The Very Special Vikram Edke

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Hi, Everyone! Since researching and writing on Savarkar, I have had the good fortune to come across several people with whom I can connect. But there are two whom I consider very special. One is Dr. Shreerang Godbole, to whom I have dedicated my book Burning for Freedom, (I have posted on him in my category “Divine Interventions” and the other is Vikram Edke—to whom I shall dedicated the audio book of Burning for Freedom. Vikram is extremely dedicated to Savarkar and sees it as his honor and duty to do anything for Savarkar. That in itself is enough to make him special but there is also much, much more!

I first heard of Vikram almost a year ago. A friend of his bought B for Ffrom me to send to him. I figured I might as well sign it and asked his name—but for this I may never have heard of him and that would have been a great loss! Along with his name I also learned that he gives lectures on Savarkar. I was so intrigued, I hotfooted it to Facebook to be“Friend” him.

At first I read his posts out of curiosity but shortly I was hooked. He really is an exceptional writer—a wonderful style, satire, humor, and very important for me: no swear words or bad-mouthing. But he writes only in Marathi and Hindi, and for me that was quite a stumbling block! My command over those languages is so-so at best and is completely dependent on my moods. If I feel off-color or disturbed, first thing to go out of the window is my understanding of Marathi and Hindi. So reading his posts was like running an obstacle race: race for bit; hit a snag; dash to the dictionary; then hop over the hurdle. But it was worth all the effort!

I discovered he has quite a repertoire of topics and puts them in today’s context, too; besides Savarkar, he writes very knowledgably on other freedom fighters of India and writes and posts from other sources on ancient India. I really loved this. I am very fascinated in all ancient civilizations but somehow had never studied ancient India in any depth. The horizons of my knowledge widened noticeably, thanks to him.

I have an innate aversion to listening to anyone speak: speeches, talk shows, sermons et al. But Vikram is an excellent speaker and the only one I take time out to listen to. Not only does he have interesting information, he changes his approach to suit the audience. He writes the most wonderful poetry, too! Here is a link to one of his really special poems:

And a link to his other poems:

Soon another facet of his personality emerged: he was so very-well versed in Sanskrit, a scholar, in fact! He could quote and write authoritatively on Vedas and other valuable ancient Indian treasures. I particularly loved his “proofs of unimportance of caste in the Rigveda.” I was delighted when he wished me for my birthday in Sanskrit.

Since 2009, I look at the world from “how will this help Savarkar?” spectacles; so naturally right away it struck me that Vikram would be of great help to me in rescuing a couple of my Savarkar poem translations from limbo-land. Savarkar’s poems written in Sanskritized-Marathi are impossible for me to understand and yet of course, I have to translate them! I sent over a particularly difficult poem, Marnonmukh Shaiyyewar, to him and within minutes he replied giving meanings and explanations. That was a tremendous help for me in revising my translation and it has now seen the light of day.

Reader, in case you haven’t kept tally, I’ll put Vikram’s talents (at least those of which I am aware) in so many words: writer; poet; orator; scholar; historian, and lawyer. Not only does he have these talents, he is using them and very effectively, too! It seems to me his parents have named him very aptly: Vikram!

I always maintain that people reveal themselves when they speak and write (even if they don’t mean to) and I was impressed with the maturity of thought and the values that Vikram’s writing revealed. One day I discovered that he too, like me, is a deep believer in the Bhagavad Gita.

So you can see why he holds the “very special” spot in my life.

With all his talents and achievements, you might be forgiven in thinking that Vikram has reached an advanced age! Actually he is (if he’ll forgive me for saying it) very young. He turned 25 today.
I was listening to a radio show on which he was invited to speak, the lady asking him questions kept referring to him as “tu” rather than the respectful “tumhi” or “aapan”—a great solecism on her part! It is normal to accord respect to any learned personality; she shouldn’t have tossed it away just because he is young. I was sooooo mad! I hunted online for her contact information for two days to give her a piece of mind. Fortunately for her, I didn’t find it.

