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Monday, 30 June 2014

Thoughts before I sleep

I have usually quiet days these days because I am living alone here in Delhi. Sometimes one whole day passes without talking to anyone.

The amount of proximity that you want to feel with the society around you can be finely adjusted with the basic skills of socialization.

If you want to make a lot of new friends, all you need to do is join in when people are laughing, slip out a remark and come up with clever things to say. In no time you'll be picked up, sniffed and accepted in a social group.

One more thing can be to ask for favours. You can ask anyone to transfer a movie from their laptop to your pendrive. It might be declined or ill-received but sooner or later, you'll wiggle your way into a comfortable place.

This knowledge has helped me in reverse. I know how conversations can really snowball into friendships, I have turned into a bit of a snob and have started being choosy with the people I pick for such conversations. I've also been nipping the initiations that I don't foresee going anywhere right in the bud.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Book Review- The Slim Punjabi- Harmeet Kaur

Title- The Slim Punjabi
Author- Harmeet Kaur
ISBN- 978-93-81506-21-1
Genre- Food and culture
Publisher- Amaryllis
Price- Rs 350
Pages- 283

This review is a part of the book review program by The Readers' Cosmos

If Madhya Pradesh is Hindustan ka dil (heart), Punjab is its dhadkan (heartbeat). The land of the five rivers finds mention in almost all of the films, documentaries, books made on India. It is stereotyped, celebrated, discussed but never neglected and there's a reason for that. Not every Indian understands what Punjab really stands for and this book in my hand, is an honest attempt toward that.

About the cover
The front cover is brightly coloured and no words in English language can describe the mood or vivaciousness of the cover art; mostly because it is purely Indian, purely Punjabi. Painting of a bride with elaborate floral artwork around it on a pink background announce the essentially Punjabi flamboyance. Back cover again displays the 'truck' art with large Horn Please signs in bright yellow background. The introduction quickly establishes the importance of food in the Punjabi way of life. Kudos to Seema Sethi for the beautiful work with the cover.

About the author

Harmeet Kaur is a marketing professional based out of Bangalore. Born and brought up in Delhi, she is a DU product and has done graduation with honours in Physics and then MBA. Her interests include arts, culture, painting, cooking, music, reading and of course, writing. Her picture on the backside of the front cover tells us that she is extremely pretty too. Punjab is beautiful, case closed!

About the book
The book is an honest attempt towards introducing Punjab to the curious mind. Amaryllis has done a great job with the design. The pages are crisp and the colour scheme reminds me of my NCERT textbooks, ah! nostalgia galore! The book is strewn with Punjabi cuisine, folklore, poetry and philosophy and the artwork before every chapter sets the mood with its Rangoli-esque styling.

The book begins with Bulle Shah's poetry and the stage is set for all the spices, colors, music to come together and dance as this Patiala-peg sized celebration of a book begins. The introduction begins with a personal-journal like monologue by the author taking us through the DU campus and I think DU student or not, your mouth is bound to start watering and the heart to start aching as you turn these pages drenched with dollops of desi ghee. The Slim Punjabi piece draws attention to a few true and not so true Punjabi stereotypes. They're all funny nonetheless.

The book is divided in five parts- Jhelum, Chenab, Beas, Sutlej and Ravi. What follows next is a treat. The author has touched briskly on topics like folk music and dance, love stories, festivals, fashion and dressing and Sikh traditions. And of course recipes of everything from Rajma Chawal to Butter Chicken to Kadhi are given. The personal touch to the recipes make them what they're always intended to be- More than food. They're a way of life. How can you think of Gajar Halwa without going back to your childhood? How can you think of Pakore without thinking of monsoon and the festivities it brings? How can you think of Sarson da saag te Makki di roti and not find yourself lying on a charpoy near a tubewell in a village in Punjab? So, yes, go ahead, pick this deliciously Punjabi book and indulge yourself.

My favourite part in the book (Chenab) is the love stories and the author has even shared with us the myths around the stories and their popular versions. It gives us an insight and also warms our heart looking at those souls who became immortal and guiding lights for all those in love.

