Prem Rao : Stories from a Story Teller
By Prem Rao
To write a lot, you need to read a lot! I am fond of reading so I love exploring different kinds of books, fiction as well as non-fiction.
So, here you have me- a writer- speak on writing. On my blogs and books ( published or otherwise), and on the blogs and books I read.
Also, my take on what's making news!
So, here you have me- a writer- speak on writing. On my blogs and books ( published or otherwise), and on the blogs and books I read.
Also, my take on what's making news!
Authors I Admire: Ian Fleming
Who are the authors you admire? I shall speak of a few of the ones that I admire in a series of podcasts. The first is Ian Fleming (1908-1964), the creator of James Bond, Special Agent 007 of MI6. It is fascinating how authors put -consciously or otherwise - some part of themselves into their characters. Fleming is no exception. Bond got his love for adventure, fast cars, and fast women from him. His books have sold over 60 million copies and made into 13 movies. After his death, others have continued the Bond saga with books and films but, in my view, there can never be another Ian Fleming. Just as, I believe, no actor came close to being James Bond on screen, after Sean Connery!!
December 1, 2021
"Devi: The Goddesses of India" by John Stratton Hawley & Donna Marie Wullff. A Review.
An informative and educative book about the Goddesses who figure prominently in Hinduism, the religion of some 1.6 billion people all over the world. In this scholarly collection of essays, different Goddesses and places and events associated with them are described by different authors. The beauty about this book is that each essay can be read separately and there is no compulsion to read the book at one go. Indeed it is best if you read each essay at your convenience and at your own pace, depending of course on how familiar you are with the Hindu religion. The book is edited by two eminent scholars. It is recommended both for those who know India and Hinduism as well as those who wish to learn something about the vast Indian sub-continent with it's huge population. Here, even today ancient traditions are followed as closely as modern trends.
November 28, 2021
"Black Beauty" by Anna Sewell : A Review
This timeless classic - "Black Beauty" the autobiography of a horse- will appeal to all lovers of animals. Amazing that it was written over 140 years ago and yet holds interest. It is the story of a horse in Victorian England. Of how the horse copes with the ups and downs that present themselves in his life, as he passes from one owner to another. The story brings out the cruelty in men as also their compassion. Published in 1877, this book by Anna Sewell is said to have sold over 50 million copies in 50 different languages. There is a tinge of sadness that this was her first- and last book, as she passed away barely six months after it was first published. Many believe her book did a lot to influence people to be more kind to horses and contributed towards the removal of some extremely painful practices for the horse such as the use of the bearing rein.
November 24, 2021
Malini Vs Melanie Part 4: End of Short Story
This is the fourth and last part of a short story I wrote some years ago called, "Malini Vs.Melanie". I have presented this once again in this new medium over four episodes- giving the old story a new lease of life! The story is set in Bengaluru, India where I live. It is about a young lady struggling to balance the conflicting demands of her conservative family on one hand, and her love affair on the other.
November 21, 2021
Malini Vs. Melanie: Part 3 of a Short Story
This is the third episode in a series podcasting a short story called, "Malini Vs Melanie" which started with Season 2 Episode 12. I had written this short story a few years ago. Through this medium, it gets a new lease of life! It is a story of a young lady torn between two identities. She has to deal with a conservative family on one hand and her own love affair on the other. The story is set in the city of Bengaluru, where I live.
November 17, 2021
Malini Vs Melanie Part 2 of a Short Story
This is the second part of a short story called, "Malini Vs. Melanie" I am podcasting this short story that I wrote some years ago in several episodes. The story is set in Bengaluru, India where I live. It's about a girl called Malini or hey wait a minutes, isn't she Melanie??? So, here we go with ........Part 2 of Malini vs Melanie
November 14, 2021
Malini Vs Melanie Part 1
For the 12 th episode of Season 2, curious to try new things as I am, here's an experiment. I am podcasting a short story I wrote some years ago in several episodes. The short story is set in Bengaluru, India where I live. It's about a girl called Malini or hey wait a minutes, isn't she Melanie??? So, here we go with ........Part 1 of Malini vs Melanie
November 10, 2021
"Five Presidents" by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin: A review
" Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey With Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford" is written by Clinton J Hill who served the US Secret Service from 1958 to 1975. In this fast-paced book he covers his experiences at the White House and elsewhere. He had the privilege of serving 5 US Presidents during that time. Many of us remember Clint Hill for his attempt to protect the Kennedys that fateful day in Dallas, Tx in November 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated. A short video film by a bystander Zapruder shows US Secret Service Agent Hill rush to the President's limousine and attempt to clamber on the speeding car to protect the President and First Lady from more shots. Hill's book is a honest description of the difficulties involved in serving on the White House detail. He gives his impressions on each of the Presidents he served and how different they were from each other.
