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Tue, 9 Sep, 2014, Jayanthi Madhukar, Bangalore Mirror

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We have heard of mock meats (soya disguised as chicken and bacon) but this one surely takes the cake. Singer Radha Thomas, in an attempt to stay off carbs, has been experimenting with cauliflower, using the vegetable in place of sooji, rice or even wheat. So, from upma (show in the picture), bisibelebath, biscuits, mashed potatoes, biryani, pongal and thaiyirsadham, Thomas’ disbelieving friends have been the targets of her covert floret operation. But no one’s complaining and the curd rice has even become a huge hit. Thomas, who has been writing down the recipes with an idea of bringing out a book later, uses 20 cauliflowers a week. That’s a feat in itself.

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THE HINDU, Swati Daftuar, August 24, 2014, New Delhi

Radha Thomas’s new book, “More Men on My Mind” continues to intrigue, entertain and, surprisingly, educate

With her first book, “Men on my Mind”, Radha Thomas spun a story that was both fresh and exciting. The sequel, recently published, takes the story forwarded, its protagonist journeying through exotic locations and meeting a few, or many, new men. Once again, Thomas conjures up an image that speaks of independent, free spirited women.

Excerpts from an interview:

A little about writing the sequel, and the development of the plot?

The original book, ‘Men On My Mind,’ introduced the lead character, still a little girl around seven years, and goes on to follow her antics and acrobatics till she’s in her twenties. And just when she thinks life can’t get more hazardous, along comes the next chapter of life which is revealed in, ‘More Men On My Mind.’ Her experiences grow in complexity and she meets all sort of challenges. It’s not just her sex life, which the book sort of focuses on, but also the various other influences that go towards the shaping of her character.

Could you elaborate a little on the whys behind the book and the story? Why did you choose to write what you do, and why do you think it is relevant to today’s context, and more specifically, women?

Hmm. I like comedy, humour and writing. So the best way to put it all together seemed to me to be in the form of a book. I used to write a column called, ‘Between The Sexes,’ for The Bangalore Monthly, and it was kind of popular. The book grew out of the column and also life around me. Humour is always relevant. Sex is always relevant. And relationships, hopes, dreams and so on are timeless topics as long as there are men and women doing the dating dance. So in that sense it’s not a topical subject.

I didn’t think much about making an impact on women or any other interest group really. I didn’t really think I had any sort of authority to lead anyone, women or men, this way or that. But oddly, since the first book came out, and now with the second one, I find many people relating to the main character, relating to the incidents, finding themselves in one form or shape somewhere in the book. It’s nice to know that I can touch people, although it’s hard to believe.

And a bit about the places your plot visits? What kind of research went into it?

I have actually been to all the places mentioned in my book. But I had to refresh my memory quite a bit before writing, because the memory is not as reliable as Google! The funny thing is that things you remember vividly may have never actually happened, or places you visualise in a particular way actually are very different. So research is a crucial and critical part of my books to make the places come alive the way they ought to. I don’t write a thing without research, spell checks, grammar checks, punctuation checks and so on. I used to edit a lot of copy for the company I worked for, Explocity, so I’m used to it.

Could you talk a little bit about how you see Indian women’s fiction, for and from, evolving?

In a way I am ashamed to say his, but it’s been a while since I read someone else’s work. Not because I don’t like it or don’t want to, but merely because I have been writing my own material for a few years and until I finish the trilogy, I don’t want my thoughts or words coloured by someone else’s. So I can’t comment on other people.

One could easily think, based solely on the blurb, that the entire book is about is sex. But it isn’t. Could you talk a little bit about the issues you have tried to look at?