So, by all means, pick it up if you're a proud Indian and take pride in this cultural joyride. Also, do not forget to try all those recipes! For the love of food!

My rating- ****1/2 (Four and half stars out of five)

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Let's Join Hearts #JodeyDilonKo

This post is a part of the Indiblogger event conducted by Zee's latest channel that showcases talent from across the border. The channel brings stories from Pakistan which us Indians look forward to with much excitement! Here is a link to the official website- zindagitv.in

I think visiting a new place, a new city or a new country is in itself a life-altering phenomenon is one's life. You get to soak in all that is new and different and metamorphose into a another, more evolved, more tolerant person. Visiting a place is like opening a new chapter in life; in terms of video gaming, you can consider it moving to the next level! I'd like to recount my #JodeyDilonKo experience when I moved for my BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) to Davangere, Karnataka which initially was a frightening and uneasy phase and later turned out to be one of the best things that have ever happened to me.


When I got admission in one of the leading dental colleges of India, I was nervous because I had never stayed away from home which was in Central India (Madhya Pradesh) and suddenly, I had to shift my base all the way up to South India where the regional language was different! The regional cuisine was different and the way of life was also a bit different. Being an Indian, unity in diversity motto runs in my blood so, I began this beautiful journey with a few similar souls who began as strangers and soon, with time, turned into the gems of my life, my friends.



I visited Davangere for the first time with my Dad. It was a sleepy town in Karnataka where Butter Dosa was the staple food and filter kapi (coffee) was the staple beverage. I realized I will be stapled to this place for the next five years of my life and the feeling of staying away from my family was slowly sinking in. I entered the place as a shy, reticent kid who hardly spoke and didn't quite know how to make friends.
As it turns out, making friends isn't rocket science and my batchmates who were from all over India soon turned to be my great friends, my partners in crime! All I had to do was be nice and smile. I think the rule holds good no matter which part of World you do. Be it India, be it Pakistan.

Making Friends With the Locals

Kannadigas are warm friendly people and they also happen to have a killer sense of humour. I was welcomed in Davangere with the sight of a scooter slamming against an auto-rickshaw in peak traffic hours and as me and my Dad were expecting fireworks, the two motorists smiled at each other and waved a hand in apology and moved on! With that image of Karnataka in my mind, it wasn't difficult to start my journey. With my patients ranging from septuagenarian gentlemen insisting that I should eat more, to scared ladies who'd not let anyone touch their teeth and insist on written prescriptions to relieve pain, I learnt that all it takes to strike a chord with people is compassion. It was the first time in my life that I truly understood the philosophy of vasudhaiv kutumbakam.( The World is one family).

Making friends with my batchmates

Now, I had people from Nagaland to Haryana to Gujarat to Bihar in my batch, plus of course there were locals. I realized that although the World is one family, people can be as different as chalk and cheese. It was my baby steps into the real world where I had to listen to differing opinions and develop my own view, my own personality. A strife that was going to teach me how to live in a sea of emotions and contradictions.

Adjusting
It was never easy to share a room, eat at fixed times, to not be able to complain about the lunch or dinner menu. Hostel life, that too in a whole different place was an experience that required a lot of flexibility. Fortunately, I was keen to adjust and adapt in this new situation. I made friends with the mess workers and consequently I was treated with greetings and smiles everyday as I entered the mess. Slowly, they became my friends and mess workers would come to me and ask what I wanted, would bring me chapatis and even insisted like family members that I ate more. When I was leaving the hostel, even the mess workers came to my room and said their goodbyes.

Surviving
Yes, obviously one misses one's usual ambiance. There was no poha for breakfast in Karnataka. I later came to know that they did. They just called it avlakki. I started doing things that I had never done before. I joined a swimming pool, I started jogging in the morning (which didn't last very long but hey!), I learnt Kannada and I even picked up local slang!!

