Learning From Every Day Life

Few months back, I sent my manuscript to an editor and I got it back with lot of encouraging words and some areas where I need to ‘Show Vs Tell’.
As a first time author with no literature background, I am hell bent on ‘learning as I write’. This is taking me longer to complete my first novel, but I know I am working on my foundation as a writer and it is more gratifying.
After having studied the basics for ‘Show Vs Tell’, I still wanted more clarity for content to flow to me naturally in relation to my characters. During my normal course of day to day activities and meeting I tried to find cues but noting was as clear as a scene that made things crystal clear for me…


I am sure many first time authors will agree with me when I say, I find sometimes that the best writing coach is life. Lessons learnt from everyday life are seldom forgotten!
For a week, I scrutinized most of my conversation to analyze where I was telling and where was I showing, still it was not very clear. I wanted clear examples and not from books!
Today was memorable. A new team member had joined and I went out for lunch with her and 4 other team members. I noticed the body language and language of all. ‘Give me a drag’ – said one to another as the newcomer looked on and learnt the casual comfort level between the two.
As she looked on, the two girls were discussing the menu. ‘You will have what I tell you. I want the steak. Share it with me.’ She absorbed that one dominated the other to the point of taking complete control including the choice of food. I was looking at the group from her perspective.
Instead of me sitting and telling everything about each team member, she actually could see. We all showed her in that one hour. A team member turned to me and said, ‘No use asking you. You will not eat Fish, Mutton, Mushrooms… does that leave anything worthwhile in the menu? Anyway whatever you order, I am sure more than half will be left when we leave’ very effectively it showed that I am extremely picky in food and have a small appetite without actually saying those words. And it also showed the very close bond I shared with that girl.


A very meaningful lesson absorbed well today. Seeing from the perspective of the new girl, it helped so much to learn this important lesson of fiction writing…
We as authors have a way of life.  I for instance, sometimes experience life in scenes in front of me, around me and sometimes am so absorbed in my own thought process, that I feel I am a part of some ‘fiction’ myself…. Sometimes it baffles me. Sometimes it’s enriching.
I think what helps more is to just sit and observe people. Anywhere. People study, helps. In a coffee shop, at a party, gas station, restaurant, anywhere. Grasp what we learn from their actions. How people we don’t know, give away so much by their actions and words.
Now, it’s time review a scene of my book and change the ‘Tell’ to and ‘Show’ !!

Conflict – Essence of Fiction writing

Write a good mushy novel, where everyone is perfect, everything is immaculate and there is no conflict… I am sure, the reader would hardy make it to page 25, if they don’t already throw the book off before that. Without conflict, a work of fiction is what it shouldn’t be, extremely boring.

Conflicts like creeps need to jump at your readers, and grip them at the most unexpected turn, and make them glued to the pages to know what happens next.  Even better,  give a slight feel of what’s in store, to let them yearn for more!

There are many ways to add conflict. Microscopic view of a few here –

Make the character face internal conflict – turmoil, want, greed, ethics, anything where they are internally torn and don’t know which way to go. This will add internal conflict. This will also emotionally connect the reader to the character.
I make my protagonist fall for a man in a situation where she should hold herself back.  How she reacts determines her future. The inner turmoil she goes through while she makes her decision makes my reader connect with her.

Outer influences on my characters, give them external conflict. The macro world of my novel. The external forces, posing choices for my characters. How they deal with them will again add conflict.

Hooked to a place? My character may have strong affinity to a place and putting them in a situation where they can neither stay there nor leave, will add place conflict. However, they need to have enough reason for that conflict.

Similarly, opposing personalities can add conflict. The interactions, motivations and clashes can add enough conflict. It should not be a war situation all the time, but different personalities at cross-roads with conflicting ideas can add conflict interestingly.

Each chapter should have a conflict at various level. We need to control the pace of the conflict throughout the novel so as not to exhaust the reader and give them a breather… the phases, when everything sails smoothly and looks perfect, before another conflict hits them.