Life can be great entertainment… or a horrible nightmare… or something in between. As a writer, a humour writer, I’ve tried to bring ‘the funny’ into situations that may actually be sad. I’ve tried to have fun with words, with situations and with people. In a way, you kind of feel like god, manipulating this character and ticking off that. It’s enormously rewarding to be able to control people so. I am kidding of course. While I plan chapters and plots and so on before writing, very often thoughts and scenes just flow out of me before I can stop them. When that happens I feel enormously happy. And there are other days when nothing happens at all. I question my creativity in those times. But the book is about conflict, resolution, temporary fixes and moving on with life, ready for the next battle.

How does your music play into the way you write, if at all? Do you see a connection, a common creative source?

Most definitely music is an integral part of my life and it is because of music that I’ve actually been able to do many of the things I actually have. I write a lot of songs too and although it’s a very different discipline, I’m certain there’s a connection. Some days I like writing more than I do singing, and others, it’s just the opposite. Hard to tell from day to day. But I am fortunate to be able to do both. Very fortunate.

 

 

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NAW- When did your literary journey begin? At what age did you discover that you wanted to write?

I must have been six or seven when I first started to write poems. If I remember right, I moved on to writing songs. I didn’t start writing prose seriously till later, and I had no real plans to write a book… or three for that matter.

I used to write a column called ‘Between The Sexes,’ for The Bangalore Monthly, which sort of set the stage for the books.

NAW- Tell us about your book ‘Men on My Mind.’ Were you focussing on a particular market when you decide to write it?

No I wasn’t. I’m not up on ‘markets’ and ‘demographics’ and ‘age-groups’ and other distinctions that I understand are important for business. For me, writing has to be real. I’m not trying to touch anyone’s heart either, only their funny bone. I like writing humour and mildly sexual humour interests me. We take things too seriously around here. Someone has to keep things light or we’ll become a bunch of thud-brains.

NAW- The protagonist doesn’t mind sleeping around before she can find the right man. The book is a pacey and nice read but the ending sort of fizzled out, did you do it deliberately so there would be scope for a sequel?

The point of the book is that the protagonist needs to sleep around so she can find the right man. In fact, in America, where the book is mostly set, it is a legal requirement. They tell you this at immigration when you arrive. “You must sleep around before you get married. We are trying to improve our divorce statistics.”

The ending was deliberate. Not a fizzle but a sizzle. It was a deliberate cliff-hanger if you will, since a) there was another book coming out, and b) how long can you make one book? I didn’t want it to become an eight-hundred page paperweight.

My just-released new book, a sequel, ‘More Men On My Mind’ picks up where ‘Men On My Mind’ leaves off. So there is a definitive method to my madness.

NAW- How did you come up with the title? Who designed the cover?

The title? Hmmm, it kind of popped into my head and the publishers liked it too. The artwork was entirely conceived of by the designers at Rupa. They have a great team.

NAW- Tell us about yourself? What do you do when you are not writing books?

Besides catching a ton of TV, I’m also a jazz singer. Have been for many years. I have a band called UNK: The Radha Thomas Ensemble. I perform with them sometimes. I also perform with just a piano player at times. It all depends. I just returned from a jazz festival in Romania. I’ve been singing much longer than I’ve been writing actually, so being an author is kind of new for me. When you perform with a band you’re subject to the whims and what nots of the other members of the band. Writing gives you your own space. It’s a different feeling. Aside from my own books I review other people’s books and write the occasional column. I used to work for a publishing house called Explocity, but I’m kind of stepping back from that to focus on writing and singing some more.

NAW- Did you carry out any research for the book? If yes, then how did you go about it?

Oh research is everything. Fortunately there’s Google, where you can dig up anything and everything. The story came from my head, but it’s set in places that I’ve been to but mostly forgotten. So refreshing my memory was a key part of making the story credible.

NAW- What are you reading right now?

I can’t read other people’s books while I’m writing my own. Just like I can’t listen to other people’s music when I’m trying to compose a song. It’s intrusive and there’s every chance that my creativity will be compromised. I’m working on my third book so basically that means research.

NAW- Please name your favourite authors.