Falling in love with the new place
And then comes the eventual scenario when I imbibed all the cultural values, the sensibilities and become one with the place. I started loving the smell of freshly prepared crispy butter dosa and I started appreciating the richness of Kannada language. I also fell in love with the simplicity of the people there and people in general. My faith that people in general are always good became stronger. I'd like to end this post by narrating one incident that happened to me while my stay in Karnataka-

An elderly patient had appointment with me for his dentures. He was old and the commute from his home to my hospital was a real hassle for him, still, he used to keep all his appointments and come regularly. There was one day when the work was not ready and if he came, I'd not have been able to perform any procedure on him. I tried to call him to postpone his appointment but he didn't answer my call. By the way, I knew very little Kannada and I wasn't really sure if I'd be able to convey anything if he picked up. I decided to go to his home and tell him not to come the next day, and picked up my bike. The address on his case sheet was really vague and I asked around in the area to find out that there were at least five people by his name in the area. I took a deep breath and knocked on the first door that had his name. It turned out to be his home. I told him with gestures and broken Kannada that he doesn't need to come tomorrow and I'll call him when to come.

As I was about to leave, he grabbed me by my hand and made me sit. I was humbled by the old man's insistence and sat down on their sofa. He asked his wife to bring me dinner. I nodded like an idiot not really understanding at once. Before I could realize and say no, the plate was in front of me. I was humbled and touched by their gesture; they didn't have much money which was evident by their humble abode but the old couple had hearts of the size of the largest mansions on Earth. Their granddaughter came later, she was a small shy kid. I think kids who are under their grandparents' patronage are the best. I talked to her- bright kid, she knew some English too. The Grandpa took much pride in that. With my heart and stomach content, I took their leave and came out. My eyes seemed to have caught some mist and I wiped them and started my motorcycle.

There! That was my greatest lesson living away from home. If you are nice, the whole World is your nest; no matter you are in Mumbai or Karachi or Bangalore or Lahore, it's one and the same!

:)

Thank you for reading. Much love!

My Role Model - P G Wodehouse

I am writing about #MyRoleModel as a part of the activity by Gillette India in association with BlogAdda.com.

Not many people know that I am an aspiring writer and wish to publish a book someday. Yes, I know what you must be thinking! What's new in that!? Hehe.. I know there is  no dearth of "aspiring" authors in this world especially after the advent of self-publishing tools. Anyway, I too have a dream! And when I look at my bookshelf and try to pick a role model, only one name stands out among the rest of them- P G Wodehouse. His writing style is so fluid and unique that just a couple of lines can take you to a whole different world. Whenever I am done reading a Wodehouse story, I find myself sharper and wittier by a mile.

Such is the virtue of great writing; it does not leave you awestruck by shining fanciful lights directly in your eyes, instead, it inspires you to shine brighter yourself. His humour is sharp and witty and it is infectious too. When Wooster and Jeeves (his characters) begin racking their brains to look for solutions to a problem and the situations tumbles down into goofiness, you can hardly contain your amusement. You are amused not just at the language but also the expertise of the author to extract excitement out of these humdrum events.
Wodehouse is not just a writer, he is also a cartoonist; except he paints the cartoons, those caricatures with his words. The art of exaggeration is a powerful literary tool especially in satire and Wodehouse is well endowed with the skill. When I write, I want to be just like that- ticking the funny bone of my reader without insulting his intelligence; challenging it and amusing it on the contrary.

The genre that Wodehouse writes in, gives ample scope of creating sketches. Unlike a thriller novel where events take precedence over characters; Wodehouse's world relies more on the peculiarities of its characters and the humour generates itself. I do not want to create a race of emotions, there are enough people in the literary world doing that; I want my readers to sit back, relax, forget about reaching a conclusion and read my stories. I am sure it'll take a lot of effort on my side to create something Wodehouse-like but, hey! I must wish big, right?

It doesn't mean that there is no thrill or suspense in his stories. Quite the opposite! Every Jeeves story ends with a bang and you might guess the ending of an Agatha Cristie novel but it is much harder to guess what Jeeves is going to come up with in a Wodehouse story. I wish to learn to balance the skills of choosing the right words and the art of story-telling just like my favourite author.

I think I am not very good at dealing with grim or serious emotions. I tend to either over-emphasize or over-dramatize tragedy. But, if I am to create a world where even tragedy is written in the form of dark comedy, I think I can excel. It's the world of- you guessed it right! PG Wodehouse!
What Ho!

