Wednesday, 18 December 2013

BOOK REVIEW : The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Authors are very special people who have the rare talent of creating stories out of events occurring in our regular lives. With their magical wand i.e. their pens they breathe life into the stories with such real characters that we start believing in their existence and living their lives for a short span. 

Jhumpa Lahiri is one such accomplished author. Her characters are so believable that one can easily relate, empathize with them.

The Lowland is another beautiful creation of hers'. 

This is a story set against the backdrop of the Naxalite movement which had rocked West Bengal in the 60's and the early 70's. It is about two brothers Subhash and Udayan who are born just fifteen months apart . Though the  brothers are very close and are always together, their nature and temperaments are polar to each other. Where Subhash is quiet, responsible, always towing to the line, Udayan is the risk taker, challenging the societal rules and very impulsive. Once they grow up, the brothers become distant, each choosing his own path- Subhash going away to America to pursue a  life of scientific research and Udayan getting drawn into the Naxalite movement.Subhash returns back to India after he gets the news of Udayan's death. Back in India Subhash feels betrayed by the sudden and mysterious death of Udayan. For the first time in his life Subhash leaves his sensible side and on an impulse gets married to Gauri, Udayan's wife, taking her to America to start their lives anew. But life is never as simple as we want it to be. It throws unexpected twists in the lives of Subhash and Gauri as they try to make a life for themselves in a new territory amidst the omnipresent memory of Udayan and the unclear events surrounding his sudden death.

The story progresses through the lives of these central characters across India and America, with them growing old, living with their guilt, regrets and some deep hidden truths that never let them sleep peacefully in nights.
Lahiri ends the book not with a happy ending but on a positive note, because we all know that life is not a movie or a classic mills and boon story which has a picture perfect end. It is rather an always moving forward journey where we take along the good memories and experiences, leaving behind all that saddens and hurts us.

This book just like our lives is not perfect but is sure worth a read to be able to appreciate Lahiri's deep understanding of the human psyche. We are the most complex creatures as we are not drawn not only by our basic need of food, clothing and shelter but also by our emotional, mental and deep psychological needs.

Friday, 29 November 2013

BOOK REVIEW : The Alchemy of Desire by Tarun Tejpal

The name Tarun Tejpal is associated with lots of things - be it the sting operations on the key members of the political party BJP when they were in power, his close associations with the Congress party or the latest sexual abuse charge on him by his employee who is not only his daughter's age but also a close friend of his daughter.
What came as a surprise to me is that this man is an author and a good one too. He has written three books till date. The Alchemy of Desire is his first book.
I was halfway through this book when I got to know about the sexual abuse charge on him. This deplorable behaviour of his put a very ugly blot on my impression of this extremely talented author and I was almost tempted to throw away the book. But the avid reader in me would not let me do so. I did finish the book but the initial joy and the continous delight in finding a great read was missing and it was more of a job than pleasure. I blame Mr. Tejpal for taking away my joy.
The Alchemy of Desire is a story about a young man and the love of his life, his wife Fiza, whom he calls Fizz. They are madly in love with each other and the deep intensity of their mutual desire keeps the relationship alive inspite of the small skirmishes and disagreements. They are not rich in the monetory sence but they are extremely rich when it comes to love, passion and desire. He is a journalist by profession but in heart, he is an author, who is trying to write something special. Their life is running through its smooth course till they suddenly become owners of a bungalow in the foothills of Himalaya. It is here that they come across a trunk full of diaries while renovating the house, which changes the very equation of their relationship. The diaries belonged to an English lady who was the original owner of this house. The protagonist gets totally involved in deciphering the diaries and as a result he starts distancing himself away from Fizz. His life changes completely as his obsession with the diaries increase. The story ends with the protagonist understanding himself better and also as to what matters most in his life. The story ends on a positive note.
Tejpal as an author has immense talent. He is in love with all his characters,  be they be small or central. The way he gives them physical, emotional, mental, psychological traits is commendable. He brings all the characters to life by his beautiful narrative. It is a sheer delight to read.  He writes about the different eras with such detail and thought that it brings every scene alive in the reader's mind. I did find the book a tad too descriptive in certain places but overall it's worth a read.
The only thing which stops this book from being the perfect one is Tarun Tejpal himself and am very disillusioned by this whole goa episode.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