PJ O’Rourke, PG Wodehouse, William Safire, Dr Peter Mark Roget. Noah Webster. I am certain all of them have influenced me. Especially Peter and Noah.

NAW- What are your upcoming projects?

My third book. My second album. Hopefully more concerts. But since I’m not driven to compete, I like the idea that I can sit around doing nothing hoping serendipity will fall on my head.

 

NAW Interview with Radha Thomas

November 24, 2013

Swati Daftuar, The Hindu, Chennai, Metro Plus

Radha Thomas. Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

Writer and musician Radha Thomas on authoring a trilogy, juggling different creative pursuits and being part of The Hindu Lit for Life

Radha Thomas seems to have done it all, or at least a lot. After writing a column on the sexes, putting together her jazz band, UNK: The Radha Thomas Ensemble and handling the post of executive vice-president at Explocity.com, Thomas is now authoring a trilogy on the “endless topic” of men. Men On My Mind, published by Rupa, is the first part of the trilogy. Excerpts from an interview:

It’s a varied career, yours, with the band, the column and your work in publishing, and now the trilogy. Tell us a little about the creative process behind these different pursuits?

Hmmm, let’s see. The music involves other people so the artistic process is collaborative, loud and interactive. That’s when you’re rehearsing. But when you’re on stage, it kind of all falls away, at least for me it does, and you’re alone with the microphone and the audience. It’s great fun. When you write it’s totally from within your head. A quiet space where you can call on your ghosts — real and imagined — to create a tale. But writing is also addictive. Once you’re in the zone, it’s hard to come out to face day-to-day.

Men On My Mind feels like a logical progression from the column you used to write forBangalore Monthly. Tell us a little bit about the conception of the book. And the reason for a trilogy.

The concept is a spin on the column Between the Sexes that I wrote for the Bangalore Monthly for sure, but it’s a completely different take. This is a story with a protagonist who wanders the world looking for happiness. It’s also not chick-lit by any means, even though it’s been slotted in that category for some reason, maybe the pink cover! It’s more ‘adult humour’, I’d say. This may sound trite, but Rupa asked for a trilogy and I simply said yes. I had no idea how I’d do it. But I like challenges, deadlines, structure and rules. So I just planned it out and it fell into place. Book Two will be out in April.

Juggling work, music and writing, is it easy?

I love it. I find the two disciplines complement each other quite seamlessly. So after the intensity of rehearsals and a live performance with its highs followed by the low when it’s all over, it’s nice to settle down to some dreamy sessions in my mind. I don’t know if I make sense here, but it feels right.

It’s probably an unfair question to ask, but if you had to, which would you say satisfies your creative urges best, music, or writing? Or is there an intersection, a sort of coming together?

If I were to be totally honest, I’ve been a singer much longer than I’ve been an author. I’m getting used to being an author. I’ve never been to a literary festival and wonder how I’m going to fit in with all the intellect that I’m going to encounter. I’m nervous about it. But fortunately, I’m also performing there with the band, so it should calm me down a bit. But I get nervous before a performance too. So all in all maybe I should carry some Valium. Kidding.

What takeaways are you hoping for, from The Hindu Lit for Life?

First of all I’m honoured to be associated with The Hindu. It’s always been a newspaper that doesn’t take things lightly. So more than a takeaway, I hope I can give something meaningful to the people who attend the Lit Fest.

 

 

 

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By Aishwariya Laxmi

On 8 September 2013, I went to attend the book discussion of ‘Men on my mind’ by Radha Thomas at Urban Solace, Ulsoor. This was my second visit to this charming cafe that clearly lives up to its name. I’d been here earlier for the book discussion of “Days of Gold and Sepia’ and had the opportunity to interact with the author Yasmeen Premji then.

This time, I was even more excited ‘coz the genre ‘chick lit’ (that ‘Men on my mind’ falls into) is really close to my heart. As I firmly believe, the next best thing to sitting with a really close girlfriend and having a chat is reading a good chick lit novel. They fulfil the same need that lies at the heart and soul of every girl—the need for a BFF.