My Role Model- Batman

I am writing about #MyRoleModel as a part of the activity by Gillette India in association with BlogAdda.com.

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In a world where real heroes are scarce, I have always idolized a fictional character as my role model. We all need a superhero to look up to, to comfort us, to make us feel safe; for the most part of our growing up years, our dads play that part. Also, there are lots of characters in the comic book world who make you feel safe and protected. One particular superhero does not make you feel like he'll be there whenever you are in trouble, instead he teaches you that anyone can be a superhero. You do not need special powers like flying ability of X-ray vision to be a superhero; all it takes is a resolve. Yes, I am talking about Bruce Wayne aka Batman.

I have always been a big fan of this character. As a kid, he was my role model- no kidding! I wanted to grow up to be Batman. It was not about the cool gadgets, neither the rich man influence with his shiny mansion and a private butler. It was much more than that. Batman has been a character who is normal like all of us. He has sharpened his human abilities to superhuman levels with hard work and determination. What's more is that even if you take away all the kickass (literally) martial arts skills and the sharp mind from him, he'd still win. It's more about the spirit which is unbreakable.

When the villain- Bane broke Batman's back, the comic fans thought that was the end, and there is no coming back! When villains like Scarecrow, Joker and Riddler play mindgames with him, you tend to believe that there is a limit upto which our hero's body and mind can take. But the best part of this character is that he takes the best shot his opponent has got and then falls down and then gets right back up. The philosophy of "never say die" is what binds all great men together.

He might be a childhood fantasy, a fictional character you cannot find in real life, but the various values that are taught through them have a lasting impact on the audience's mind. Another slightly superficial reason I want to be like Batman is because he is not a knight in the shining armour. He is hated, detested, and people call him a menace. But, that doesn't stop him from doing what he believes is right. It might look egoistical but it is more a question of principles.

One more reason you have to love this character is because he has made his fears his strengths . He was scared of bats, he became Batman; he was scared of the dark (because of a childhood incident), he himself became the night and embraced darkness. He is an example of how far the human mind and body can be pushed. Nothing that he does in the comics and films seems impossible yet, we call him a superhero and that is not without reason.

Batman out!



Thursday, 19 June 2014

Book Review- Dan Brown's Inferno



So, I finished reading the much hyped "Inferno" and yes, it was my first Dan Brown. Hold your gasps, I have been caught up with a lot of things and I watched the Da Vinci Code movie and was reluctant to read the book therefore.

Anyway, the book explores certain moral grey areas and the worst part is that the author chooses to take a stand instead of letting it hang out there. I thought only Bollywood movies had this infectious disease of being preachy but now I know it is a universal phenomenon. Sarcasm aside, the book is a definite page turner and the thrill quotient is high. My copy had 460 pages and I finished it in two days. The suspense factor was never there for me.

The surprise never really exists but you still want to know how the story unfolds. Yes, I'd place the book in that category. The last few pages of detailed descriptions get a little dull because you've already figured them out and it becomes more like a formality.

The book is also a trip down certain historically important cities and the vivid description paint an elaborate, enticing, rich picture. The narrative is slowed in pace when these descriptions emerge and they only cause the thrill to build up to an insane level where you're almost mad at the author for setting such a beautiful stage background that it steals some of the limelight from the story. Sample watching a thrilling car chase and just when you are about to jump off your seats, someone switches the channel to watch a special documentary on penguins. You love penguins, you are loving the descriptions but what about the car chase on channel 9! That's how it feels sometimes while reading the novel.

Robert Langdon is in his usual claustrophobic mode- vulnerable, confused and clueless mode which ups the thrill factor of the novel as the reader sees the scenario from Langdon's eyes for most part of the book. The other usual elements like a female companion, a lurking silent threat, an authoritative figure trying to get situation in control- all a part of stereotyped Dan Brown novel now. Brown does not step out of his genre which is a nice thing as the novel remains in a comfortable territory but bad because of the mediocrity that it brings with it. I'd love to see Langdon do more things than decipher symbols and get angry over being kept in the dark but then, I do not think a professor can be jumping across buildings and solving murder mysteries James Bond style.