Baby Steps – My Journey To Publication

Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life –  Robert Louis Stevenson

I think the tenor of my life changed with the advent of the Iranian revolution, when as a ten year old I lost the exuberance of childhood and the warmth of my loved ones.

Urma, my protagonist was born the moment I exited Iran – a country that was not my birthplace, and yet my home. The first sketch of Urma was etched on the paper during the summer of 1989 and yet lost in the vagaries of everyday life, as I jostled studies, career, marriage and later motherhood.

It was yet another life changing moment that drove home my father’s advice of following one’s dreams, aspiring and working towards achieving them. Urma, again rose like a phoenix from the tangle of my everyday existence, nurtured by a lot of love, labour and sacrifice.  And not to forget the frustration that seemed to stretch till eternity as words eluded me. After five laborious years, the Urma that lived in my mind metamorphed into a novel.

Before delving on the novel itself, I would like to answer a question that I have been often asked i.e. why Iran of all places. My answer is…

I remember walking with my dad, mom & sisters on Pehlvi Street, Tehran eating my favourite – bastani falioda.

I remember our Iranian friends, so very cultured and yet extremely modern.

I remember huge sacs of fresh pistachios that landed at our doorstep by happy patients of father.

I remember the lazy coastal town of Chaloos that I had fallen in love with – one of the most beautiful places with green mountains on one side of the road and caspian on the other.

I love Iran and I have extreme adulation for their culture. That was Iran as it existed and Iranians as I knew them. I wanted people to have a glimpse of that Iran which is only a history today.

Coming to the book, my protagonist Urma Behdad is a strong woman whose life gets unwittingly changed by the course of history.  People love and lose yet love again. Only, Urma is different. Her emotional clock stopped with the revolution of Iran as she fled the country without her love.  The book traces her life in the backdrop of the revolution.

All my women characters are strong and successful. I believe, strength is inherent to women and I always celebrate being a woman myself. But the world is rife with women who are overburdened with troubles, unfavorable circumstances, lack of opportunities, oppression or external forces like wars etc. I truly believe that a woman has the power of rising above her circumstances. She only needs to reconnect with her inner strength and sometimes one needs a catalyst to do that. Urma, is written with the perspective of providing that inspiration. This book is dedicated to all those Urma’s who have loved and lost and have never found love again!

The manuscript during the publishing phase, reached hands of Gen. Sec. of Urdu Press Club, India and her got my permission to translate it into Urdu with the aim of inspiring many more people. It was done in a record time and a limited edition hard bound was released along with English in India. Urdu Press Club has nominated it for an award to be announced in November.

This is today. But my baby steps towards publication didn’t have only ‘ups’ and smiles.… there have been many ‘downs’ as well! ‘Down’ during my writing phase, when my mind was plagued with writers block and I couldn’t write for weeks. And when I finished writing my novel, the next ‘down’ was the critique from my editor in California giving me a set of instructions that sounded Greek to me as I am an MBA and an advertising professional and not a trained writer. Writing was a need for me. So, I enrolled in the London School of Journalism to make sense of it all and learn the craft of writing. It was a great decision, I think. Then I wrote the drafts again. And was euphoric when my editor gave a go ahead too. Next ‘down’- set of rejections pouring from agents in UK and US with various reasons… either the project was not what they were looking for or the backdrop of Iran was too sensitive for them.

Either way, they were rejections. And then, I decided to print myself. So I did research and self published on Amazon through CreateSpace. Meanwhile I kept querying other publishers from India and around the same time I found a publisher in India, interested in publishing my manuscript but he was not a big publisher to be able to distribute worldwide. Hence, I gave him rights for India and Middle East. I found a distributor locally. So, the books reached the stores and I had a great launch in India with well-known dignitaries and in Dubai by the Indian Consul to UAE and well received. Book signing and road shows waiting in September. For me, a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing turned out to be a great learning experience. Being a control freak, in publishing also, I am taking baby steps – so, I am focusing on local market and India for now. I gave up looking for a publisher in UK and US as the markets are out of reach for me. I am still querying for an agent, and unless I find a good agent to represent me, I will not touch other markets. I will visit Women Fiction Writers conference in Matera to find agents for publishing it in Italian.

