Kamalini Natesan On Attending The Bound Writers' Retreat (July 2018)

Photo Credit: Kanchan Maji

When one reads an advert for a writer’s workshop lasting five days (not the advert) – one  jumps for joy; if it’s in Goa, one somersaults, I did. So I wrote in.


To gain entry I had to do the following :

  1. send in a piece of writing (any format)
  2. a short bio-note
  3. get interviewed (subject to approval of said piece);
  4. pay up and prepare to be treated as a grown-up with more than decent writing skills.


Most writing workshops end with promises, both to oneself and other participants: – that manuscript I’ve been writing, it’ll get done within the next six months; definitely finish all pending assignments, and submit at least one; I’ll get that blog up for sure etc. What happens once we part ways, that’s another story for another day. 


BOUND Retreat– Monsoon session at Island House


We were sent orders disguised as requests to – ‘read everyone’s piece, and get your critique mind sharpened’. We all rolled up our sleeves and got down to it. 


On arrival at the retreat we were instantly bewitched : The Goan Portuguese House chosen, ensured that we abandon our urban hearts, and get into writer mode. An enviable ambience: rustling greens, earthy scents invading every pore of the property, cooing birds, and swirling winds, drenched in rainwater, were offered abundantly. The earnest business of writing was dappling with our creative genes. You get that kind of blend right, it’s magic!


The Bound Writer’s workshop is the brainchild of two young and beautiful girls- Tara Khandelwal and Sangeeta Patnaik. It is one, to both recommend and blog about. The two girls have devised means to bring together a group of like-minded folk who seek to better their craft, and leave an imprint in the published world: in the world of story-telling. They’ve done good. Their presence was quiet, unobtrusive and discreet, guiding us both by speech, or withholding it, and wielding a camera instead.


A disparate group of twelve girls, women, boys, men, assembled on an evening in July, breaking bread, and ice. A sense of bonhomie spread rapidly. It abetted the process of culling out so much more than fabulously sculpted writing pieces over the days and evenings that followed.


  • There was bonding over chai, coffee and Hot Air (what’s that!? Shush, it’s an Island House secret drink), and wine and chilled beer, by the pool.
  • There was bonding over similar pieces, as much as with the hugely contrasting styles of approaching (sometimes) the same subject.
  • There was bonding over music, and over life-stories that went a long way back, and lent each voice, a sonority that resounded through the workshop.
  • There was bonding over mentor chatter : sharing feedback given, critique received and accepted by our two groups- the Chandrahas group and the Prayaag Akbar group.



Oh there was major bonding, even with Jay and Susan, the warm and kind hostess couple- who were out and about, always there to offer us their zealous hospitality! A special mention of the meals is a must- we were offered delectable and diverse fare at every meal. The aromas floating freely into the dining area, had us struggling to stay focused on our mentor’s stories, and tasks at hand. Needless to say, every meal was awaited with great gusto and impatience! Dominant tastes were Maharashtrian and Goan – no one was complaining. How rich is this country of ours…it always astounds me…


What makes BOUND so special : each working day holds enough to whet the participant’s appetite. There are spaces created to spur on the intermingling of participant-writers, sharing of their subject matter and lending their voices; voices were heard, and voices drowned, these very voices that became hugely familiar in the five days that the group came together; morning, afternoon, evening. A whole new communion was taking place. 


Each writing prompt undertaken, exercised a different emotional muscle. Sharing everyone’s pieces allowed us an insight; the charm and allure of our co-participant came into focus, and allowed us a peek into his/her story and craft: all telltale signs of what the future might portend for us in this world of make-believe.  Invigorating discussions followed, and many an observation into what is both right and wrong, and/or neither. Oftentimes a story is just what it is, and one’s got to let it find its own voice- then does the account itself become the hero- not meddling with it. So much of both learning and unlearning is key to create compelling stories!


The two celebrity authors : Chandrahas Chaudhury (Arzee, the Dwarf) and Prayaag Akbar (Leila), mentored groups of six. It was a brilliant way of getting focused attention, playing with ideas, poking holes, and receiving criticism; an imperative when one is seeking true guidance. Being with them, with their distinctly different perspectives was sweetly enriching.


Two mornings were dedicated in entirety, to both mentors, and we soaked it all in, like sponges.


BOUND seems to have hit all the right notes- balancing a workshop of this nature, without it seeming like ‘too much’ – With the right intent, choosing the kind of participants with whom a luscious rhythm may form, is a task that many would find arduous. Here, the bounce achieved, felt about right. Inputs from previous workshops that BOUND has hosted, all speak in harmony.


Here is the community of my writer friends, formed organically, and is here to stay. Many are already established in the world of writing. Here’s the A List :


  • Nalin Pasricha, who is a telly script-writer with many successes to his credit. A smiling face, with a punch. 
  • Sandeep Naryanan, an ace writer who gave up dentistry to become a full-time writer, and dabbled in advertising to get a feel of what it might be like before taking a full-on plunge.
  • Saritha Rao : a regular features writer who has many titles to her credit in many magazines : Arts Illustrated, Mint, Scroll, Architectural Digest India.
  • Priya Talwar : works with Down to Earth magazine and does copy-editing for a living;
  • Preeti Gupta : writes and runs her own education enterprise;
  • Anagha Unni : a film-maker who wants to also write, and does a very good job of it too, we all learnt;
  • Aekta Khubchandani : an actor- poet, a writer; 
  • Aarya Naik : a young entrepreneur from Pune, who is beginning to ‘feel writing’ as a métier;
Aparna Dedhia : has been ghost writing with élan. She is now keen to see her own name under that story.
  • Farida Patharia Kurian : a woman with many tales to tell, but fears what the telling might entail. An ace writer already from what we heard, and read.
  • Prashant Sankaran : writes to kill- his creative skills were more than evident, as he moved us with his flash fiction, and Haiku models. Has published in many magazines, including Sky-Island Journal .
  • Kamalini: She writes compulsively. She blogs (lazychillies.wordpress) and her short stories, book reviews and articles on human interest have been published. Awaiting the publication of her debut novel. 
Avani Udgaonkar
Avani Udgaonkar has a Masters degree in English literature. She works as an editor and is currently based out of New Delhi.
Written by Rheea Mukherjee

Rheea Rodrigues Mukherjee is the author of The Body Myth (Unnamed Press /Penguin India 2019) which was shortlisted for the Tata Literature Live First Book Award. Her work has been published and featured in Scroll.in, Southern Humanities Review, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Vogue India, Out of Print, TBLM, and Bengal Lights, among others. She co-founded Bangalore Writers Workshop in 2012 and currently co-runs Write Leela Write, a Design and Content Laboratory in Bangalore, India. Rheea has an MFA in creative writing from California College of the Arts.