There is a lot more I could write, but I am going to save it for a second installment down the road. But this I shall certainly say, that Vikram’s and my path should cross is for me a case of “Divine Intervention.”

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My author photo pains!

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Hi, Everyone! Among the long list of unpleasant (to me) things I would have to do in connection with writing my novel, one was taking my author photo.

I was quite, quite aware that to become a published author, an author photo was a must. I was most determined to have it on my book cover, in fact. But that didn’t mean I was not turned into a mass of palpitating nerves when I thought about it.

I remember, the first time my name was uploaded on in connection with the translations of Savarkar’s poems in early 2010, a haze had come over my eyes. I had erroneously assumed the translations would be uploaded as anonymous. For almost two weeks I was trying to come to grips with seeing my name in public.

It was a ridiculous reaction in one aspiring to be an author! But there it is; logic and feelings are quite divorced from each other. How, I thought to myself, will I handle my author photo being publicly displayed? My mind shied away from giving answers.

I procrastinated till the very last minute to get my photo taken, which is not at all like me in general. One thing I had decided: I would go to a professional, established photographer, even if I had to pay a steep price. The photographer would have to work a little miracle for my photo, I was sure. Nancy Carbonaro was recommended to me, and with a racing heart I made the appointment.

I had very specific requirements (when do I not?) and issues that would have to be addressed while taking my photo:

·        I am not photogenic. That would certainly have to be overcome!

I have several family pictures that can—unhappily!—be described as “Monster from the Moon” or “Boiled Potato.” To have such a one for all to see would be a horror of the first order.

·        Alas! With all the good intentions I had, I had still not managed to lose weight.

·        The photo had to be natural and had to capture the essence of me.

I agonized over my jewelry (I love prominent necklaces.) I agonized over my hair. I agonized over the color of my top. In short, I agonized—over everything!

The photo shoot was an ordeal, but I was much comforted by the samples of Nancy’s photographic talents. All her photographs seemed to speak. It was as if she had captured her subjects for but a moment, any second they would move again. That’s how I want my photo, I told her (raising the difficulty level some more!)

And then I found myself posing in her studio. I felt ridiculous! I had to look here, look there; chin up, chin down; head turned here, eyes looking the other way; shoulders this way that way etc. All this I managed somewhat, but we did hit a snag at the smile!

I have never mastered the art of giving a teeny-tiny, graceful smile. Like in everything, I have to go the whole hog—with a full-toothed grin, all thirty-two teeth showing (as you can see!) I could have managed a serious expression (by thinking grim thoughts) but there was always a danger of bursting into giggles, possibly hysterical ones at finding myself modeling.

Anyway, we decided to go with the flow. Click, click, click went Nancy’s camera. Thump, thump, thump went my heart. She had allocated an hour for my session. How would I survive an hour of this? I was thinking. What if no photo looked acceptable (never mind good)?

Fifteen minutes into the session, when we were looking at the results of the last bout of clicking, I spotted the perfect photo. That’s it, I told Nancy, bag that and we are done. She felt she was not doing justice to me, with only a fifteen minute session.

But I knew it was never going to get better than that! I had never actually believed I would have a photo that I could display and look people in the eye afterwards. I was thrilled with Nancy’s work, which is why I put her name on the back cover!

It occurs to me now, that this post should really have gone in my “Divine Intervention” series.

But I so-o-o don’t want to think of my photo, that it escaped my mind. Very remiss of me!


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And More Divine Intervention. . . !

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Hi, Everyone! Right after I got the review, I sent out an email to all my contacts (some of whom I do not even know). In general I got a very good response, but one really stood out.

I got an email from Mr. Vishnu Pandya saying he would like to review my book in his column and prestigious magazines in India. I was most excited, even though at the time I didn’t know who he was. I hadn’t expected to get any such request at all. I sent out my book in a couple of days.

Very soon I discovered that Vishnuji was a prominent personality in Gujarat and an author of 92—yes, 92 . . .!—books. All of his books are either on revolutionaries, interesting people he came across, or political analysis, not light topics in other words. He has written in all forms too—novel, biography, drama, poetry, journalism, everything, really. Most impressive!