BOOK REVIEW : The Dalai Lama's Cat by David Michie

I was in the 8th standard when I had gone on a ten day treck to Sikkim. It was there in the beautiful landscapes of Sikkim that I first got introduced to Buddhism. We had gone to visit a Buddhist monastry on our way to Gangtok and I was just spellbound by the tranquility and peace that was prevalent there. It was a surreal experience for us and the feeling still stays with me. Till date I associate Buddhism with that same tranquility and calmness and a deep sence of peace.
Though I am not a vert spiritual person nor a cat lover, this book appealed to me on some inner level. The author,  David Michie is a well-known author whose books Buddhism for Busy People and Hurry Up and Meditate are bestsellers.
In this book Michie talks about the teachings of Buddhism through the perspective of a cat. The story begins with the Dalai Lama adopting a tiny kitten and taking her to Jokhang, the beautiful sanctuary of the Dalai Lama himself, in Dharamshala. Here the kitten encounters different types of people who through their experience with the Dalai Lama undergo a deep cleansing of their souls and are able to let go of their negativity and embrace life with all its positivity. Michie talks about conquering one's anger or fear of the unknown through the teachings of Buddhism.
I could very well relate to the teachings of Buddhism which are so nicely explained in this book. This book is not about preaching Buddhism but talks about how we can change our lives for the betterment following some simple Buddhist principles. Wish to enjoy happiness and the wish to avoid suffering are the two basic wishes of all beings. So if we can be considerate about the suffering and happiness of others and ensure that none of our actions adversely affects others, we can live a happy and contended life.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

BOOK REVIEW : The Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


I got introduced to the author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni through her novel Palace of Illusions. Needless to say I really liked that book. So now when Sridevi, a very dear friend and an avid reader told me about the Oleander Girl by Divakaruni, I had to read it.
The story is about a young girl named Korobi who is orphaned at birth and is brought up by her maternal grandparents in Kolkata. As any other normal eighteen year old, Korobi too dreams of a handsome young prince who will come in her life and sweep her off her feet. This dream turns into a reality when she gets engaged to Rajat Bose, son of Mrs and Mr Bose who own a very famous and successful art gallery in Kolkata. Though happy about her engagement, Korobi has a deep yearning to know more about her dead parents. They are a mystery to her as her grandparents never spoke about them nor did they encourage Korobi to talk or ask about them. So when her grandfather passes away0 suddenly on the night of her engagement party, her grandmother reveals a secret to Korobi which changes her life forever. Korobi is forced to reevaluate all her existing relationships and go in search of that One truth, across the seven seas, to America that will make or break her life. In her quest to find the truth she meets many new faces who teach her about the different traits of man and they even help her to understand her own strengths and weaknesses.
It is a beautifully written story about a girl who starts has had a very sheltered upbringing,  who is in awe of everything around her, unsure about what she wants. But by the end of the story she emerges as a confident young woman who is willing to fight for her self respect and who is strong enough to withstand  any storm in her life, just like the Oleander flower.
All the characters in the story are very well etched with believable traits which we can all relate to. The one character whom I really liked is Sarojini, Korobi's grandmother. She is shown as a meek housewife who is always in the shadow her husband's name and title. But her inner strength, the deep love and understanding, her ability to brave the truth comes into forefront when she is forced to look after the huge house, its finances and her granddaughter after the untimely death of her husband. There is a line which Sarojini says that is the essence of ever person. " How many layers there are to a man's heart, tender spots beneath the calluses, hidden even from himself" .
I am partial to stories with happy endings because they always leave a warm fuzzy feeling in the heart and makes me smile. This is one such book. It is a sweet story which stays with you long after you've finished reading it and makes you want to believe in love and faith and trust.