And reading ‘Men on my mind’ was a fun ride ‘coz every line made me want to laugh out loud and nod knowingly at the author even before I’d met her. The tone is wickedly funny and the book is light, breezy, hilarious, and fun.

Radha Thomas has led a rich life replete with unique experiences and has savoured a slice of different cultures across the globe. While she admits that some of the characters in her book may have been loosely based on the different men she’s come across during her travels, she is quick to add that none of these men seem to have realized that fact. She clarifies that the book is based on fantasy and the use of memories and incidents to tell a tale.

When asked “Do you believe that women always have men on their mind”? , she wisely answered:
“Well, that depends on your age. At some times in life, men matter more than at other times. When you are a little girl, they matter all the time.”

The idea for this book germinated when she was writing a column called ‘Between the sexes’ for The Bangalore Monthly to indulge in a bit of good-natured male bashing. Once she had written 10-20 pieces, she spoke to someone in Rupa publications and was told that rather than string together a series of columns, she would do well to write a book from scratch. Talking about the writing process, Radha says once she started writing, it all just flowed out.

Something you might not know—Radha planned to include a chapter on penis sizes in the book, but did not do it since she received feedback from the editor that it might be considered insensitive.

She had also planned to call the book ‘What women are really thinking of when they have sex’ before settling in ‘Men on my mind’.

‘Men on my mind’ is the first part of a trilogy commissioned by Rupa publications and Book 2 is on its way! Talking about Book 2(which is yet to be named) Radha says “I like it better ‘coz it just flew out of me. I took just a few months to write it. I sometimes had to grab slices of time between dinner and bedtime to write.”…. “I think the book’s funnier. The protagonist is more mature. At the age of 30-35, she is more real.”

Who are your favorite chick lit authors?
I’ve never really read chick lit and wasn’t aware it was a genre until my book was classified so. I think men should read this book. It’s not just for ‘chicks’!

Who are your favourite authors/literary influences?
I went through that teenage phase of reading Ayn Rand and Dostoevsky. I really like murder mysteries . Leon Uris is a great airplane read. William Safire and P.J. O’Rourke are great writers who play with words.

Meeting Radha was like a welcome breath of fresh air, and reading her book leaves you with the same feeling!

Original blog on : http://aishwariya.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/does-radha-thomas-really-have-men-on-her-mind/

2013-05-26 22.24.30

What do you get when you blend jazz, blues, Indian classical music, Latin music, African rhythms and add a dash of hip-hop? You get the Bangalore based band UNK, one of India’s most versatile bands consisting musicians from various parts of the globe.

UNK (The Radha Thomas Ensemble) are – Radha Thomas (Vocals), Aman Mahajan (Keyboards), Ramjee Chandran (Guitars), Matt Littlewood (Saxophones), Mishko M’ba (Bass Guitars) and Suresh Bascara (Drums).

At just a little under 38 minutes, ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ is a heady mixture of jazz and Indian; the eight track album consists of four originals, three straight-ahead jazz numbers and one Latin track.

It starts off with ‘Call’, one of the original compositions, which opens with a gentle guitar riff; Thomas’ voice is perfect jazz/blues material, husky but with a lovely smoky feel to it, and the Indian classical parts are a treat for the ears. The saxophone compliments her voice amazingly well too, sounding almost like a flute and highlighting the underlying Carnatic influence.

The next track, ‘Menina Moca’, meaning ‘young girl’ in Portugese, is a romantic number; the lyrics of this Latin jazz track are by Thomas herself. The percussions are pleasantly uplifting, something I would expect to hear around a campfire.

‘Connections’, the second original of the album, gives me the engrossing piano chords I was hoping to hear, which are perfectly blended with the bass and the sax. It’s got a slightly melancholy feel, which is brought forward by the amazing saxophone (kudos to Littlewood).

