Category Archives: event

Authors Supporting Authors

Speaking of supporting each other, we authors attend book-release parties; edit each other’s works in workshops and writing groups and offer pep talks………..
I had the privilege of attending an Author event, “Wednesday’s Way With Words” in The Listening room at Lakeside Arts Park, in the Dole Mansion, Crystal Lake, Illinois.
This was the first session of new series of Literary events planned in The Listening Room.



At the opening session of this laudable event, six Authors read their works, and their published works were available for purchase.  Matt Brauer, Linda Heuring, Carrie McGuigan, Elizabeth Harmon, Douglas Elwell, and Kimberly Schumacher, under the able guidance of Gwen Koehler, the Program Manager, shared their writing, each treating us listeners with their unique stories, literary styles and some humor.

When you have lived a very active, productive life for seventy-six years on this Earth, you form opinions and philosophy based on what you were taught as a child growing up, based upon your religious beliefs, and on your life-experiences.

In sharing what I have learned, I hope to help others going through similar experiences, both
2014-07-05-shaku-at-fokanapleasurable and not so enjoyable, to use the knowledge I can share and still come out smiling, loving and enjoying life and the people around me.

In this Fall season when the ebullient Summer songs of Nature start to change and Winter breezes put a chill on the flowing of sap in the core of all trees, it is time for mankind to think of how we can all band together for making this world a better place.

 

The Bee hives stood sentinel while the young ones played

The Bee Hives stood sentinel where the young ones played.

 

A courtyard where two beehives stood attention between a fig tree and a breezeway that led from a kitchen work area to a bathroom with a window that opened to a well, was the center of my existence at the time.

I was five years old, I remember, because it was the year my mother presented me with one more sister, and it was also the year I started kindergarten.

On the far end, this gardened area was bounded by a brick wall, five feet tall, and this separated the hustle and bustle of a road that went from the center of Trivandrum town to the Chalai market, and on to the main highway which took you all the way to the southern tip of India, Kanya Kumari, also known as Cape Coumarin.

The opposite end of this garden was defined by the above mentioned breezeway.  Parapet walls on both sides of this breezeway provided welcome seating. My three year old sister Shanthi and I sat on these low walls, and watched my Amma, my mother, and her sister, my ammachi, tend their garden. We saw all sorts of flowers, touting a variety of colors from the sparkling white jasmines to the pale lavender cosmos, and the smooth petals of the pink roses that contrasted with the prickly thorns which effectively kept them safe from two busy little girls who could not keep their hands off of any blooming thing.  The pleasant bouquet of jasmines and roses blended with the strong scents of chrysanthemums.  The pink oleanders were excluded from this area because their pungent odor was not welcome here.  They were planted in the front yard where their huge bushes rubbed shoulders with the mighty hibiscus plants.

To the left of us, as we perched on the low parapet walls, were two long steps leading to a door of my Doctor ammoomma’s bedroom, and beside her bed and dresser was a table where her stethoscope rested when she was home.   Shanthi and I slept in her room too, on mattresses that were spread out on the floor at bedtime, and were rolled and put away during the day.  Also on the floor, our Adukkala ammoomma, Kitchen grandmother, slept beside us.  Although I was aware she oversaw the kitchen ladies at their tasks, (hence the name kitchen grandmother), and managed the chores of the errand boy who went to the market for fish every day, I felt that she was my own guardian angel who looked after me.  She made sure I ate the last ball of rice and curds on my plate that my Amma made for me.  She urged me to finish my daily alphabet-writing-practice before I got into trouble with my Ammachi when she returned from the University where she worked.  I digress.

The bathroom wall formed the fourth boundary for this delightful corner of my world at five.  Entering the bathroom from the breezeway, you saw a window in the wall to the right. This window opened to a well, all complete with a bucket on a rope and pulley, used to draw water on to a huge clay pot set atop a wood-burning stove to heat the water for bathing. When the window was closed for privacy, the rope and bucket were swung out to the outer half of the water-well, where the amenities included separate areas for washing clothes, and for washing kitchen pots and utensils.  There was a spot here as well for cleaning the fresh fish from the market, sometimes twice in one day.