Monday, 26 August 2013

BOOK REVIEW : The Blind Man's Garden by Nadeem Aslam

The Blind Man's Garden by Nadeem Aslam 

"The Blind Man's Garden" - the title was what made me read the synopsis of this book and place an order for it. And from here a new literary journey began. As expected I was counting the days till l had this book in hand. I got this book delivered two weeks back and since then we have been inseparable. But this book was unlike others in the sense that I could not connect with it from the very first page. The first 100 pages or so were an ordeal and I had almost given up on it. But slowly and skilfully like a magician this book put a spell on me. It is primarily a love story told amidst the ruins of humanity, a sad but true outcome caused by greed, an intense hunger for power and lack of tolerance towards fellow beings.
The story is set in Heer, a small town in Pakistan. Rohan, a retired school headmaster lives in a beautiful house named the Ardent Spirit with his son Jeo and daughter in law, Naheed. The story is set in the present times where the Americans are in Afghanistan trying to hunt down Al-Qaeda post 9/11,with the support of the Pakistani government and how the civilians are caught between the pro-government and the anti- government establishments. This book emphasises on the extreme difficulties faced by the common man in his very existence both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Aslam takes the readers right in the middle of the war affected zone, when Jeo and his foster brother go to Afghanistan to look after the wounded civilians. The moment they enter Afghanistan, they get kidnapped by the local warlords. The twists and turns in the lives of these two men from the lush greens of Heer, to the hide outs of the Al-Qaeda in the hilly terrains of Afghanistan to the  prisons in America is very harsh but real at the same time. It is very scary and chilling to read how a few powerful men are exploiting the common citizens either to extract money from the Americans or to weaken the partnerships between the local government and the Americans in their fight against Al-Qaeda.
Aslam is a compelling author who weaves a beautiful but hard hitting tale which catches you in its web quite effortlessly. The way he describes the Ardent Spirit is so magically beautiful that it makes me want to live in such a aesthetically pleasing house. Aslam's love for the nature with its lush greenery, sweet smelling flowers, the ripe juicy fruits and the colorful insects abound is evident from the many descriptions. At the same time he doesn't hesitate to write about the cold and heart wrenching reality of the war zone.
As with all love stories this book also ends on a positive note. It stresses on the one thing which inspires man to move ahead in life - Love and Hope. There is a line from one of Wamaq Saleem's poems that Aslam uses in his story which sums up the book. It says, " Love is not consolation, it is light" .

Thursday, 15 August 2013

BOOK REVIEW : The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

The  Second Empress -- the title of the book seemed interesting to me and without even reading the summary, I placed the order online. And thankfully I was not dissapointed while reading the book. This is the first book by Moran which I've read. 
The story is a fictional account of the life of Marie-Louise Habsburg, the princess of Austria who is forced to marry Napoleon in order to save her father's crown.   The princess inspite of being in love with the brave and handsome Count Adam Neipperg sacrifices her love for family loyalty and agrees to marry a complete stranger who is twice her age. Marie-Louise  has to adjust in a new country with its whole set of new customs, food habits and climate. But over and above this, the major adjustment which she has to endure is having a husband who was very selfish, erratic, callous and unpredictable. It almost becomes a challenge for her to win her rightful place in the Palais Des Tuileries, France where Pauline, Napoleon's sister lived , who was obsessed with her beauty and Napoleon.
Though it's a historical fiction,it's well researched and the main aspects of the book are taken from primary resources. I truly loved the characterisation of Princess Marie-Louise and  at times could relate to her situation. Like the time when she feels an inner turmoil for being happy that Napoleon is going away to Russia to wage a war against the Czar but at the same time feels a righteous indignation for the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who were forced into a war by their power hungry emperor. Similarly after Napoleon's defeat she flees from France to save her son from Napoleon's open ambition ,while at the same time hating herself for abandoning the citizens of her kingdom at such a crisis.
 I enjoyed this light and interesting read. It was nice to know about Napoleon's later years albeit in a fictional format.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

BOOK REVIEW : 21 New Beginnings by Viveik Pandit


21 New Beginnings by Viveik Pandit


A very old n popular saying goes, " Never judge a book by it's  cover." I would like to add here that, nor should one judge a book based on online reviews too.
I was on an online site browsing through books, when I saw this book. The cover of the book was interesting enough but what sealed the deal for me was the reason Pandit gave in the prelude for writing this book.  When Pandit was writing this book a well-meaning friend of his, asked him, "But why women?" And the answer which Pandit gave compelled me to place an order for the book. He had replied, " Women are less corrupt."
This is the second book by the author. His first being, By Mistake. Here, he writes stories where women play the central character. It talks about the hope, aspirations, dreams, courage, strength, creativity, temerity, sacrifice and all those things that define a woman, even with her gray shades.  This book has two sections. The first section is a compilation of 21 short stories by the author himself and the second section is very special and unique. Special because here we have 23 amazing 'closet' writers  whose stories on women are nothing short of brilliance.
The stories in the first section are a mixed bag. Barring a couple of them, I found the rest to be very abrupt, as if I was left hanging. On the other hand there are some stories which were terrific. The story of two friends and their unspoken understanding and communication in The Nook or the chance meeting between two women at the departure lounge of the airport where they discuss about the author of a book in Thrice Lucky. After reading Suite No 308, my reaction was 'Atta girl, way to go!' I could not stop laughing after reading Talking to Alka and was wondering what I would have done in a similar situation.
I loved all the 23 contributions made by the rookie writers. Naina Katoch's contribution is a beautiful verse titled Memsahib which has an excellent end. Contradictions Within by Kavita is another gem. A Mumbai Night by Vandana Nair is very unique. Unique because it talks about how even the bleakest time can bring hope in people's lives. Nostalgic Silence by Shweta Dasgupta, I feel is the best contribution as it is about the unselfish and an encompassing love of a mother for her children. I was deeply moved and in tears by the end of this story.
Overall Its  an average book.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