The third original, ‘Bluesette’, is fun and lively, encouraging a girl not to get depressed because of love. The lyrics impart a positive and hopeful vibe even in the midst of heartbreak.

The bass in ‘Refuge’ is astounding, capturing the desperate nature of the song. And Thomas does it again, flawless Indian classical at the end blending with the sax to prove once again just how culturally diverse yet musically similar the band members are. This would be my pick of the album.

The next track, ‘Almost Like Being In Love’, is another lively track, describing the typical signs of being in love. The hurried yet vivacious lyrics, the peppy beats and the overall jazzy feel make me want to tap my foot and twirl!

Number 7 on the list is the title track; with a strong Indian feel to it, this bluesy song is something straight out of an old English movie. I can almost imagine UNK performing this number in a dimly lit bar with smoke swirling everywhere.

The eighth and last track is ‘Watermelon Man’, a tribute to my favourite fruit, so naturally I love it! But this song with its hip-hop-y feel would cheer up anyone! The lively beats and vocals are a delightful mix, reminding me about the torturous summers and my cravings for watermelons!

UNK consists of seasoned musicians who know what they’re about, so there are no slip-ups or unnecessary embellishments in the album. I can’t stop raving about Thomas’ voice and Littlewood’s sax, they are just too awesome! The album, as a whole, has a lovely bluesy feel to it, and what I love about it is how each and every musician is given a chance to show off their skills, instead of focusing on only the vocalist or the drummer. It’s very evident that the all the artists thoroughly enjoyed working on the songs, and that lends this album its feel-good vibe.

 

http://eightoctaves.com/album-reviews/unk-the-radha-thomas-ensemble-i-only-have-eyes-for-you/

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By Sonali Shenoy | ENS – CHENNAI

14th February 2013 08:42 AM

When the mood of a book launch is set by an animated reading of the protagonist’s first love making experience – it’s clear that this ain’t you’re average Indian author. Not that it’s a sexed up Fifty Shades of Grey either. In fact, jazz singer and now debutant writer Radha Thomas tells us, “I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘spicy’ read at all.” Instead, the book titled Men On My Mind is actually reflective of a girl’s search for the perfect guy.

“She (the protagonist) starts looking at the age of seven,” shares Radha at a the recent launch of the book in the city. Wait, what? “Well, okay that’s where it starts,” she smiles and pauses for effect, “but this book is written from her 20-year-old perspective.” And to keep the journey of our anonymous leading lady on a journey, the happy ending isn’t an ‘ever after’ one on the last page. “It’s a trilogy,” explains the singer-author, who was incidentally in Chennai to perform with her band UNK at the recent Isai festival.

While musicians may remember her powerful vocals from popular rock band ‘Human Bondage’ from the 70s – it appears that this lady of many talents isn’t giving up her music anytime soon either. “I’m halfway through putting together the lyrics of the songs on our second UNK album,” she says in a matter-of-fact tone. Writing pages of a love train by day and composing melodies at night – what else does this Bangalore-based superwoman pack into a day? Radha smiles, “Did I mention I also have a job?”

As VP of Business Development at Explocity, Radha definitely is a force to reckon with, especially on the time management front. “Oh, it really isn’t that hard,” she dismisses the notion with a wave her hand. And as is if to illustrate this point, she states a moment later, “I binge on TV!”

Our time is up, but one has to ask the author one last question. Was the story inspired by her own life? “Well I’ve already found Mr Right,” she responds with a smile. “But yes, the story is part fact and part fiction.” As for what got her to put pen on paper – from lyrics to full fledged chapters, it turns out Radha has no idea. She shrugs her shoulders, “I didn’t even know if it was going to be published when I started.” She takes a minute to think about it, “Well, it just came to me.” Superwoman is right. Umm, Mr Right: high five!

http://newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/article1462501.ece

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Take a bowl of an Author, add a spoonful of Classical Singer, then add a pinch of Jazz Musician, pour some Songwriter into that and finally sprinkle some Column Writer. Mix it, Shake it and then take it out. You have Radha Thomas, the multi-talented author of “Men on my Mind” and the lead singer of UNK: The Radha Thomas Ensemble. We got the opportunity to interview her.