As a Robert Langdon/ Dan Brown fan, I don't think there is room for disappointment but also, the novel is very predictable in terms of plot and sometimes turns into a travel guide which can be fascinating/ frustrating based on your mood.




Do Right- Do Good



This post is a part of the Indiblogger DoRight initiative in association with Tata Capital. Here is the link to their website- http://doright.in/

The best thing one can do to give back to the society, if one wishes to- is the donation of education. Education not only empowers the future citizens, it makes them responsible toward the society too. It is like starting a cascade reaction.

I had goosebumps while watching this video (see above) by the DoRight team where this lone warrior of the mountains wages a battle against natural as well as financial odds to teach underprivileged kids. The dilapidated blackboards, the shaky benches, lack of stationary and challenging terrain are obstacles that only serve to make his resolve more firm.

His sense of humour when he points at the board and tells how it "used" to be black shows how he is not daunted by the challenges. We need more people like this in our country, we need more such people on this Earth!

This is my little way to show my support to him. My younger brother in Bhopal has taught underprivileged kids for an NGO. I wish we get more such NGOs taking up these causes in hilly regions too. Due to the difficulty in accessibility, even after so many years of Independence, these regions remain in neglect fighting it out all alone. I think these people have great potential and great spirit and it is about time they are made partners in nation-building on a more advanced level.

It has been a dream of mine to work in the hills for these simple minded and tough people. Here's praying that Govt of India takes notice of the condition there and opens recruitment for healthcare professionals (like myself) in these regions.

Thank you for reading and watching.

Do right!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Deliver me to Beauty's new Address- Oman

Prizes
This post is a part of the "Beauty has an address" contest by Indiblogger in association with http://www.omantourism.gov.om/

So, here is the activity for the contest
Everyone experiences a country differently. If you could visit the magical country of Oman, where would you go, what would you do and why?

Wow, with so many beautiful options and so many amazing activities, it is hard to pick just one. Well, as I am a nature lover and an ocean enthusiast, if I have to narrow it down, I think it will be Al-Dimananiyat islands Nature reserve.

I think after a daylong shopping and merry-making in the capital city Muscat, this reserve will be a nice way to unwind and get close to nature. According to the official website of Oman Tourism-

"Dimaniyat Islands Nature Reserve is located in Wilayat AlSeeb in the Governorate of Muscat and Wilayat Barka in Al Batinah, and lies about 18 kilometres off the coast of Barka (70 kilometres west of Muscat, the capital). Its total area is 100 hectares (247 acres) and is composed of nine islands. The reserve features pristine beaches on which the white sands are caressed by the sea’s crystal blue waters. This reserve has a rich natural heritage and is replete with several kinds of coral reefs, including some examples that are quite rare. The island is home to a large number of sea turtles that lay their eggs and nest there, as well as a magnet for migratory and indigenous birds. 
In 1984, the reserve was recognised internationally because it is located within the project of the Great Barrier Reef, considered an international nature reserve and one of the most beautiful diving locations in the Sea of Oman. 
Locally, the islands go by the following names: Kharabah, Huyoot, Al Jabal Al Kabeer (Um As Sakan). The latter is divided into two islands: Um Al Liwahah (Minaret) and Al Jawn that includes three islands. These islands contain more than 22 known diving sites, in addition to being perfect for snorkelling. Also, some people like to camp in the islands, especially in the period from October to February."  

Well, nine islands, that sounds like fun. I bet the pristine beaches would take the mind to tranquil serenity and peace. You can have a look at the pictures from the link given above- the beaches are so close to nature and the beauty is just untouched and pure. 

Imagine snorkelling in those blue waters and coming face to face with those colourful turtles. I bet it would be a whole other experience. Plus, since they are nine islands with more than 22 diving sites, there would be so much to do in terms of exploration. I think it is the perfect place to have a Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara trip with your college friends. It would a trip of one's dreams. 

Also, I have always been fond of corals, they somehow instill the hope in me that all is well with the World and everything is fine. They present the most untouched and beautiful structures of the Earth, and as this reserve promises to have a rich coral vegetation, it has to be a treat that cannot be missed. 

