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Monday, 30 March 2015

Book Review- Catching the Departed- Kulpreet Yadav

Title- Catching The Departed
Author- Kulpreet Yadav
Publisher 4 Hour Books
ISBN-10 8183860664
Edition 1st Edition
Imprint Tara Press
Book Type Fiction Book
Number of Pages 258 Pages
Publication Year 2014 July
Language English
ISBN-13 9788183860666
Binding Paperback

SERIES & SET DETAILS
Series Volume 1
Series Name Andy Karan Series

CONTRIBUTORS
Authored By Kulpreet Yadav
Author Info
Founder-editor of Open Road Review, a literary journal with a global footprint, Kulpreet Yadavs own writings have appeared in various magazines and newspapers in India and elsewhere. He is the founder member of the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Association and when not writing, he loves to travel, experiment with food and do photography. Kulpreet lives in New Delhi with his wife and two daughters. More at www.kulpreetyadav.in


The above info has been taken from the Flipkart page of the book. You may purchase the book here.

The book has promising beginnings where the banana-eating investigative journalist puts on his detective shoes and sets off to solve a mystery which is much larger than his expectations. The author has kept the accounts realistic by using the real names of roads and giving close to reality descriptions of scenes. The initial 70 pages of the book had floored me and I was happy that I was reading and learning at the same time. The characters were believable, the word-pictures were painted with finesse and the loose ends were beginning to make the whole thing very thrilling. 

The writing developed some fatigue in the middle. The dialogues almost disappeared and the narration started looking hurried. The protagonist of the novel Andy Karan slowly developed into a vulnerable target who had nothing but brawns to help him survive in this cruel world. He is no Hercule Poirot, not even close. He is just a guy who likes adventure and has an interesting history. The female lead character of the novel- Monica also was depicted poorly. In general, the novel gave females only two options- you are either a vamp or a sitting duck. The undercurrent of sexism was slightly disturbing. In a recent review of Khushwant Singh's Maharaja in Denims' I have already talked about the problem of sexism in pulp fiction. Now I am getting the idea that maybe I am trying to see something which is supposed to be a masala entertainer with too keen an eye. So, nevermind.

Anyway, the novel did manage to keep my attention right till the end. I did see a gradual deterioration in the quality of writing and editing as the novel progressed. The colloquialism in narrative phrases (as opposed to dialogues, where it is ok because it makes them sound realistic) was mildly disturbing. Instead of 'terrified or horrified', the author had chosen phrases like 'worried as hell'. The language still is one of the high points of the novel. 

It was a breezy read and I was able to finish it in a very short amount of time. You should watch out for the beautiful language in the beginning and start expecting less as you move toward the end- that seems to be the way to enjoy this light read. Also, I am quite aware that powerful woman characters are not the highlight of a masala detective fiction and so must be the case with the reader who is easily offended by portrayal of women as the weaker sex. 

The cover design has been beautifully done and adds to the appeal. The pages are crisp and nice. The character- Andy Karan has good potential as he has his peculiar quirks, His vulnerability and too much reliance of brute force are maybe the points the author wants to look at in the subsequent books. The interesting analogy with Mahabharata's character Karn is thought-provoking but slightly overdone. The author needs to be a little innovative in that field. Read the book if you are looking for a light entertainer. No blood and gore to scare the weak-hearted, this book will cure your hangover.

*** (Three stars out of five.)

Friday, 27 March 2015

Cool things to say online

Cool thing 1- This was so funny, I spilled my coffee on my keyboard.

Why is no one drinking tea or shikanji when they are typing? And if why do you spit coffee on your keyboard every time you read something funny? Do I imagine you as someone holding coffee in his mouth scrolling the webpages?

Cool thing 2- I love cats.

It is just something cool to say. Somehow cats, books, coffee are cool terms. You may own zero cats, drink coffee without loving it or not drink it at all, you may have read only Chetan Bhagat but when you say those words repeatedly, you somehow become cooler than others. Why can't you just like to read books without loving cats? Jeez!

Cool thing 3- She friendzoned me.

Firstly, there is no such thing. Secondly, you always have the option of leaving.

Cool thing 4- I will watch it on Netflix.

No you won't. Netflix isn't even available in India. You probably learnt it like a cool word to say by watching too many American sitcoms. We might have cragslist but no one uses it here.