BOOK REVIEW : Hello Bastar by Rahul Pandita


                      "Naxal, Naxalite and Naksalvadi are generic terms used to refer to various militant Communist groups operating in different parts of India under different organizational envelopes. In the eastern states of the mainland India (Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha), they are usually known as, or refer to themselves as Maoists while in southern states like Andhra Pradesh they are known under other titles. They have been declared as a terrorist organization under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of India (1967).[1][2][3] Leaders of the movement have been found to have hideouts located in China.[4]
In 2006 India's intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing estimated that 20,000 armed cadre Naxalites were operating in addition to 50,000 regular cadres[6] and their growing influence prompted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare them to be the most serious internal threat to India's national security.[7]"
The above paragraph is taken from wikipedia. I wanted to find out what the term NAXALITES meant to us , and, I am not surprised that as usual we have half-baked information at our immediate disposal. Though it is authors like Rahul Pandita who passionately work hard to bring the real picture infront of us.
Yes, I agree that the maoist or the naxalite movement is the biggest internal threat to our democracy. And kudos to our security forces for sacrificing their lives to keep us safe and trying their level best to contain and reduce the influence of the naxalite movement in India. But is this all that is there in this picture?
Are the naxalites power hungry? Are they doing this under the influence of some foreign power? Are they really forcing the localites and the adivasis of their areas to follow them against their wishes?
The answer is an emphatic NO..
Though our country India claims to be the biggest democracy in the world, I would say it is a farce. How can a country be democratic when more than half its population, living in villages are ruthlessly exploited by the local officials and the rich landlords since the time of Independence. We talk about globalisation and FDI and becoming a global power but on what account? A country does not become advanced just on the basis of its handful og big cities and a handfull of rich inustrialists. Today whether it is Chattisgarh or Andhra Pradesh or Maharashtra or Madhya Pradesh or Bihar, it is the downtrodden and the forgotten section of our society who are taking up arms to protect their right to live peacefully in their areas.
I wish to applaud Pandita for writing such a meticulous and detailed book on the maoist movement in India. As expected, it is a very well researched book which traces the origins of the naxalite movement from West Bengal upto the present day scenario. I was surprised and at the same time impressed to read about the Janathana Sarkar or the People's Government formed by the Maoists in the areas of their influence, which really works for the beefit of the localites and guarantees the massess all the fundamental rights denied to them by the sysytem.
Pandita has written extensively about the organisation structure of the Maoists,their fundings and even their method of procuring the weapons.
The book ends with an afterword written by Kobad Ghandy, a pioneer and a visionary of the Maoist movement, who is in Tihar Jail since his arrest in the year2009.
Here is a poem by revolutionary poet Gorakh Pandey  which expresses the sentiments of the thousands of young men and women who fight for a purpose which we the common citizens know as MAOIST MOVEMENT :
                       It's thousands of years old
                       their anger
                       thousands of years old
                       is their bitterness
                       I am only returning their scattered words
                       and you fear that   
                      I am spreading fire.