I was fascinated by the way the wood-burning stove used for heating the bathwater was set half inside and half outside the bathroom wall, and the wood was fed from outside the bathroom.  A chimney setup above this stove took the smoke out of the bathroom itself.  Looking back, the ingenuity and the engineering were marvels that I was of course too young to appreciate.

Back to the bee hives.  Every three months or so, the theineechakaran, honey-man, came.  He wore a khaki colored pant-suit and muddy boots covering his entire body.  He placed a large rimmed hat on his head, and pulled down the protective netting around his face and neck.  Long gloves completed his work habit.

We had to watch him from Doctor Ammoomma’s bedroom window while he expertly smoked the bees into a box he carried.  Once the queen bee was in his trap, he waved to us.  We were then allowed to go out and see how he gingerly picked up honey combs, placed them in his barrel with a handle on the outside that he cranked. It was a manual centrifuge of sorts, and it extracted the honey into dripping pans, through cotton-lined sieves.  When one hive was done, he would give us pieces of the honeycomb to suck out drops of sticky golden-brown honey from the crannies.  Then he waved his big hands to chase us back in, and proceeded to retrieve the honey from the second one.  Once we had some honey to savor, we lost interest in the proceedings.

But, to finish our lesson, Ammachi called us back to see the honey-man place the queen bee back into the center of the bee hive. We were surprised how the remaining bees swarmed back in without further ado.  Ammachi did not waste any occasion to feed our brain, even as our tummies were fed.

And then she picked off the tiny wax particles which got stuck on our teeth from the honeycombs.

The fig tree only gave fruit occasionally, probably once or twice a year.  I am not quite certain.  But each time it did, the anticipation on ammachi’s face as she awaited their ripening was a family joke.  When the fruit reached a certain size, she wrapped them with gauze to protect them from the crows.  Each ripe fruit was tenderly sliced, and she ruefully shared them with us.  I still remember my amma declining her share, so that ammachi, her sister could have more.  They were close, then.

My Gardens in this part of the continent, with its harsh winters, could not sustain the tropical blooms nor a fig tree. They thrive in my heart and mind, always. 

At times, in the deep freeze of January, when grey skies cloud over me and all of Chicago-land is blanketed by miles and miles of white snow, when even the green tops of tall evergreens have turned snow-white, the chill seeps into my heart and drags me down.  I close my eyes and see the patch of sunlight upon the beehives, and hear my ammachi calling, “Pāāpa –, thein veno?” (Pāāpa, that’s me, do you want some honey?), and my whole being warms up with the love from that sunny corner of the earth decades ago.2012-09-12, India pics scanned #2.jpeg

My Amma at the well

Shaku Rajagopal

Song of the Mountains, news and events

Song of the Mountains book           Winner EVVY Bronze award2015-08-24, CIPA EVVY Bronze award

SONG OF THE MOUNTAINS – My Pilgrimage to Maa Ganga
A memoir by
Shakuntala Rajagopal, M.D.

Shakuntala Rajagopal was born in Kerala, South India, and came to the United States in her early twenties. She settled in the Chicagoland area with her husband Raj and they both followed successful careers in Medicine, starting in1970.

Book Review:                                     by M.P. Ravindra Nathan MD, FACC

In November 2010, the devastating loss of her husband of forty-seven years brought Shakuntala to a crossroads in her life.

“Unable to contain the grief over the loss of her husband of forty-seven years, Raj – her soul-mate and best friend, the author ‘Shaku’ (to her friends) decided to go on a pilgrimage to the holy river Ganga. As she points out:New beginnings need empowerment from within. I decided to seek help from above to attain this. I felt a pilgrimage to The Holy River Ganges – Ma Ganga – would be a chance for a rebirth, and a new beginning.’