Even so, when he referred to Gandhi as a “saint” in our communication I couldn’t let it go without a protest. There is something about Gandhi being referred as a “saint” that gets my dander up instantly.

Feeling every bit conscious of the inappropriateness of contradicting someone senior to me in so many ways, I nevertheless wrote to him that calling Gandhi a “saint” was unacceptable to me for Gandhi’s politics were dirty and he was ever so far from being saintly (in so many ways!) I also gave some examples. I felt so sure he would find it offensive.

But I was entirely wrong! Far, far from getting offended, he actually lauded me for my research and frank speech . . . ! I could hardly believe it. And then he went on to ask if I would like to submit a “hard-hitting” article on Gandhi to be published in his book Gandhi, Sardar, ane Subhash which he had just that morning submitted to be printed. The book is in Gujarati, but he said he would get it translated there.

Really, I had to read that twice before it registered. You could have knocked me down with a feather. Unfortunately, I had no article on Gandhi ready to be submitted, and I had to write and tell him that.

What an honor that was, especially for a one-and-a-half-month old, one-book, unknown author like me! I was sitting there regretting my missed opportunity. And then it occurred to me: why should I not write one now?

I dislike writing articles. Writing or even researching on Gandhi is nothing short of torture. When I read the first research book on Gandhi (Keer’s), I put it on my kitchen table and circled around it for three days before I gathered the strength to read the first page. That should tell you what an ordeal I find it. But that didn’t even come in my mind now.

I was practically tripping over my feet in my rush to find a way into Vishnuji’s book. I quickly asked him for a couple of days’ time to write the article. He gave it willingly. Then somewhat hesitantly I said, “How many pages . . . ?” It is my experience that one has to curtail one’s creativity into so many words, a mighty difficult job. “Write as many pages as you like,” he said.

It certainly was a moment to fall down on my knees and thank God! I even pinched myself to see if I was perhaps dreaming it all.

 But then I had to get down to brass tacks. I decided to write a low-key article without expressing my opinion but letting the documentation speak for me. I surrounded myself by books with Gandhi documentation, ignored the sick feeling in my stomach that thoughts of Gandhi always bring and wrote furiously. It took me three days.

When I handed it to Vishnuji, he liked it so much he kept it in the original form, no translation into Gujarati! The book will even be released by the end of September and the targeted audience is the intellectuals of Gujarat.

Now, how many authors do you think get an opportunity like this? Most certainly connecting with Vishnuji is the latest Divine Intervention in my life, no doubt about it!


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My Very Own Miracle . . . !

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Hi, Everyone! The day dawned finally. My novel was released. I had been warned that it could take up to 6 weeks for my novel to be uploaded on the various websites. I had to be patient.

The very next day, I found my novel on the amazon site. That in itself was a small miracle. I loved the fact that the whole of my novel right up to the end of Chapter 1 is available for the reader to peruse. I also loved the fact that the novel can be downloaded on the computer.

On the morning of August 1, I was checking the links after having Googled my name. I came across this one that I had never seen before and clicked on it.

It was a book review . . . !! I simply couldn’t believe my eyes. Not only was it a review, it was a jolly good one.

This was Divine Intervention in capital letters. How many unknown authors can have experienced this?

How had Paige Lovitt picked up my book in the first place? I had not even started marketing my book yet. And that wonderful, wonderful review . . . !

It was a very humbling moment—and I am not much given to humility. I call it an Act of God, my very own miracle.

So, readers, you can see that Divine Intervention exists, all one needs is belief in God.

By that I don’t of course mean constantly praying and asking for things from God. That according to me is a big no-no.

And there is more . . .


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Oh Thank you, God . . . !

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Hi, Everyone! The whole editing process of my novel was a nightmare for me. I took forever to do it. For a while I felt I was stumbling around in a fog. I resubmitted it once again, and then I decided to do it one more time.