Also, for the photobug in me, these islands have both indigenous and migratory birds flocking them. I think it cannot get better than this. Just imagine the kind of photo-album I'd be having once I am back from this trip.

Ah! In my mind, I am already there. All I need now is to turn this into reality!

Oh man! Oman!

My Role Model- My Chachaji

I am writing about #MyRoleModel as a part of the activity by Gillette India in association with BlogAdda.com.

My Chachaji- Mr. Rakesh Kumar Shrivastava is my role model, he is youngest among his siblings and the sharpest in terms of intellect. I have learnt a lot from his stoicism and conviction. The anecdotes from his childhood and teenage always contain an element of eccentricity. He reminds me that it is fun to be different. He has never followed the rules, the set guidelines and has done what he has found to be right. I see him and I see a lone warrior constantly warding off the advances of mediocrity and herd mentality. He has never given in to the constant bickering of the society to live his life a certain way but he is the epitome of the fact that the only person who has a right over what you want to do and what you want to be is you. His sharp wit and sense of humour amuse me and he has kept the child in him alive just by following his heart.

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He has always inspired me to excel in my studies and other stuff too. People ask me how I learnt cartooning, drawing, how I taught myself the art and also from where did I find the zeal to pursue it. A lot of the credit actually goes to my Chachaji. I still remember vividly, although I was a little kid at that time, when he gave me a guava leaf and asked me to replicate it on paper. That seed was the beginning of it all, that small event when you pat a kid's back the first time he does well- it triggers a cascade of events unfathomable.

He is also my role model for the way he has never used his above normal intelligence to show off or to win something. The pursuit of knowledge has always been his constant goal without any ulterior motive of money or fame. His eyes light up when he is given a difficult problem to solve and the childlike curiosity and the energy is something I can learn a lot from. If science has to prosper, it needs to recruit and reward more people like my Chachaji.

He also never seems to take anything to heart. This stoicism comes with a great deal of pride in self and being comfortable in one's skin I think. I have seen him smile in the face of his worst critics and it never bothers him when snide remarks are thrown his way. I guess, it is a mark of a genius that he never really gets tied down to petty emotions and has a clear and no nonsense approach toward life.
Yes, I have a lot more to learn from him but for now, I think I have made it clear why he is my role model. :)

Cheers!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Book Review- Suicide at IIT- Ravi Kumar R

Title- Suicide at IIT
Author- Ravi Kumar R
Publisher- Book Banyan
ISBN- 9789351561842
Pages- 87 (Actually the story ends at Page 54)

So, I get this email from the author requesting for a review and a few monthes later, I am holding this lean book with many blank pages in my hands. The author is an IIT Kharagpur graduate and this is actually his third book. He hails from Hyderabad and reside there at present.
The cover of the book is eye-catching and the graphic of suicide paints a curious picture. India's map gives it a political hue which is intended and intelligent. The pages are crisp and the font is appropriate, easy on eye. There are no syntax or typographical errors of major consequence.
Franz Kafka's quote- "One of the first signs of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die." can well be called the book's tagline and it's all downhill from there. The story revolves around a suicide by a student named Siddharth in IIT Kharagpur. Apparently there was a message behind this untimely death and that is explained in these 54 pages. It is more of a short story that you can finish in one hour and then regret reading it. It has self-righteousness written all over it and all logic is thrown out the window to make a point.

The story suffers from the Jesus-ification of personalities and at one point, it turns into a mystery which is easy to predict. As far as the message is concerned, there is no message except that there is need to change. The issues that this suicide hopes to solve range from women empowerment to Hindu-Muslim unity to inclusive development and so on. The suicide letter is more like a rant from Rahul Gandhi's speech. I apologise if I hurt any sentiments with my words but, as a reviewer I have to be honest with my readership. The novel is a preachy piece of work with no clarity and it isn't layered either. It is a bad bollywood masala movie that comes and goes without anyone noticing. Even Karl Marx would disown this radical piece of work due to sheer lack of pragmatism.

