I have lived four eventful and memorable weeks in India, between 12 November and 13 December 2017, crisscrossing the country, covering six cities, in a warm and humid climate in the central, west and the south of India, and a colder but relatively smoggier environment in the north. One common denominator in all cities was the sickening traffic congestion.
During the tour, six very successful book launch events were held at:
- NCERT’s Regional Institute of Education (RIE) @ Bhopal on 13 November 2017
- Title Waves @ Mumbai on 15 November 2017
- Starmark @ Chennai on 17 November 2017
- Sapna Book House @ Bengaluru on 18 November 2017
- The Imperial @ New Delhi on 21 November 2017
- Model Institute Education & Research (MIER) @ Jammu Tawi on 4 December 2017
I would sincerely acknowledge and thank my publisher, Ms Renu Kaul Verma of Vitasta Publishing, for her commitment and hard work to make all book-launch events a success. My sincere thanks go to Ms Saraswathi and Mr Harsh Rawat of Vitasta, for their sustained hard work during months leading to the book launch events at Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and New Delhi. I sincerely thank my wife, Dr Rekha B Koul of Curtin University, Australia, for her continued support and her role in my book launch events at RIE, Bhopal and MIER, Jammu.
My personal thanks go to Prof N N Pradhan, Principal RIE Bhopal, for hosting a memorable formal event at the RIE auditorium and Prof Ratnamala Arya for being the Programme Director of the event. The event will be remembered for exceptionally warm hospitality of Prof Pradhan and the entire staff of RIE, in particular, Prof Arya, Prof Kakaria and Mr Raj Kishore Yadav.
At Mumbai, my thanks go to Title Waves (Bandra West) and the Kashmiri Pandit Association (KPA) for hosting the event. Sincere thanks go to the Guests of Honour – Anupam Kher (Actor and Chairman FTII), Major Ashok Kaul (Film maker and writer), Mr Moti Kaul (politician and activist) and Mr SP Kachru (President KPA). Thanks also go to Ms Shaina NC (fashion designer, politician and social worker) for her support in absentia. Special thanks go to Mr Trushant A. Tamgoankar (Executive Director, Title Waves) for hosting the event.
My gratitude and thanks to my friends, Colonel Ashwani Munshi and Mr Arvind Kaul, who drove all the way from Pune and supported me at the event. Special thanks to my friend, Mr Rakesh Misri, who flew all the way from Jammu, under some difficult and extraordinary circumstances, to be there to support me. It was heartening to meet and catching up with my friend, Mr Ashwani Bhat (General Secretary KPA) at the event, after nearly three decades
Special thanks and gratitude go to Major Ashok Kaul for his guidance, assistance and wise words all through the Mumbai event and the weeks leading up to it.
At Chennai, my thanks go to Starmark (Express Avenue) for hosting a memorable event. Many thanks and appreciations go to Ms Latha Srinivasan (Deputy Executive Chief Editor of NewsX) for her support, suggestions and for being the star anchor at the event, which saw a truly engaging and memorable panel debate. My sincere thanks go to the panel members, Dr N Rangarajan (Consultant Psychiatrist & Director, Psymed Hospital), Dr Sumanth C. Raman (Television anchor and political analyst) and Mr Murali Sundaram (Author, Happiness Coach and Entrepreneur) for a truly engaging debate on mental illness and happiness.
At Bengaluru, my thanks go to Sapna Book House (Residency Road) for hosting the book launch event. I wish to thank the panel members at the event – Mrs V Manjula (Additional Chief Secretary, Medical Education, Government of Karnataka), Mrs Veena S Rao (Author and retired IAS) and Mr R K Mattoo (Sr. Journalist and Chairman of the Kashmiri Hindu Cultural Welfare Trust) for their time and support. Special thanks and my personal gratitude go to Mr Mattoo for his exemplary warm hospitality. It was heartening to meet and catch up with my friend, Mr Shivakumar Yadalam (Director, Ramkumar Mills), and his graceful life partner at the event.
At New Delhi, thanks to The Imperial (Janpath) and NewsX for hosting a historic book launch event. Many thanks go to the Chief Guest, Dr Subramanian Swamy (Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha) and the Guests of Honour and panel members – General J J Singh (ex. Chief of Staff, Indian Army), Mr K L Ganju (Consul General (Hony), Comoros), David Devadas (Sr. Journalist and Researcher) and Dr A K Agarwal (Chairman, River Engineering Pvt Ltd). Special thanks for Mr Ashish Singh of NewsX, for his wonderful work as the anchor in the (peace) debate.
My personal gratitude goes for Dr Swamy for saving the day and Mr Ganju for sponsoring the event. My gratitude also goes to Mr Vijay Wanchoo (Sr. Executive Vice President & GM, The Imperial) for his support and assistance that ensured a successful event at Delhi.