November 7, 2021
Mossad: The Greatest Missions Of The Israeli Secret Service by Bar-Zohar & Mishal. A Review.
A fast paced interesting book in which the two authors, who know the Mossad and the world of espionage so well, share their stories of Israel's Secret Service. They cover some of Mossad's great successes over the decades, some carried out against overwhelming odds. Many of the incidents described in this book are being revealed for the first time to the wider world. Interestingly, the authors also touch upon a few failed missions. They point out that missions get botched as they are conducted by people- and people do make mistakes, however well trained and committed they might be. All in all, a book that will be much enjoyed by readers who like spy fiction and espionage. It goes to show all that a nation can- and should - do to protect its sovereign interests.
November 3, 2021
Glimpses of a Glorious Past : The Nilgiris in the 19th Cent
This is an extract from Book 1 of "Glimpses of a Glorious Past: An Informal History of The Lawrence School, Lovedale" which I had the privilege to edit. The first volume covers the first 50 years of the School, from 1858 to 1908. In this extract, we recall what made the British choose the picturesque Nilgiri Hills in South India as the location for the third Lawrence Asylum, which was established in Ootacamund in September, 1858.
October 31, 2021
"50 Desi Super Drinks" by Lovneet Batra : A Review
Here's a book that can nudge you towards a more healthy lifestyle. "50 Desi Super Drinks" by Lovneet Batra, the well- known nutritionist has a simple yet effective design. For each of the 50 drinks covered, the author explains what that drink contains and how they can help us. This is followed by the recipe for this drink. Turmeric Milk, Jal Jeera, and Masala Chai are fairly commonly used and well-known. However there are many others which came as a surprise to me, as they well might to you! The book has recommendations from Bollywood stars like Neha Dhupia and Soha Ali Khan. In his foreword, the noted Indian celebrity chef, Sanjeev Kapoor writes, " Local, healthy and organic is what I have always followed, practised and believed in. And I recommend everyone to try these recipes to reach their ultimate goal of a healthy life style. Let's together go back to our roots and ride the wave of nostalgia with these amazing indigenous drinks."
October 27, 2021
"Glimpses Of A Glorious Past" An Informal History of The Lawrence School, Lovedale.
This is the story of The Lawrence School, Lovedale (std. 1858) in the form of an informal history, which I had the privilege of editing. It is available as an ebook and now is a show on the YouTube and Facebook channels of the Old Lawrencians Association (OLA). More recently, a blog has been set up for "Glimpses..." to complement the books which are in three volumes: Book 1 which covers the period from from 1858 to 1908; Book 2 which is about the years from 1908 to 1958; and Book 3 which cover the 50 years from 1958 to 2008. Do tune in to the show, go through our blog, and send in your comments and suggestions to; firstname.lastname@example.org
October 24, 2021
"Her Master Key: A Hotel Housekeeper's Stories From Inn-dia" by Shruti Johri
When we think of a hotel, most of us think of the exterior, often glitzy, and the Front Desk which is quite glamourous. Not many think of the Housekeeping, which has such a crucial role to play in enabling guest satisfaction. This book, by Shruti Johri, which is almost autobiographical presents the experiences of a housekeeping executive in a leading luxury hotel. So far there hasn’t been much written about the work lives of the housekeeping staff in our hotels. Johri’s book reveals a lot about what remains unseen and unknown as we enter and leave hotels as guests. It also speaks of the typical issues and problems most working women wrestle with in balancing their responsibilities at work and at home.
