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I don’t write to a pattern: Author Shobha Nihalani

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Author Shobha Nihalani says she does not write to a pattern but that has not come in the way of her churning five hugely successful novels. Her novels have mystery and conspiracy as the common theme. She is quite a citizen of the world, having lived in places as diverse as Singapore, Mumbai, Hong Kong.

“There’s no particular pattern, but I am either thinking about the story or writing it down whenever I have time. It could be a chapter or a page or a character development,” Nihalani told the agency in an email interview from Hong Kong, where she is now settled.

“I don’t have a 9-to-5 job, but I do work part-time in our family-owned company as a boy-keeper. I am also a housewife which involves family and social responsibilities”, she said.

It is perhaps this diversity of existence that has led Nihalani to deliver to the literary world works like “Karmic Blues” (her debut novel that was first published in Danish), “The Silent Monument” (also translated into Danish), two of the “NINE” trilogy and now “Unresolved” (Hachette, pp 286, price Rs.350).

“The common thread in all these stories is that they are based on mysteries or conspiracies. ‘Karmic Blues’ carries references to past life regression, ‘The Silent Monument’ mentions conspiracies surrounding the historical facts of the Taj Mahal. The conspiracy of ‘NINE’ refers to the oldest secret society, the protectors of powerful knowledge. And in ‘Unresolved’, I have implied that there are influential people who kill those who demand transparency using the RTI Act,” she said.

How did Nihalani get started as a writer?

“It was the love for the written word. Back in the 1980s, as a teenager in Mumbai, I would accumulate newspaper snippets of well-written, entertaining articles. In addition, I had a little notebook and wrote down quotes or phrases that were so beautifully written… I had to save them.”

The snippets, articles and the notebook entries – all helped in Ninhalani’s role as a writer.

“Later, when I studied in Antwerp for my bachelor’s degree, one of the requirements was to write an essay for an economics course. I chose to write an economic assessment of India during British Rule. A family relative helped me gain access to the Fergusson College library in Pune.

“While I researched, I also spent many long hours completely lost in the dusty volumes of Indian history inside that architecturally beautiful library. It was one of the most memorable times of my life. I guess that’s when the seed was planted to become a writer,” Nihalani explained.

How did her global journey come about?

“My parents loved to travel a lot. My childhood and growing up years were spent in six cities in four different continents. It was only after marriage that I planted roots and settled down,” she said.

What then has she gained from her global journey? “There are many snapshots of memories that have enriched my life,” she replied.

In Kano, in Nigeria, she has “memories of bloody feudal wars between ethnic groups”.

“In Bengaluru, travelling to school on the cycle-rickshaw in the cool mornings, spending time with neighbours as we would cycle around the colony. In Singapore, I was finding it difficult to adjust to school life and spent most of my time reading books”.

“Next stop, Mumbai, this was the city where I finally felt I had developed roots and made some good friends. There was the laid-back college life. Bunking was part of the scene which meant sitting with friends at Marine Drive, eating street food, discussing the philosophies of life and the changing trends,” Nihalani elaborated.

The most memorable part of Mumbai, “was the monsoon… the smells, the sounds, and the cool breeze. Also, from our high-rise apartment, I would watch oncoming sheets of rain forming curtains across the sea… it was a visual pleasure”, Nihalani said.

On moving to Antwerp, the one thing that really hit her was the quiet.

“The sparsely populated streets, as compared to Mumbai, were so empty, it felt strange. The lack of noise was so distinct, it took time to adjust. But then I slowly developed a liking for the solitude and walked for hours exploring the city.

“The changing seasons were so distinct it was a marvel to watch the trees blossom in spring and change with the passing months, turning into gnarled branches in the winter. There was many a ghost story that came to mind during the dark cold months. In Hong Kong, my journey took on a new turn with marriage and a whole new life developed from there on,” the author said.

What of the future?

“Definitely more reading and writing”, Nihalani concluded.(IANS)(image-twitter)

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

Also Read: Social Media in India: Understanding The Dynamics of ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’

Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

Also Read: Quoting WhatsApp message renders ‘delete’ feature ineffective

First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

Also Read: Facebook to ‘Signal’ news gathering for journos

An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)