There was one scene that was really bothering me—Mohini’s death scene and also the Keshu-Mustafa scene that followed. In fact, at that point of time Mustafa had no name even! I was reduced to wringing my hands helplessly.

At that time, Christopher Manley was to come out and give me an estimate for a roof. I had been giving him the runaround for 3-4 months now, but the day of the appointment had dawned. Since my roof was in a sorry state, and he was giving a good deal for doing the roof immediately, I signed the contract.

For the next 3-4 days we were in constant contact scheduling the roof and going over other things. His customer was service was great, and here I was stuck over my scene. Well, before I knew it I had emailed to him the whole scene. Do give your suggestions, I wrote!! He must have been very taken aback, indeed.

But the very next day, I received feedback from him. That “SWOO-O-O-SH” was his idea. I loved it! He had made a couple of other observations. They were so perceptive. The scales fell from eyes, all in an instant.

Now I realized exactly what was wrong with my scene!

The scene flowed out now. Mustafa even got a name, so well did it go. This was certainly what DIs are made of!

This led almost immediately to another DI. The very next day, I had an appointment with Cameron Cunningham, my NY Life insurance agent. We had become quite friendly. Naturally, I told her all about this DI. Right away she offered to help in any way she could. But I had no more tough scenes. What I did need was someone to read the whole of my manuscript—and that fast—and give me feedback.

Immediately, Cameron said she would do it. I cautioned her that time was short, and I would really need her to read it fast. No problem, she said. And she did indeed read my manuscript in just four days.

Her feedback was so very critical! I not only utterly enjoyed her little appreciative exclamations, the little smiley faces, in the ‘comment’ bubble, but her observations were so discerning. It took me a few days to incorporate all of them, but it enriched my novel. Some of the things she suggested:

·        Putting citations/attributes re Gandhi during the Moplah riots period

·        Organizing my Author’s Notes so they would be readable

·        Highlighting the dates throughout the novel

·        She made me realize that I should clarify the Fatherland/Motherland difference re Hindustan. I was very impressed with the fact that she spotted it.

She also trimmed my vocabulary. There were a couple of words that I had been expecting to get axed at the Trafford editing level, and was relieved to find they had survived. But they didn’t make it past Cameron’s sharp eyes. With a heavy heart I removed them. They are:

·        Sangfroid; I had to change that to cool. To me it just doesn’t say the same thing. But I let it go. It was better to use a word that spoke to the reader, rather than to me.

·        I had written in the 1946 period the words “wrangling and brangling.” I really liked them. I knew that ‘brangling’ is old English, but surely (I felt) one little, little word will be okay to use? Nope! Out that went too.

So you see, how essential was Cameron’s feedback?

I really felt—feel—God was watching out over me. My cup of Dis was brimming over and yet there was more to come . . . !


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More of the Divine Intervention

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Hi, Everyone! Finding all the books was no less a DI! Fortunately, I snapped up the books as quickly as I found them online. Some of them disappeared later—Keer’s biography on Gandhi for one!

My India trip, too, was scheduled long before I had thought of writing a novel. In fact, I even had my tickets in hand before that. That trip turned out to be a research and material collecting trip rather than a family visit for me! There were a vast number of books that I bought from the Swatantryaveer Savarkar Smarak without which the whole of Part II would have been impossible to write.

I count it amongst my DI that my India trip was so well-timed. I was supposed to have gone the year before, but had cancelled for a particular reason.

In this 2009 visit, I was hoping to visit the Cellular Jail. There are regular flights to Port Blair from Chennai and I was visiting my sister there. But it didn’t work out—July-August are off-season months, the weather is terrible, and a host of other reasons that seemed inconsequential were presented to me. When I heard that my sister’s friend, who ran a hotel in the Andaman Islands, vouched for the veracity of all this, I acquiesced, not wanting to make an undue fuss.