The saving grace (somewhat) of the novel is that it is short and the language is free from errors and lucid. I wish the author works more on the narrative skills and contents because he has the raw material but the maturity of thought is far from sight. The last 40 pages which are almost blank except for the headlines from a utopian future (all because of one freaking suicide) are each like nails in the coffin of the book.

I'd give this book half a star.  

Book Review- Love Kills- Ismita Tandon

Title - Love Kills
Author- Ismita Tandon
ISBN- 978-93-5029-835-0
Publisher- Harper Collins Publishers India
Genre- Fiction/ Whodunnit
Price- Rs 299/-
Pages- 241


Thank you Indiblogger for this wonderful opportunity. The book I am about to review right now was sent to me under the GetPublished program by Indiblogger and Harper Collins. It has been a great initiative and I'd love to be a part of it in the future too.
Coming to the book, it falls in the Agatha Cristie's genre of mysterious storylines which are gripping and complex at the same time. It was easy on eyes in terms of both printing quality and language. I was able to finish it in less than three days in very few sittings. The author Ismita Tandon is a poetess who blogs at lesserknownpoet.com. She has authored two books before this one viz. Love on the Rocks and Jacob Hills.

The cover design by Trinankur Banerjee is exquisite and it piques the reader's interest with the scinitillating art and fonts that stand out starkly. The image of a dead lady with a fallen wine glass and a sketch lying near it paint a curious picture. It is definitely one of the nicer covers that I have seen so far. The back cover is red- the colour of both passion and blood and carries an introduction to the protagonist Johny Will who is the founder of Thy Will- a deaddiction centre for the rich and famous in the sleepy hill station town of Monele; his fiancee Mira, who dies of an overdose of morphine. Then we have characters of Officer Ray, Johnny's assistant Sera, Johnny's cousin-slash-half brother Zac and Zac's mother Adele. Almost revealing too much, maybe out of the confidence in her own story-telling, the author sets the mood for the book.

The novel is written in first person accounts of all the characters that constitute the prime suspects or important people in the novel. Switching turnwise to various first person accounts disrupts the pace of reading the story somewhat and sometimes may confuse you as to whose account you're reading. It is an interesting style but I think if there were so many characters, choosing one or two persons for narration eg. Johnny Will (protagonist) and Officer Ray (Investigator) would have been better.

I would put the novel in pulp fiction category because of the sheer volatility in the characters. It is a world where anybody might sleep with anyone and hormones run high. If I might be forgiven for sounding like a sexist, I'd say that the novel is somewhat feminine in its broodings; which may be a put off or a turn on based on your taste. One drawback of running first person accounts throughout the story is that you are showing the story from various perspectives and in a whodunnit, it becomes difficult to hide who is the murderer if the reader is let into the brains of all the characters. This unnecessary challenge that the author took up, was duly met with the help of vague language and situations which were open to interpretation. All in all, it was a display of wit and the best part is that there are no loose threads as you finish the novel.

There is a certain European air about the novel and it is less Indian in terms of not only the characters' names but the situations too. It is not a coming-of-age novel by any means, as it caters to the basal senses of thrill and voyeurism. Despite the high promises at the beginning, the characters who were given complex roles, end up in the simpler black and white cages which was disappointing.

One has to hand it to the author for successfully guarding the mystery and keeping the reader hooked till the end. The novel is addictive and it grows on you, whether you like it or not. Even if your taste differs, you cannot put it down for the simple reason that the pace of the novel is kept such that there is a new event unfolding at every other page. Reading it is like sitting with a punster, you know you might not like the joke but you want to hear it anyway, just to know the answer.

The character descriptions are vivid and lively by even international bestsellers' standards, the language is lucid and the poetess in the author has found expression at certain places which was more of a speedbreaker in terms of pace of reading. I feel, and this is just an opinion, that the author fares much better in the prose department than poetry. Of course, it is a matter of individual choice. The problem with first person accounts is also that if there is inconsistency in the thoughts and actions of a character, the plot gets messy. It happens at two-three places but I'd forgive the same for the sake of originality and innovation. I think the best from Ismita's pen is yet to come and for that she has to be braver than this. In terms of the title of the book too, I think she could have done better.