In her book, Song of the Mountains, Shaku takes us on an unforgettable journey, albeit a perilous one, to the ‘Char Dham’ (four sacred sites revered by Hindus) nestled in the majestic Himalayan Ranges. As we travel along with her, we get to see the many splendors of nature like glowing glaciers and alpine meadows, listen to the song of the mountains, and worship at the holiest of Hindu shrines. “I have never felt so close to heaven in my life,” says the author. Entwined within this beautiful travelogue is Shaku’s own love story, an enduring testament to the only man in her life – her husband Raj, which is at once moving and inspirational.

In Shaku’s own words, ‘As my life and psyche evolved into survival mode, the reader sharing my journey will also be changed in the way he or she approaches major changes in life. My story empowers the reader to take action and go forward in their own life, whatever the circumstances they are facing.’ Written in beautiful prose that often reads like poetry, this is a love story and a spiritual tome, a must read for everybody.

M.P. Ravindra Nathan, MD, FACC, Editor in Chief, AAPI Journal

Song of the Mountains Reading and Book Signings    Join Shaku at the following public appearances:
September 5, 2015, 3:00 PM

              AKMG Literary Session, Association of Kerala Medical Graduates,
Marriott Philadelphia Downtown, 1201 Market St., Philadelphia, PA

September 26, 2015, 7:00 PM,

                 Chicago Writers Conference 2015
University Center, 525 South State St., Chicago, IL 60605

October 10, 2015, 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM.       Reading and book signing.

                 Mandile’s Italian Restorante
2160 Lake Cook Rd. Algonquin, IL 60102     Phone: 847-458-4000

 To contact Shaku go to website and blog at  http://shakuraj.com

 

Song of the Mountains Book Signing at Port Edwards

Blog, 2015
July 10th, 2015
Port Edwards Restaurant, Algonquin, Illinois has become my family’s favorite Restaurant.
It all started with my friend April M. Williams who brought my book to the attention of Edward Wolowiec, owner of Port Edward’s. Edward and I talked, I was referred to C.J. the manager, and I had my Song of the Mountains book-signing  for my memoir at the restaurant on July 9th, 2015.
It was a joyous occasion because my daughters Devi and Molly, Sons-in-law, Don and Suresh, grandson Travis, grand-niece Uma, niece Shanthi and her friend Mark all joined to celebrate the book-signing.
Old friends, Doctors Chinnamma and Joseph Thomas came, and we talked about how Chinnamma and I were students at Trivandrum Medical College, India in the late fifties, and years later Joseph and I took Creative Writing classes at University of Chicago.
Members of my writing group, Algonquin Area Writers Workshop, Kay, Joyce, Carolyn, and Richard were there also. It was fun talking about our writing accomplishments, and the publishing process.
The entire staff at Port Edward’s including Chef Keith and the manager C.J. treated us warmly. 
In the preceding weeks the members of my family had dinner at Port Edward’s on different occasions, and we each had our own favorites on the menu.
After my book-signing, we proceeded to order our favorite dishes and settled to enjoy dinner at our now favorite local restaurant.
Author Shakuntala Rajagopal with her book Song of the Mountains at Port Edward book signing
Author Shakuntala Rajagopal with her book Song of the Mountains at Port Edward book signing
Author and artist Shakuntala Rajagopal and Port Edward owner Ed Wolowiec
Author and artist Shakuntala Rajagopal and Port Edward owner Ed Wolowiec
Author Shakuntala Rajagopal and Chef Keith of Port Edward
Author Shakuntala Rajagopal and Chef Keith of Port Edward
Author Shakuntala Rajagopal and business owner April M. Williams
Author Shakuntala Rajagopal and business owner April M. Williams

 

Book signing at Port Edwards Restaurant

mudslides cutting up the face of the mountain
SONY DSC

 

 