Monday, 1 July 2013

BOOK REVIEW : The palace of illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Mahabharata is one mythological story which we all know very well and have grown up listening or reading it's various tales. I was around 10-11yrs old when I first heard about it from my grandmother who seemed very excited about Mahabharata being aired on Doordarshan every Sunday morning. And so developed a Sunday ritual at my place. Everyone would get up early, take a bath, have breakfast n then sit in front of the television to watch Mahabharata.
Mahabharata is an epic tale wherein the main theme is the fight against injustice and to act in accordance with your dharma. It is the story of the families of two brothers Dhritarashtra and Pandu, the Kauravas n the Pandavas and how their enmity ultimately leads to the bloody battle of Kurukshetra which brings an end to the Third Age of Man or the Dvapar Yug, as per the Hindu scriptures.
Many authors have written about the varied and fascinating tales of Mahabharata. This book, though, is different. In this book, the author talks about the Mahabharata through the eyes and emotions of Draupadi.
The book starts with the birth of Draupadi and her brother Dhristadyumna from the sacrificial fire of the great Yagna organized by king Drupad who wanted to take revenge from Drona, the great teacher of Warcraft, who not only taught Kauravas and the Pandavas but even taught Dhristadyumna. Draupadi talks about her childhood which was very lonely and gloomy and how she always dreamt of getting married and going to a new ideal palace. The story moves ahead to her swayamvar where she snubs Karna and eventually gets married to Arjuna. She talks about the horrible way in which her new mother in law Kunti, gets her married to all her five sons and the strange special code of marital conduct designed by sage Vyasa to foster harmony in the Pandava household. As Divakaruni writes, Draupadi says, "like a communal drinking cup, I would be passed from hand to hand whether I wanted it or not." Post marriage, Draupadi along with her husbands and her mother in law go to live in the royal palace of Hastinapur. But Draupadi could never settle there and always had an intense desire for a palace of her own, which would be designed according to her choice. This heartfelt desire gets fulfilled when they shift to the barren Indraprashtha and the Pandavas ask the great Ashura magician Maya to build them the most beautiful palace. It was the most magnificent magical palace that shifted the settings strangely making the palace new each day. The Pandavas loved their palace but in the end, it was their pride in this magical palace which made Duryodhana greedy for it leading to the infamous game of dice where the Pandavas lost everything. Yudhisthir, not only lost all his riches and the magical palace but also his brothers, himself and their wife Draupadi. It was Draupadi's humiliation by the Kaurava brothers in the royal court of Hastinapur that made her vindictive and so determined to take her revenge from the Kauravas. It was she who with her open, matted hair, her sharp comments and taunts never made the five Pandavas forget her humiliation during their long exile of thirteen years. When even after the exile Duryodhana refused to give back Indraprashtha to the Pandavas, it leads to the bloodiest battle of that age which wreak destruction, both physical and emotional, of a magnitude never imagined before. Though technically the Pandavas won the battle of Kurukshetra but in reality, they had lost all that mattered to them- their sons, their beloved family members, their values n the righteousness which Yudhisthir always prided on.
Divakaruni is undoubtedly a master storyteller. This take on Mahabharata from Draupadi's perspective is a refreshing change and makes the reader view the Mahabharata from a totally different angle. To read about a young Draupadi, a lonely motherless princess who has never received any love or affection from her father and how this craving for love, fame, and power changes the life of Draupadi as well as those around her, is a sheer delight. It is intriguing to read how Draupadi was so ruled by the prophecy, which was made at the time of her birth. At the same time it is inspiring to know that in spite of all her hardships, she faced life like a regal queen stoically without begging for forgiveness or sympathy.
A must read for all those who love the mythological tales with a strong female protagonist and you can grab your copy right here:


Monday, 17 June 2013

BOOK REVIEW : And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Husseini is an author who needs no introduction. He is an author who is known all over the world for his impeccable style of writing and unique story writing skills.
The first book of Husseini's which I read was A Thousand Splendid Suns and it would be an understatement to say that I was totally enthralled by it's gripping story and such strong characters. And the moment I finished it I caught hold of The Kite Runner. It goes without saying that it was an awesome read.
Now after a gap of many years Husseini comes with out with another precious gem from his invaluable ability of story telling- "And the Mountains Echoed".
The story is not about the Taliban or the suffering of the Afghans or an individual but it is a story about people, their relationships and the impact of certain decisions on their lives. Instead of one central character, Husseini presents us with some very compelling characters who make you plunge, heart first, in their stories with an effortless magic spell.
The book begins with the early childhood story of Abdullah and his younger sister Pari who are on a long journey from their village Shadbag to Kabul with their father. On the way he tells them a story and what a story it was. I was under the spell of the great magician of words-Husseini in the first chapter itself. From there the story moves ahead with Parvana, Abdullah and Pari's stepmother. It talks about her life in the shadow of a pretty twin sister, Masooma, and  how her simmering hatred for Masooma changes the twins's lives forever. Then the master storyteller takes us into the life of Nabi, Parvana's brother who works in the house of Mrs and Mr Suleiman Wahdati. Nabi plays a pivotal role in separating Abdullah and Pari and in bringing Pari in the lives of the Wahdatis. The story then jumps to Greece into the early life of Dr. Markos, a plastic surgeon living in the present day war-torn Afghanistan. It is through this kind doctor that Pari is traced and how after many decades she unites with her brother Abdullah and his family.
All the stories are very beautifully carved and are intricately linked to each other through invisible but very strong bonds. It is these relationships and the beautifully etched characters who very subtly but surely pull your heartstrings and stay with you long after you finish the book.