I'd rate this novel with three out of five stars. ***/5

Happy reading!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Sun Comes Closer


Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Cookie Is Crumbling?


Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Book Review- The Emperor's Riddles- Satyarth Nayak

Buy The Emperor's Riddles: Book

Title- The Emperor's Riddles
Author- Satyarth Nayak
Publisher- Amaryllis
  • ISBN-10: 9381506450
  • ISBN-13: 978-9381506455
Price- Rs 269 (Flipkart), Rs 239 (Amazon)
Genre- Historical Fiction
Pages- 396

This review is a part of the book review program by The Reader's Cosmos.

"Satyarth Nayak is an author, script-writer and journalist based in Delhi. In 2011, two of his short stories were selected for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. As a TV journalist, he has worked with premiere news channels like NDTV and CNN-IBN. The Emperors Riddles is his first full-length novel."

Now this is book that underpromises and overdelivers. Classic way to win. I didn't have great expectations as I had never heard the name of the author. The cover design looked mysterious and enigmatic but didn't quite build up the tension maybe because of the font selection. The cover didn't fall into the stereotypical Dan Brown-ish legacy where bold, embossed fonts, declaring the author name and book title leave a lasting impact. One cursory look at the front and back covers and you come to know that it falls in the genre of historical fiction with the likes of the Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Sanghi recommending it. I turned a few pages expecting a few yawn-worthy descriptions of historical events, I didn't even intend to start reading and ended up reading 50 pages non-stop! I realized I had just found a gem and had to do proper justice to it by reading it with the respect that it deserved.

"More terrifying than the savage murder of historian Ram Mathur on the ghats of the Ganga are the questions that follow. The letter carved on his face, the cryptic mail he sends his daughter Sia after he dies, more murders piling up. Desperate for answers, Sia turns to esoteric writer and friend Om Patnaik. But what begins as a hunt for the killer, becomes an extraordinary trail of riddles strewn across the country, that must end at the gates of an enigma. Patnaik and Sia race from one riddle to another, towards a royal secret that has remained alive for centuries."

So, I began again and was overwhelmed by the writer's knowledge about ancient Indian history, I think a lot research must have gone into making of this book. The book easily floats past eras, taking you to flashes of events in Indian history that find relevance in the present day India. (I am trying hard to give you no spoilers here). The character of Om Patnaik has hints of Robert Langdon (created by Dan Brown) in him complete with a weird phobia and vulnerable personality but I think the similarity crept unknowingly and the writer more than compensated for it by his vivid descriptions from the Indian and mostly Buddhist history. The character called Sia Mathur is given the female protagonist part but due to other powerful female characters in the book, she doesn't quite take the centerstage. Ram Mathur's character although doesn't get much space but is important in the story.

I think there were some moments of confusion in the novel when the author switches back and forth from past to present but, it all becomes clear in the later part of the novel. The novel is best enjoyed if read twice, it is a story that has multifold dimensions and repeated readings will make it even more enjoyable.

The language is well-knit, lucid and the writing style is reader-friendly. One thing is for sure that Satyarth Nayak is here to stay. There are a few typographical errors which I forgot to mark but I am sure, the further editions will take care of that.

The book is divided into multiple chapters so, you never feel burdened by the enormity of text as there is always a chapter ending and a new one starting. It can get on your nerves if you are not quite a history buff but, in that case, I think you should read the last few chapters, ruin the surprise and then come back and read the chapters that you find confusing. Or maybe just put a bookmark there and read them later with clarity.

Now, who should be reading this book. I definitely do not recommend it to those who are regular Dan Brown readers or those who have just finished reading The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi. The book does draw a lot from the contemporary authors of the same genre and that might upset the reader's mind if it is not open enough. I recommend it to those who have been into other genres and want to test the waters before jumping into the genre of historical fiction. Also, those with keen interest in Geography and History of India will find this joyride amusing. I'd also recommend it all the first timers, believe me, it is much better to start with these books. Put that "Five Point Someone" down and pick this one up!

All in all, I'll give this book three stars out of five. Three is a factor of 9! What a coincidence! (You'll understand the joke once you read the book)

***

Happy reading!