I believe in ‘today’ and what fuels my drive is my fear of the line -‘if tomorrow never comes’ and this keeps me going. I try to pack as much as I can in my ‘today’.

Deeba breathes advertising during the day and writes at night. She lives in Dubai, UAE with her husband, three kids and one hyperactive Maltese. She spent her childhood in Iran, where her father worked as an ENT surgeon. She has first-hand experience of the Shah’s reign and the Iranian revolution. This gives her a unique sense of perspective into the events that unfolded and of course having lived in Iran, she has had the chance of closely observing the Iranian society and its culture.

Hello Yesterday

A day at a time

I soak and feel.

A moment shared

what a steal.

I see you there

with a tear in your hand.

I look at you and across

I turn away to pass

yet you hold

you  –  my yesterday.

So I say,

hello yesterday.

Once my tomorrow,

and then my today

but now,

just my yesterday.

Didn’t I tie you too to that pier?

You, but you did break alas,

To reach you,

I need to blend to yesterday.

So I stand affirm

look ahead

for tomorrow that

await too, to melt to yesterday!

Insipid stroll of my capricious heart

Basking in the memory

I stroll for a mile

eyes heavy

head bent low

yet a faded smile

at the corner of my lips

and an arch on my brow

Leaves changed, green to yellow

yellow to orange and back to green

mono to dialogue to conversations

black to red my hair, though nothing lack

I walk picking stones that before I have seen

am I retracing or going farther away

reach out and hold my capricious heart

and turn away, away from that insipid shack

Waves of Life

Life is handed to us in waves,

alternating high and low.

After plummeting

my heart soared

and now back at equilibrium.

A tender calm.

No more screams within.

A moment,

when heartbeat is in sync

with the mind.

The breath is deep

and slow and I can feel it

complementing my heartbeat.

A tender yet rare serene moment

to focus on my internal peace.

Before life hits

the next high or a low again.

A moment to re-connect with my soul.

In stillness,

I live it, lest this too shall pass!

This moment floats over each one of us

once in a while,

and it’s up to us to relish or to relinquish!


Opulence of inner peace

is a state of perfection

set by our own mind

I want to evolve today

evolve tomorrow

and forever…

I hold myself

embrace and caress

my own mind

Life feels too short

Today maybe forever

Forever may never be

So I ignite a thought

soak self with hues

within and all around

a state of peace

not just perceived

but strongly

believed with here and now

Memory – (un)LOCK

Till I completed my novel URMA, I was sure of having spent my entire childhood in Iran, a country I have extreme adulation for. This is a given I grew up with. And then, came questions for interviews and I had to answer questions about my childhood never raised before. Never had to be answered accurately. I remember my parents returned when I had completed 12th and I came to India when I was in year 4. I left India when I was in year 1. Other than this, I did not calculate much. Was never needed. Never thought numbers were of any importance.  But when I counted years on my fingers, they didn’t seem as much as I had always felt them to be. I was confused, yet I brushed it aside. Then, a dear friend shot me point blank saying what are you talking so much about your childhood in Iran? Count on your fingers and they aren’t even double figures. After all, you stayed 3 years initially and then if you calculate all holidays together – still they do not add up to a double figure. I didn’t have much to offer in explanation. I just let it pass. But I couldn’t take it off my mind. I just couldn’t detach. It was like a bullet had hit right through my heart. No one had ever questioned my devotion to the country I love. I had never questioned so much myself as to why I had such feelings myself, right up till that moment.

But my friend was right in a sense. For a normal human being it might not be such a big deal as may be it was in my case. A few things are extremely personal. And one does not want to justify them either. However, it just weighs too much on your heart to let it pass.