October 20, 2021
"Restless: Chronicles Of A Policeman" by Dr V R Sampath IPS
"Restless" is the story of a restless individual, who is constantly seeking the true meaning of life in its entirety. Interestingly, this is not the story of a philosopher but of one who spent most of his adult life as a policeman. I mean policemen in a general sense. The author, Dr V R Sampath IPS held positions of high responsibility during the 25 years he served in the prestigious Indian Police Service. He quit the service a decade ahead of his retirement and took up some challenging assignments relating to his field of expertise in the private sector. These brought him in close contact with some of India's biggest business tycoons like the Ambanis and the Adanis. His experiences in policing and security matters are covered in the first part of the book. The restless bug struck him again and he left this to become a student again. This time enrolling for a MFA in Creative Writing in California in the United States. The second part of Dr Sampath's book is more about his interests in spirituality. He is aspiring to complete his second Ph.D. in the related area ion Consciousness Studies in the United States, where he now lives.
October 17, 2021
"Never Too Big To Fail" by Sandeep Hasurkar: A Review
Our hard-earned money is so important to each one of us. When we see investments made with that hard-earned money in the stock market go down the drain, it makes you angry and frustrated. The stock markets react depending on multiple macro and micro economic factors. A default by a giant conglomerate on its re-payments, and the consequences that flow from this, can send shivers down the back of their creditors and investors. Sandeep Hasurkar's book, " Never Too Big To Fail" is the story of the IL & FS conglomerate and how it defaulted on repayments a couple of years back. The Government of India is trying it's best to recover as much of the debt of over Rs 90,000 crores or Rs 910 billion. How did this default take place? How come the common investor is asked a million questions before being given a loan while large companies seem to enjoy mind-boggling loan facilities with such ease? These are some of the issues written about in this interesting book, which has many lessons for all of us:- the Government, the banks who lend money, and not the least, we the investors.
October 13, 2021
Your Website Reflects You
Your website is the window to the world for your organisation or business. Visitors- customers, potential customers, or anyone else, form impressions of your organisation- favorable or otherwise- based on their individual experiences at your website. Those who found their visit useful, are likely to return. Those who didn't are likely to leave- and not come back!l The world has changed substantially especially in the last few years. People are getting an overdose of information. Being online for long periods of time for their professional work, they are reducing their discretionary time online. They are getting to be more choosy in how they spend their precious time online. In this podcast, I talk of what your customers and potential customers look for in your website. After all, at the end of the day, your website reflects you!
October 10, 2021
"Titanic: The Story of the Unsinkable Ship":Hourly History
"Titanic" was the most luxurious ship of her time. She was designed to be unsinkable but sank in her maiden voyage. Although her sinking took place in 1912, even now that calamity is remembered whenever we talk of the seas. This book reveals the story of the "Titanic", how she was built, and what happened on that fateful night.
October 6, 2021
"Tiffin" by Rukmini Srinivas: A Book Review
"Tiffin" by Rukmini Srinivas, is a beautifully scripted book that will brings back huge amounts of nostalgia with its offering of family tales and Indian recipes. It is almost autobiographical in that the author, called "Rukka" by her family and friends, allows you to peep into her house and meet various members of her family, and her friends. You get, through her writing, to experience the places where she lived and the amazing variety of food she cooked and served. The recipes add a special touch to the story of her life. They are linked to specific time periods with which she associates that dish, some from her childhood, some from her days as a young married lady, and others from her time as a doting wife and mom. The book would be of great interest to those who love reading about different places, India in this case, and different periods of time, from the late 19th century to the present day, and enjoy trying out different types of cuisine.
October 3, 2021
"Strangers" by C L Taylor" A Book Review
"Strangers" is yet another psychological thriller by Sunday Times best selling author C L Taylor. She spins an interesting plot which holds you spell bound. The stories of the three main characters in the book are skillfully woven together to make very interesting reading. Each of them does not really know the other, though they are brought together in a gripping climax. Highly recommended if, like me, you devour mystery and crime thrillers.
September 29, 2021
"The Holocaust Of Indian Partition: An Inquest" by Dr Madhav Godbole. Book Review.