And so, in my visit in 2011 the plan of visiting the CJ was nowhere in my scheme of things. One evening, while having a very good time at my sister’s friends’ party, I suddenly realized my host to whom I was chummily chatting was the one who had nixed my CJ trip. In my (perhaps regrettable) outspoken manner, I blurted out, “Hey, you were the one who prevented me from going to the CJ!” The poor guy was quite taken aback.

One thing led to another, and when he understood what the purpose of my trip was, he said there should be no problem for me to go there. (Right there and there, I got the okay from my sister who would have to take care of my three kids when I was away.) He then made all the arrangements for me, and one moment I was in Chennai and the next in Port Blair.

Both my novel and I would have missed much without this enriching experience of visiting the CJ. I definitely count it in the DIs.


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Divine Intervention for my novel!

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Hi, Everyone! And as I started on my journey of writing from zero (or was it minus?) position, I could see the impracticality, the improbability, the utter impossibility of it all. I just wasn’t going to knuckle under to that pressure, that’s all.

But while my head was floating in the clouds, I had my feet planted on Mother Earth at all times. It was clear to me that if I was going to make it, I was most certainly going to need—perhaps even a truckload?—some Divine Intervention.

I have said many times that I have a deepbelief and faith in God. So for me Divine Intervention is a reality. It exists. I am also ever the optimist; my glass is always half full, never half empty.

To come to the point, I am going to present to you all the list of the Divine Interventions (DI) that I was incredibly lucky enough to experience.

The very first of my DI occurred almost immediately upon my making tracks upon my journey. I knew I needed help from people who knew more about Savarkar. I also needed to feel connected.

But who? And how? These were the big Qs!!

I am (or perhaps was is the more correct word) a shrinking violet when it comes to contacting strangers. But I had no choice. I had been avidly devouring all the information provided in and been eyeing their ‘contact us’ button very longingly. One and a half month went by before I had the courage to dash off an email saying that I was writing a novel on Savarkar and intending to visit India in the summer, would they suggest someone to contact for research help? (I can’t put in words what it cost me to write those feeble lines.)

I got a reply almost immediately with Mr. Joglekar’s (who was visiting the U.S. at the time) email ID and a question re what my novel was about. I did give a moment to wonder why I was not given any contact in India as I had asked—but really, I was so-o-o-o excited at the info (for it was Mr. Joglekar’s book on Savarkar that had set me on this path) that I didn’t care. I gushed out a reply full of enthusiasm, particularly mentioning my intention to reveal the truth of Gandhi.

This time the reply was very warm and I received two precious contact infos: Dr. Arvind Godbole and Dr. Shreerang Godbole.

I was over the moon! Dr. Arvind Godbole had been Savarkar’s physician and Dr. Shreerang Godbole . . . ! What can I say? I had read his terrific article on Savarkar (chockful of details as his articles always are) and had actually wished that I could meet him and tap all the info I felt he had on Savarkar.

There wasn’t any sign of ‘shrinking’ or a ‘violet’ as I rushed to write him an email. He seemed most willing to help too! He turned out to be a team member . . . ! (what were the odds . . . ?) It was at this time that I read another of his articles.

Time seemed to stand still for me (I admit I have a melodramatic turn of phrase.) Every point he made (very boldly and satirically too!) was like a point on the plot line of my novel. He seemed to me to be of the same mind as me where Savarkar was concerned. Literally the words Kindred Soul came to my mind.

There and then I made up my mind to hang on to him for all I was worth. He was a complete stranger; I knew nothing of him, and yet I felt I knew him.

He has been of infinite help throughout the writing of my novel. It was he who pushed—yes, pushed (or maybe dragged, kicking and screaming)—me into translating Savarkar’s poems. I was sure I couldn’t do it, he was just as sure I could. It is he who gave me the opportunity to become a team member and do research and writing for the website. I much appreciate the opportunity of doing this for Savarkar.

I have dedicated my novel to him, Dr. Shreerang Godbole, for it was inconceivable to me to dedicate it to anyone else.

What is it but Divine Intervention that out of this whole wide world I should come upon the one person who is of the same mind as me re Savarkar?

More tomorrow,


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