Monday, 27 May 2013

BOOK REVIEW : Still counting The Dead : Survivors of Sri Lanka's Hidden War by Frances Harrison

Still Counting The Dead : Survivors of Sri Lanka's Hidden War by Frances Harrison

I have always been the one who loved fiction and never attempted to read anything serious. I came across this book while going through the Flipkart site and was compelled to order it. The book arrived four days back and I finished reading it  in two days flat. This is not because I read fast but because I could not put it down. Just reading the author's summary on the back of the book  made me uneasy and guilty for remaining ignorant about the state of the Sri Lankan Tamils during the final stages of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.
As the author herself says, this book does not talk about the origin of LTTE or the ethnic clashes prevalent in Sri Lanka since the early 1970's. This book is an honest and a real attempt by Harrison to bring to the world's notice the apathy of the hundreds of thousands of civilians who were caught in the crossfire when the war between the rebels and the government reached its bloody climax.
In this book Harrison shares the true stories of the Sri Lankan Tamils  who were the pawns in the hands of both the rebels and the government and who were even betrayed by the United Nations in their time of deepest despair.
In all the stories of these brave tamilians two things are highlighted. The first is the cruel and selfish nature of man for whom his own survival comes first, even at the cost of being human. The second facet of man which is shown is that there have been many who with bravery, sacrifice and generosity helped complete strangers in their time of gloom.
As Harrison has written that the motivation behind the telling of these stories is not revenge or making a political stand. "It is about making the dead count for something".
While reading this book one thing  became crystal clear. It is the greed, jealousy and hunger for the absolute power which makes one human do such unimaginable crimes on a fellow human. And this is the sad truth which is prevalent everywhere in the world, be it our own country India or our neighbour Pakistan or Greece or Syria.
Every person who stands for human rights should read this book to feel a small percentage of what the tamilians had to go through for being Tamils and fort staying in the rebel controlled area in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
Uma, a teacher in the rebel area who survived the war summarised the hopelessness of her community, " They took away our individuality, our intellect, our confidence, our hope, physical wealth comes last. I used to be a teacher, a fighter, a wife, and then I was reduced to being a fugitive, a person in hiding. Now they have taken everything from me."

Monday, 22 April 2013

BOOK REVIEW : Chanakya's Chant by Ashwin Sanghi

I first read about Ashwin Sanghi in the weekly Graphiti magazine. I was intrigued and keen to read his books.
Finally got a chance to read Chanakya's Chant.
A granite block is found with some sanskrit inscriptions in the begining of the book. It is the Chanakya's Chant with instructions on its usage.

" Primal shakti, I bow to thee; all encompassing shakti, I bow to thee; that through which God creates, I bow to thee;creative power of the kundalini; mother of all, to thee I bow "
The instruction read as:
Four thousand days you shall pray
Four hundred chants every day.
Chanakya's power is yours to take
Chandragupta, to make or break.
If there's a lull, start once more.
King must be queen, to be sure.
Suvasini's curse shall forever halt
If you can cure Chanakya's fault