Although it took place nearly 75 years ago, many believe we in india still bear the scars and after effects of the Partition of India in 1947. You will know that this traumatic event tore the undivided India during the British Raj into two independent nations: India and Pakistan. Dr Madhav Godbole, is a seasoned Civil Servant who held many responsible positions including that of the Union Home Secretary. He has written a detailed account of the main people involved in the discussions that resulted in the hastily arrived at decision to partition India in the way it was done. He writes of their reasons for taking the positions they did. For generations who have little or no idea of the horrors of the Partition, this book comes as an eye opener. What purpose does it serve coming so many decades after the event, some may ask. The answer is that history teaches us, time and again, that we should learn from our mistakes. Dr Godbole's comprehensive account of those dark days leaves us with the hope that such costly mistakes should never be repeated.
September 26, 2021
Cricket In The Old Madras & Remembering My Dad
On his 95 th birth centenary, I share memories of my Dad to whom I owe so much including a life long passion for cricket. I also speak of some of his cricketing heroes and of cricket in the Old Madras- in the 1940s. Of Triplicane and Cheapauk, of C P Johnstone and A G Ram Singh, all inter twined in the rich legacy of cricket in Madras, now, of course, known as Chennai.
September 22, 2021
"Bifocals And A Walking Stick" by M Gopalkrishna Bhat. A Book Review:
If you are looking for light reading, seeking stories set in India, you should read, " Bifocals And A Walking Stick" by M Gopalkrishna Bhat. This is a delightful collection of essays which captures different facets of life in India, largely set in Mumbai and Mangaluru. The author uses his keen skills of observation and his ready wit to describe real life situations which most of us come across in our day to day lives. I wrote this book review in 2016. A lot has happened since then. I had the pleasure of meeting the author in 2019 when he visited Bengaluru where I live. A few months ago, in July 2021, Mr Bhat passed on aged 85 leaving behind ever so many admirers and friends. In a sense, this podcast is my tribute to a fine gentleman of the old school.
September 19, 2021
"Humans of New York" by Brandon Stanton: A Book Review
A fascinating publication that captures the looks and thoughts of people at large in the The Big Apple, that ever bustling epitome of cosmopolitan urban life: New York City. Brandon Stanton's amazing creation resides at the intersection of writing and photography. For the reader, this makes for very interesting reading apart from viewing the extremely engaging images of people who make up slices of life in New York City. The initial project, says Stanton, was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the streets and get a fleeting quote from them. This grew in scope as he found people willing to talk about their lives in the city with candor. Considering the content, I feel, the "Humans Of New York " book/photoblog is a must for every book collector. It would be a welcome addition to libraries the world over.
September 15, 2021
Remember Harry Flash? A Tribute to George MacDonald Fraser
Harry Flashman, the bully who was expelled from Rugby in "Tom Brown's Schooldays" would have faded away into oblivion had it not been for George MacDonald Fraser! His adventures in different parts of the British Empire and beyond are captured in 12 novels written by Fraser from 1969 to 2005. As writers, we must admire Fraser's ingenious use of the "Flashman Papers" - a series of diaries- which provide the meat for the stories of this Victorian hero! Testimony of his popularity comes from the fact that even today there are many fan clubs of Flashman all over the world.
September 12, 2021
"The Diary On The Fifth Floor" by Raisha Lalwani. A book review.
An interesting debut novel about the mental problems faced by a young lady. The author makes innovative use of a diary to move the story forward. This diary, maintained by the young lady, provides insights into her mind to her psychiatrist. Ms. Lalwani captures your interest all through her story, finishing strongly with an unexpected twist.
September 8, 2021
In Lighter Vein: What's In A Name?
Names of people, like other facets of different cultures, make for fascinating stories! My light hearted reminiscences of a few names that have resulted in some amount of embarrassment for their owners - and a lot of laughter for others- in the United States and in India.
September 5, 2021
Crafting Query Letters
The query letter and indeed the whole process of querying, often determines whether your book project remains a dream or gets to see the light of day by being published. Remember the world of book publishing is both crowded and competitive. I share some tips on querying in this podcast which I am sure will benefit the budding writer, eager to get his/her book published.