I know of one of our Iranian friend who got married to an Indian and stays in India now with her sons. Though she is an Iranian herself, her sons do not speak Persian and I do not think, visited Iran again. I would think, and maybe I am wrong, do not have any memories of Iran though they also spent childhood in Iran and their own mother is Iranian. Why me then? I wondered. I sat and revisited my childhood again. I was restless and I needed an answer for my own peace.

I got an answer in my childhood, in the way I was separated from my parents. I read a lot after my friend had posed that question to me and had added to it that I do not remember such details of that age. I read research papers on childhood memory and amnesia and its clear that a child’s earliest memories can be way back till the age of 3 years and prior to that is called childhood amnesia. Also, it’s an individual capacity to remember specific details. Another factor is gender. Females score higher on details remembered. More important is the parent-child relationship.

I sat and thought with a heavy heart. A part of me that I had killed and buried, I revisited. All my holidays spent in mountains of Iran. I remember a car journey of over a 1000 km every holiday. The rest of the days in India, I would only strike the days off the calendar to go back again. We as a family were extremely influenced by Iran’s culture. When we returned, the culture was kept alive in our home. My sister who was born in Iran, but brought-up in India, speaks Persian fluently. We mostly speak Persian at home. Mom prepares Persian food at home and the only anecdotes and stories we have heard are those of Iran and Iranians. You can call it obsession or whatever. We truly are a unique lot, I must say and my husband is a witness to it and I am sure, it took him a while to adjust to us. Now he also speaks a few phrases of Persian and we eat the Persian food. Not only that, my daughter has a fancy for the language and is learning from me because she is fascinated when I speak with my sister and mom and she wants to join the conversation. And all this happened much before my novel, URMA took shape.

Today, I come across as an extrovert. I remember that I was depressed as a child. Then, couple of years back, I dug my old diaries and stumbled upon one which was dated 1989 and in that, besides the pages of Urma dated back then, I found a part of me. It was like re-introduction with my old self. I had been so depressed that I had no hope from my life. Life really is like waves – low and high, low and high again.

In my diary, I found a child who found the most beautiful life and just when it was perfect, it got snatched away from her. I found a child who scribbled with that state of mind. Being an obedient child, she could not express her displeasure. She adapted. After every summer holiday she returned to the country to attend school without her family and without her sisters. That pain can be only experienced and not expressed. And again, this is different to different people. One might not be so affected. I had forgotten how affected I was – till I found myself in those pages dated back, in 1984, 1986, 1989.

Grandparents were never harsh, they were wonderful and the most loving people one could imagine and I was under the best care possible. Will be indebted for all the values they have ingrained in me. However, here we are talking of an internal vacuum for parental love alone that cannot be compensated by anything else.

I hope someday my friend reads this and realizes that one discussion raised a tsunami of questions in my mind and I couldn’t concentrate on anything till I satisfied my quest for my past.

I also learnt, love and attachments do not have a reason and one should topple things in the way trying to justify them. What is, will remain – etched. We just select a part of our memory – a drop at a time. Sometimes a part that soothes us and at others a part that perturbs us. That’s how sometimes we have happy dreams and at others nightmares.

May we have lovely dreams ahead to cherish and look back upon 10 years hence?

(P.S.: Images are not mine and courtesy image owners and for illustration purposes only)



A voice in my ears…

a thump in my heart

an aura around

yet all hazy

right from the start.

Yet was mendable

I thought.

I saw its gleam

and felt salvo in my veins.

But was anything ever there?

or was it only in my tears?

Did anything ever exist ?

or only in my mind it persist?

I raise my hand

and close my eyes

and I feel it there…

But that is all,

I chose to live with.

Vague halos, vague forms

That is all…

yet that’s more than a myth…

A mind form complete

for an elusive me.


Floating in the sky

From ground zero straight up high

Palms facing up, head held high

Smog all around

Till I entered the clouds

And then

As I stretched my empty hands

Felt nothing.

As all was lost

Finger tips ached to hold

Yet were left empty to fold

I opened my eyes and felt

Reality is far too cold

From straight up high

Back to ground zero in rain

Euphoria is over

Time to peg away again

Sick of pointee that I’m in clover!