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BookGeeks: What inspired you to write ‘Men on my Mind’?

Radha: I used to write a column called ‘Between The Sexes’ for Bangalore Monthly (now http://www.bangaloremag.com) and it was all about the unique way in which men and woman attack the same issue. The Mars and Venus dialogue, if you will. I just felt like a book would be a nice thing to do. So I developed characters, drawing heavily on some friends and family (they don’t really know about this so keep it a secret, please) and the book emerged. Once I began it was hard to stop. I tend to go on and on.

BookGeeks: The cover of your book depicts a girl wearing a sneaker and a heel.  Tell us more about it and the idea behind it?

Radha: The credit goes to Pradipta Sarkar and the other wonderful ladies at Rupa Publications. They have a super graphics department it seems. I had some thoughts on the cover but their ideas were far nicer. I think the sneakers and the high heels are a sort of mnemonic for the way women feel. A little of this and a lot of that.

BookGeeks: What were the major challenges you faced as a debut writer and how did you overcome them?

Radha: I guess the biggest challenge was that no one wanted to publish my book. Not a single person or company. For more than a year. Close on two, if I recall. My agents, Jacaranda Publishing headed by Jayapriya Vasudevan kept telling me someone would break down if I only gave it time. She’d tell me not to call it quits. It was a bit depressing  – getting rejected so much. I’m both a singer and a writer and my ego is very fragile. So it took quite a walloping till Rupa said,  “Not only do we love this one, but we want you to give us two more.” I didn’t believe them at first but then the contract and advance arrived so I knew they weren’t lying

BookGeeks: You are a multi-talented person. Tell us something about your love for Jazz?

Radha: I’ve been singing professionally (and for free) for many years. I love music and especially jazz although I’ve also been trained in Indian Classical music. Jazz and now more and more my own compositions keep me going. I have a band called UNK: The Radha Thomas Ensemble, with some super musicians whom I’ve grown to love, respect and admire so much. We released an album last year in September 2012 called, ‘I Only Have Eyes for You,’ and we’re done a fair bit of touring around India at clubs and festivals. The point at which writing and music intersect for me obviously is when I write songs. Songwriting is much more rigorous than writing a book. There are a lot of restrictions. But that’s the challenge.

BookGeeks:  You have had the opportunity of growing up in diverse cultures and geographies; tell us has it helped you in life? 

Radha: Most certainly, having different influences and perspectives increases your body of knowledge and when you’re a writer, it’s invaluable. Absorbing (and rejecting) different cultures I suppose the basis for a lot of the little anecdotes in my book.

BookGeeks: Who is your favourite author and why?

Radha: I’ve always been a big fan and follower of William Safire, speechwriter for President Nixon and New York Times columnist. He wrote a column called ‘On Language’ which I devoured. I like the English language, etymology, slang etc. and I am drawn to any material on that subject.

BookGeeks: India is a country where numerous languages are spoken, read and where literature and publishing are still unorganized and scattered.  What in your opinion can be done to make it better?

Radha: I suppose the only thing is to get books translated into many languages, provided you have experts who can capture the idiom in both the original and the translated version. I don’t know that it’s even necessary though. The different languages and cultures in India are what they are, and that’s the way they’ll be. There’s no real reason to change it. Unification? That’s not going to happen. Anymore than you can unify Germany and France.

BookGeeks: Your message to the readers.

Radha: Buy my book!!!

BookGeeks: Special message to bookgeeks.in

Radha:  I hope you like my book. And if you don’t, well just wait, I’ll write another one

http://www.bookgeeks.in/tags/entries/interview