September 1, 2021
Mrs Enos Is 100 Not Out
A tribute to a much-loved teacher, Mrs May Enos, who taught for decades at The Lawrence School, Lovedale. Recently, she celebrated her 100th birthday. Many of us who were taught by her as young kids in the Prep School remember her as vividly as we did all those decades ago.
August 29, 2021
“Losing Amma, Finding Home" By Uma Girish : A Book Review
Those who have been through grief will readily relate to the story as will children who live far away from their old parents. The story is centred around the passing away of the author's Amma, her beloved mother. Uma Girish is very good at her descriptions about things and people around her. She knows how to maintain a charming, deft touch of humour to off set the tragic moments in her story. In this story, she deals with the guilt and other problems that beset her , as they would anyone who has lost a loved parent. She struggles with thoughts that may be they could have done more for her Amma, not just during her last days but indeed for all their lives. She writes about how her father is forced to cope with his wife’s death. He has got accustomed to her being at his beck and call for the 47 years of their marriage. A very inspiring read in which -what in reality is a tragic topic- is handled with lots of grace and sensitivity.
August 25, 2021
"The Case That Shook The Empire" by Raghu & Pushpa Palat
"One Man's Fight for the Truth about the Jallianwala Massacre" is an excellent summary of the book I review, "The Case That Shook The Empire" by Raghu and Pushpa Palat. This is the hitherto little-known but fascinating story of Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair, (1857-1934) who was a towering personality of his times. He was one of the early stalwarts of the Indian National Congress and served as its President in 1897. Very few Indians held positions of power and high office in the British Raj especially in the India of the 19th and 20th centuries. Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair was one amongst them. He was a Judge of the Madras High Court, and later became a Member of the Viceroy's Executive Council. He resigned in 1919 in protest following the appalling Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of that year.
August 22, 2021
A personal tribute to a friend - of 48 years standing- who passed away one year ago, on August 19, 2020. Dr M S Rau, PhD or Mylarapu Shyamsunder Rau was my classmate at The Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI) in Jamshedpur from 1972-74 and a close friend since then. So many memories from those carefree student years flood my mind and then I realize he is no more with us. A small tribute to a large-hearted friend.
August 18, 2021
"Now It Can Be Told" by Prof A N Bali
India gained Independence in 1947 at a great cost. The Partition of India did not affect people in every region equally. The irony is that while most did not face any hardship due the Partition, for others it changed their lives forever. They had to live with the bitter memories of the traumatic events that took place when India was divided into two countries by the departing British. Many books have been written about the Partition and events following this major event in our country's history. Only a few have been written by people who actually experiences these events themselves. One such is " Now It Can Be Told" by Prof A N Bali, then a Professor at the Lahore University of undivided India during the British times.
August 15, 2021
"The Dog Who Came To Stay: A Memoir" by Hal Borland
Lovers of dogs can't miss this one! A charming story of how a stray foxhound - who was given the name Pat- entered the lives of the Borlands and what followed from then on. Borland's delightful descriptions of nature, the bond between man and dog, and the simplicity of life in the 1950's touches your heart, even as you read the book 60 years after it was first published.
August 11, 2021
"The Trillion Dollar Coach" by Schmidt, Rosenberg & Eagle. A Book Review.
Described as the Leadership Playbook of Silcon Valley’s Bill Campbell, this is the story of the legendary leadership coach. The authors - Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle- speak from personal experience. They knew him well being top executives of Google who were amongst the many successful executives to have been coached by Campbell. You gain valuable insights not only into many lessons in leadership, but in the complex skill of coaching at a senior level.
August 8, 2021
"Netaji: Living Dangerously" by Kingshuk Nag : A book review
The enigmatic and dynamic Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was one of the India's greatest leaders. He founded his Indian National Army during the Second World War and allied himself with the Japanese to fight for India's independence from the British. But what became of Bose at the end of the War? Kingshuk Nag's book, "Netaji: Living Dangerously" published in 2016, describes his story. A "must read" for all who are interested in Indian history and politics.
August 4, 2021
"Operation Mincemeat" by Ben Macintyre
The fascinating story of The Man Who Never Was. One of the great successes of British Naval Intelligence in the Second Word War. The "truth is stranger than fiction" story of Major William Martin, Royal Marines. Of how it affected the German plans to defend Fortress Europe and how it paved the way for the Allied landings in Sicily in 1943.