Special thanks go to my friend, Mr Subash Ganjoo, for flying all the way from Muscat, Oman, to be at the event. Sincere thanks go to my friends, Mr Ravinder Pandita, Mr Ramesh Bhat and Mr Arvind Kaul, for their sustained support and attendance at the Delhi event.
At Jammu, my sincere thanks and gratitude go to Dr Adit Gupta, Director, MIER, and his family for hosting a spectacular event, and Ms Manju Vali for being an excellent MoC at the event. My gratitude and thanks go to the Guests of Honour – Mr Kuldeep Khoda (Ex Director General Police and Chief Vigilance Commissioner, J & K), Dr Arun Gupta (Chairman, MIER Group of Institutions), Prof I A Hamal (Ex Vice-Chancellor Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, Rajouri) and Mr Ranjeet Kalra (Assistant Prof, University of Jammu and Advisor for Sports & Youth Affairs, Govt. of Lakshadweep). Special thanks to my friends, Mr Arvind Kaul, Mr Rakesh Misri, Mr Rajinder Bali and Mr Roop Krishan Raina, for their attendance at the event.
All three books had originally been launched by Vitasta at Perth, Western Australia, on 10 August 2017, at a gala function, hosted by Bentley Pines Restaurant. The famous Fremantle country / blues band, The Suntones, enthralled a select audience of around 120, comprising mostly professionals and academics, on that memorable day. Special thanks to Mr John William Moore (Hospitality Lecturer, South Metropolitan TAFE) for his assistance and support.
My deepest gratitude and thanks go to my esteemed and distinguished colleagues at 4DGeotechnics, John F Kennedy (Principal Engineering Geologist) and Ian H Lewis (Principal Engineering Geologist), for their support and being the Guests of Honour at the Perth event. Special thanks go to Ms Kate Alai for doing such a wonderful work as the MoC of the event. My gratitude goes to my dear colleague, Dr Farzad Beygi, for covering the event with his camera.
On 16 September 2017, I also had a book launch at the annual REC Srinagar 1983 batch reunion at Hotel Welcome Rama, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. My gratitude goes to Mr Anil Raina, Mr Ravi Pichaya and Mr Rafiuddin Siddiqui, the organisers of the 2017 reunion, for inviting me to have a book launch at the reunion. Full appreciations and compliments go to each of them and all our batch mates who made it to the reunion from various parts of the globe (Canada, Oman, Bahrain, Malaysia)and for staging a wonderful event. Special thanks and appreciations go to Mr Vir Ji Safaya (General Manager, Hotel Welcome Rama) for his assistance and support. Special thanks also go to my friend, Mr Vinod Wali, for covering the event with his camera.
This note of acknowledgement would be incomplete with my deepest appreciations and thanks to my editors at Vitasta Publishing, Ms Veena Batra and Ms Papri Sri Raman. Special thanks also go to Dr Chirdeep Malhotra of Jammu for reviewing my book, 22 Years – A Kashmir Story, and sending his review to the local Jammu newspapers, as well as for his proof reading and edits in the second print of the book.
During my tour, I was interviewed by the media as well as many book distributors and retailers in every city I visited. I wish to express my sincere thanks to NewsX, The Hindu, The Hindustan Times, Daily Excelsior, State Times, Early Times and all other regional newspapers that covered my events and interviews.
Many thanks to Mr Ramesh Hangloo (Radio Sharda 90.4 FM), and Ms Khushboo Mattoo Bhardwaj and Shwetima (Radio Mirchi FM 98.3) for my radio interviews at Jammu Tawi. I shall always cherish the experience of both these interviews.
I had many engaging, emotional and educational interactions with many taxi drivers, porters, workers, shopkeepers and the common man in the cities of India that I visited during the book launch tour, all of whom taught me many lessons about life. My best wishes and thanks to all of them.
I also attended a number of weddings in India. All weddings vindicated my views and opinions about the (lavish) Indian weddings, as discussed in my book, Issues white-anting India.
On a positive note, on 7 Dec 2017, I made a pilgrimage to the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine at Katra, Jammu, after a period of 34 years. Thanks to my (remanent) Aussie fitness, I climbed about 4,100 feet and footed a distance of about 14 km in under 3 hours. It is noteworthy that I had not engaged in any form of physical exercise during my four weeks in India prior to the pilgrimage.
By the time my India tour ended, a website, dedicated to my literary work, had magically appeared on the web – https://billkkoul.com. The magician turned out to be Ms Ella Fitriani, an academic at the Universitas Negeri Jakarta, Indonesia. Thank you, Ella, for your support and the hard work that you have put in over all these weeks to create and nurture this website.