Now its for the reader to read the story and find out whether the main protagonist here is able to break the curse or not.
There are two stories running parallel to each other in this book. The 1st story is about the greatest strategist of all times- the brilliant Chanakya who with his cold, calculating and cruel logic manages in uniting the whole Bharat and makes an astonising victory in making Chandragupta, the emperor of the Mauryan dynasty, thus earning the title of the "brilliant kingmaker".
 The other story is set in Uttar Pradesh in the present day where a simple history teacher Gangasagar Mishra is portrayed as a modern Chanakya. He plays a pivotal role in training and moulding Chandni, a slum girl who studies in the school run by Gangasagar to become the Prime Minister. Gangasagar uses every vile trick, ploy, threat or means to clear the path for his protegee to move ahead very smoothly from state politics to the centre. And to help him in his schemes is his mentor Aggarwalji, a shrewd businessman and Ikram , small time goon and a slumlord.
Through this story Ashwin shows how Mishra uses the Chanakya's chant to stop Suvasini's curse and be successful in being tagged as the man behind the Prime Minister Ms.Chandni.
The book is very well researched and takes the reader 2300 years back in the times of Chanakya. But Ashwin dissapoints with the story of Chandni.Everything is made too look very simple and easy in her journey from Uttar Pradesh politics to being the Prime Minister.
I would say that though not an exceptional book, its a one time read , if only to get to understand the workings of the brilliant strategist Chanakya.

Friday, 19 April 2013

BOOK REVIEW : The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri.N.Murari

"The slip of paper- what it said and what it left unsaid- was a threat. What crime have I committed now? Had I revealed my face accidently to a stranger or had I accidently spoken out loud in the bazaar or had I accidently revealed my ankle or wrist??" ---- the reasons in the very first chapter argued by the main protagonist sets the tone of the story.
This is the story of Rukhsana, a fiercely independent, opinionated and a strong individual who is forced to live her life behind the veil under the taliban regime, whose one of the many diktat says that a woman should only be seen in the house and in the grave.
This story is about her intense struggle to attain the elusive freedom for her younger brother Jahan and herself from the stifflling and fearsome life in  Kabul. The opportunity comes in the form of a cricket tournament organised by the talibs which in itself is a preposterous idea as the talibans would be encouraging the kind of behaviour they have been trying to suppress all these years.
The story is like a full on Hindi masala movie with a handsome- always comes to the rescue -HERO and  a strong but cornered from all sides- HEROINE and a plot full of the expected twists and turns.
But its a feel good book with a happy ending which gives you a warm glow in your heart and makes you want to believe that however difficult a situation may be Truth and Love wins!

BOOK REVIEW : The Oath of the Vayuputras by Amish


"Good and Evil are two sides of the same coin. The key question is not as to what is Evil but when does the coin flip and Good turns to Evil"------ these lines form the basis for the third and final book in the Shiva trilogy, the Oath of the Vayuputras by Amish.
This book is the final lap in the Neelkanth's quest for the true evil and how Shiva annd his entourge manage to defeat the evil. But is it so easy or does Shiva has to pay a price for it?
Amish weaves a tight paced story with graphic battle scenes and cinematic descriptions of Pariha,the abode of the Vayuputras and Ujjain, the beautiful city of the Vasudevs.
Amish introduces a few new characters in the final book, but instead of confusing the readers, Amish manages to bring all the characters together to make the story progress smoothly.He has put in the right dose of drama,emotion, romance and action making it an inteteresting read.
Though its a bit slow in comparison to the first two books but it is an overall good book making it a fiting finale to the Shiva trilogy.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

BOOK REVIEW : Our Moon has blood clots by Rahul Pandita

It is near to impossible for me to review this book which deals with the state of the kashmiri pandits, a subject, so close to the heart, mind n the soul of the author. RatherI would like to write about how I felt while reading this book. I came upon this book by chance and was hooked to the story from the very first page.
Rahul Pandita made me sit up and realise in what a cocoon like state, I've been livin my life, sheltered form the harsh realities and the sufferings of people of my own country in the name of religion fueled by the politicians. I'm not pro politics but as I went reading this book, I felt a strange blend of helplessness, anger and an urge to cry and scream out. It was my conscience asking me to stand up and raise my voice against the atrocities done to this community and the apathy meted out to them even today by the political parties, be it the refugee camps or to the pandits who've returned back to their homeland on the false promises made to them.
 I have some very close kashmiri muslim friends who've also suffered during the peak of militancy in Kashmir and are still living there with an unknown fear at the back of their minds, be it the militants or the atrocties of the Indian army. As Rahul Pandita had himself told an army general while discussing the human rights violation," I've lost my home not my humanity".
Though the book stays with you long after its over there are a couple of lines which bring a lump in your throat. "I was one of the thousands of migrants who landed each day in Delhi but unlike others I was in permanent exile, from Kashmir where my family came from."