Shaku doing Ganga Aarti
Shaku doing Ganga Aarti

Rudraprayag. Confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini tributaries of Ganges
Rudraprayag. Confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini tributaries of Ganges
SONY DSC
Shaku descending from Kedarnath

 

 

 

 

 

 

SONG OF THE MOUNTAINS – My Pilgrimage to Maa Ganga
Shakuntala Rajagopal, MD
If you like to read about adventure…
If you want to be inspired to move beyond heartbreak, read on…
Unable to contain the grief from the loss of her husband of forty years, Raj—her soul- mate and best friend, the author ‘Shaku’ (to her friends) decided to go on a pilgrimage to the holy river Ganga carrying the ashes of Raj. As she points out, “New beginnings need empowerment from within. I decided to seek help from above to attain this. I felt a pilgrimage to The Holy River Ganges—Maa Ganga—would be a chance for a rebirth, and a new beginning.”
“In her second book, Shaku takes us on an unforgettable journey, albeit a perilous one at that, to the ‘Char Dham’ (the four sacred sites revered by Hindus) nestled in the majestic Himalayas. As we travel along with her, we get to see the many splendors of nature like glowing glaciers and alpine meadows, listen to the songs of the mountains, worship at the holiest of Hindu shrines and get the blessings of the Gods. I have never felt so close to heaven in my life.” M. P.Ravindra Nathan, MD, FACCEditor in Chief, AAPI Journal

Packed with emotion, Shaku allows you to experience with her the range of sensation and emotion as she travels through the Char Dham, from the blissful sensation of dipping in the cold rushing waters of the Bhagirathi Ganga at Gangotri, 10,000 feet above sea level to the scorching dip in the hot springs of Alaknanda Ganga at Badrinath at 10,500 feet. Entwined within this beautiful travelogue is Shaku’s own love story, an enduring monument to the only man in her life, her husband Raj, which is at once moving and inspiring.

Find out what in the pilgrimage gives her a sense of rebirth and how she is able to finally find peace without her beloved Raj.

For as Shaku says, “As my life and psyche evolved into survival mode, the reader sharing my journey will also be changed in the way he or she approaches major changes in life. My story will definitely empower the reader to take action and go forward in their own life, whatever the circumstance they are facing.” Written in beautiful prose that reads often like poetry, this is a love story and a spiritual tome. A must read for everybody.
http://shakuraj.com

BUY YOUR COPY at www.shakuraj.com

Book signing

“Song of the Mountains, My pilgrimage to Maa Ganga.”
By Shakuntala Rajagopal, local author and artist

Port Edwards Restaurant, 20 W. Algonquin Rd, Algonquin, 60102.
July 9th, 2015, 5 -9 PM

Song of the Mountains Book Launch Event

At last I have the books in my hand. “Song of the Mountains, My Pilgrimage to Maa Ganga“, is my second book, and will be officially released on April 15th . The Barrington Library has an Author Event Planned on April 19th, and I will be among the authors reading from our works. This is an exciting Spring for me with a new book coming out.
I will be reading from the book at the Author Event listed below at the Barrington Area Library.

Song of the Mountains book

I hope you can all come to the Barrington Library Author Event on April 18 th, 2.00 P.M. to 4.00 P.M.”

Event Type: Adult Program
Date: 4/18/2015 
Time: 2:00 – 4:00 PM. Barrington is full of amazing authors and storytellers: meet them at our first annual Local Author Fair! Readings, panel discussions, book signings, and keynote speaker Sonali Dev, whose debut novel, “A Bollywood Affair,” has won honors from NPR, ALA, and more! You’ll meet and hear from poets, illustrators, and memoirists, researchers of Barrington history, and creative fiction writers both historical and futuristic. It’s the perfect afternoon for every book lover! Books available for purchase and signing (hint: signed books make wonderful gifts!). Refreshments.

Address: 505 n. northwest highway, Barrington, il 60010 Meeting Room
. For more information, contact: Ashley Johnson
 847-382-1300 x 3030.