July 30, 2021
"The Reluctant MD: A Gynaecologist 's Journey" by Dr Usha Mohan
The absorbing and entertaining story of the triumphs and travails of a practicing gynaecologist spanning several continents. Written with a deft touch of humor and lots of candor. Dr Usha Mohan speaks from her heart about what made her take to the medical profession, the interesting cases she had to deal with, and her steadfast determination to live - and fully enjoy- life on her terms.
July 26, 2021
"Jerusalema" Better Late Than Never
"Jerusalema". The story of an amazing song that took- and is still taking- a Covid 19 pandemic struck world -by storm. Millions around the world have danced to this song released in December 2019. It is composed by South African RJ and musician, Master KG and sung by his sister Noncebo Zikode. This podcast is about this song with its magical foot tapping beats.
July 23, 2021
"Spies, Lies And Exile" by Simon Kuper: A book review.
If you are interested in spy thrillers, you will like this true story of George Blake, the Soviet double agent during the days of the Cold War. He worked for the SIS, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, more commonly known as MI 6, but at the same time spied for the Russians. " Spies, Lies, And Exile" by Simon Kuper is the life story of George Blake, who at one time, was considered the most effective of the Soviet double agents as he was the least suspected.
July 19, 2021
Book Review of "Master Your Core" by Dr Bohdanna Zazulak
Dr Zazulak's book, published by TCK Publishing, has been described as a science-based guide to achieve peak performance and resilience to injury. The author shares her Core BASE, an integrative, holistic guide for breathing, awareness, stability, and empowerment of your core in body, mind, and spirit. Broadly speaking, on one hand we have the Western view of fitness through the study of modern science and medicine. On the other we have the age old Oriental take on keeping well through a mix of exercise and meditation. In my view, the best part of Dr Zazulak ‘s book is her creative use of the best of both worlds.
July 13, 2021
Poets of the First World War
Many famous British poets emerged during the First World War, such as Owen, Sassoon, Brooke, Yeats, and Hardy. Their poems captured the glories of battles and the horrors of war especially in the trenches. Chunks of some of these poems remain in my mind though I studied them over 50 years ago. This episode is dedicated to them and to my teachers at The Lawrence School, Lovedale for instilling in me a life long interest in literature and history.
July 10, 2021
"Born Smiling: A Father's Tribute" by K Ravi
A poignant story written by a father about a daughter who passed away too soon. Could things have turned out differently? How much do we know about what our children are going through? Can this be happening right now to someone you know? Or to others, you don't!
July 6, 2021
The Golden Hour: A Tribute On National Doctors’ Day.
What happens to the patient struck by a heart attack during the Golden Hour often determines whether or not he/she will survive. In medical parlance, The Golden Hour is the first hour after a serious medical event or injury during which treatment is likely to be the most effective. Here's the true story of one such case.
July 1, 2021
“Tongue of Slip” by C P Belliappa
Looking Back On Life With Humour is how author C P Belliappa describes his book. It’s a delightful, breezy read. I am sure you will find this most enjoyable in these stressful times.
June 28, 2021
Podcasts on Storytelling
Join the fascinating world of listening to short stories of different types by different authors- by way of podcasts!
June 17, 2021
“Always A Foreigner” by Ashwini Devare
A delightful memoir of experiences as a daughter of a officer of the Indian Foreign Service!
June 17, 2021
Cooking With Shobana
A tribute to my wife, Shobana P Rao, on the 8th anniversary of her popular food blog called, "Cooking With Shobana." Following her passion for cooking has given her great pleasure over the years- and has given me a lot of yummy food to eat! She loves to learn new dishes from different parts of India and share them through her blog. Most of the dishes are vegetarian but a few recipes of our favourite seafood are also featured.
March 20, 2021
Book Review: "The Girl Who Lived" by Christopher Greyson
You will love this book if you are fond of thrillers! On being released from a mental asylum, a girl returns to the very spot in the woods where she saw four people killed including her father and her sister. She wants to settle the many demons in her mind once and for all- if at all that is possible. She simply must find out what actually happened here many years ago. Her time is running out as the ones she pursues are in fact hunting for her!
March 13, 2021