment: The words evoke more than a scene. Fiction starts to mean something.But when parts of a novel makes a reader like me, who really wanted to love it, bored enough to want to jump forward, maybe there's just a little bit wrong with it.
13. The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
The only comment I have to make here, for a writer whose work doesn't really need reviewing, is that his genius is on the level of the sentence. This isn't something I have been blown away only in this book; I first saw it in American Gods. You start a sentence, read it thinking you know what's coming, because you've read dozens of books. You've read Stephen King, you've read Terry Brooks. You know, right? Wrong. With Gaiman, you don't. The sentence tells you something so outrageous, so unexpected, that you wait a second, read it again, think, and are stunned. And then you smile. It is this quality to his art, this performance in miniature, that I envy most. And as everyone well knows, he has a lot many qualities to envy.
14. Red River, Blue Hills - Ankush Saikia
I've tried hard to touch upon all the things that made an impression on me in this book, without spoiling the story or the plot for anyone reading. I enjoyed it tremendously, as I said, and I hope it gets the wider readership it deserves. In an age of shitty romance novels and extraordinarily bad writing, that India has writers of the calibre and ambition of Saikia is something to be celebrated.
15. The Startup of You - Reid Hoffman
16. Falling off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World - Pico Iyer
A lovely collection of Pico Iyer's travel pieces for various magazines, brought together under a theme that is intriguing, and immensely relatable. Pico Iyer's introductory essay to the book is extraordinary writing, and I will come back to it again and again.
17. Fatherland - Robert Harris
Berlin, 1964. What if Hitler had won?As far as questions go, there are few more spine-tingling than the above. And though we can all try to theorise, how much can we really see of the world that would have resulted in? We are novices, we don't know enough. But what can a scholar do with that question, a scholar who knows this world well, has studied it, has written about it, and understands well what a German victory would have meant? Wouldn't his answer possibly produce something extraordinary, a peek into a state that was born from pure evil?
18. A House in Pondicherry - Lee Langley
19. Lisey’s Story - Stephen King
I can see why it's regarded as one of King's best. Some of the things in here are pure genius. Just that it didn't work for me. Which is sad for me, and not at all for the book.
20. The Song of Achilles - Madeleine Miller
At its heart, though, The Song of Achilles is a love story. And like the greatest love stories, it is destined for heartbreak and doom. Miller's book may do many things, but what it does not do is trivialise feeling. The climax is heart-wrenchingly, breathtakingly beautiful: The image of a stricken Achilles saying Patroclus's name over and over as he cradles the dead body in his arms stays with you.
21. Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece - Patrick Leigh Fermor
I'm filing this away to come back to, perhaps after a primer of Greek history and geography, and maybe even after Fermor's earlier books, so I can read this with even more comprehension and delight.
22. Sleeping on Jupiter - Anuradha Roy
Didn't work for me, and I can't really explain why. Maybe the characters, and the events/coincidences that take the narrative along, lacked the depth necessary to tell a story of such emotional weight. This is a personal take, though. The novel is critically acclaimed, and is loved by many. Perhaps you will too.
23. The Ghosts of Meenambakkam - Aahokamitran
As my father nears retirement, he maintains a voluminous collection of stories/essays/travelogues cut out from the extraordinary number of Tamil magazines he buys. There is a whole folder dedicated to Ashokamitran, and its lovingly annotated pages indicated to me the stature of this writer I have only come to discover in English. This, then, is the only gripe I have - a personal sense of shame that I can only read the great masters of my own language in English. I intend to change that soon, but in the meantime, I'm thankful for these translations.Very highly recommended.
24. A Bend in the River - VS Naipaul (currently reading)
Do you see a pattern in Sai's reading? What kind of books do you like to read? Let us know if you'd like us to share your reading list too.