Cool thing 5- tl;dr (too long, didn't read)

Dude, it was just four lines. If it was tl for you, chances are that you're illiterate. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Book Review- Maharaja In Denims- Khushwant Singh (Not that Khushwant Singh)

Title- Maharaja in Denims
Author- Khushwant Singh (Not that Khushwant Singh)
Publisher- Amaryllis
ISBN-10 9381506434
Edition- 1st
Book Type- Fiction
Number of Pages 184 Pages
Publication Year- 2014 February
Language- English
ISBN-13 9789381506431
Binding- Paperback


How would I rate the earlier Khushwant Singh? I would place him with greats like Manto and Rumi. How would I rate this Khushwant Singh? He knows how to hold a crowd's attention but is only average at telling the story. He can be placed in the same category as Chetan Bhagat. Make no mistake about it, this is not a literary masterpiece. In parts, the book doesn't even make much sense but, you still cannot put it down. The book starts with a love-making scene and the book seems to glorify promiscuity and silently endorses sexism. I would have called it liberal if the promiscuity was balanced but, while the male, Hari is shown to be aggressive and lustful gloriously, the female- Suzanne is completely devoted and admires the male chauvinism. It was slightly disturbing for me until I realized that the author is just presenting Maharaja Ranjit Singh with his flaws and not making any statements. The book does have an unapologetic Punjabi air about it which gets nauseating after a while.

I am not opposing the regional or religious pride of Punjabis. I think it is great that we have a group of people who are known for doing things wholeheartedly or not at all. I just think that it could have been given some variations. The stereotypes are too rigid and the book is laced with alcohol, sleaze, fast cars and pomp. 

The book also deviates from its main plot to cover more history like Anti Sikh riots and the partition riots. It seems like the author had strong views about some events in history and instead of writing a newspaper column, he wrote a fictional book on it to reach a wider audience. In the process, he didn't care much about the art of story-telling. Parts of the book seem hurried but just because the book has so many interesting premises, I was able to finish it in one sitting. Also the fact that the book is less than 200 pages long helped.

The parts about past life regression are slightly unbelievable. Not because they are unscientific but because of the abundance of cliches and predictability. The book stands tall on its content but fails when it comes to story-weaving. Also, the description of Hari- the teenager as a sleazeball and Suzanne as a devoted lover for no apparent reason- is slightly off-putting. I think the Maharaja deserved a better eulogy than this. It's a treat for the restless readers though- interesting bits from history in a capsule, plus sex.

The language is simple and lucid. Nothing will make you pause and ponder. Hence the reading speed. The cover art is intriguing. It is one of the good things about the book. There is an unnecessary suspense built around the fact whether Hari is really Maharaja Ranjit Singhji's reincarnation or not. You are almost confused why the author wanted you to be confused about Hari's genuineness. 

Two and a half stars **1/2 

The Dog and The Bone- A Poem

A dog guards a bone,
the bone hangs low.
The bone is up for grabs,
the dog can't be slow.

A pack gathers around,
gnarls, snarls flow.
Lustful eyes abound,
Will the bone fall though?

Chaos, fright, lust,
all parts of the show.
If the bone falls down,
where does the dog go?

The dog must leave,
leave the bone behind.
What you cannot protect,
never belonged to you.

The above poetry is written in the context of fleeing partners. Girlfriends who claim to leave their lovers if they do not treat them 'right'. Sometimes, the concepts of 'forever' and 'no matter what' get overused while describing love. I know there should be no second chances for betrayers and people who take you for granted. But, when you find someone, it is up to you to make sure that you find and fix problems instead of acting like a bone that can be snatched away. It is just a silly thought that I had.

Book Review- Frozen Summer and Columbina

Title- Frozen Summer & Columbina
Author- Geetha Madhuri, Cynthia Vincent Daniel
ISBN Code- 978-81-928937-8-5
Publisher- Half Baked Beans Publishing
Genre- Thriller
Price- Rs 225
Cover Design- Manoj Nath
Purchase on- Amazon

Columbina

Columbina is a part of the twin-novella book from authors Cynthia Vincent Daniel and Geeta Madhuri (Frozen Summer). This review is of the part- Columbina which is a thriller novella set in the North American continent and curiously doesn't seem like the work of a non-native writer.

I came into contact with the author recently through Blogadda's Game of Blogs initiative and I am so glad that I did. This short novella, in such a short span, does so many things so beautifully that it almost falls into the league of full-fledged 400 page novels. The characters are established, the backdrop is set, the inner turmoils are highlighted and racy twists are also given.

The work doesn't rely much on the shock and awe strategy and the plot is dealt with sensitivity and maturity. The emotional intelligence of the author helps create believable characters which are usually amiss from such thrillers.

The plot has two clear protagonists- Martin and Anna. But this is where the hero-heroine stereotype ends. There is a murder mystery in the backdrop of eerily beautiful island Alcatraz which is also known as the World's most cruel penitentiary.

The writing is easy on the eye and the author has steered clear of heavy metaphors and long sentences. The emphasis is clearly on the language's readability than its literariness. The cover art does justice to the ingredients in the novel and instead of cars and running men, there is an introspective feel to it. The author leaves no loose ends and that's a relief.

The vivid imagination of the author shines through in some of the scene, specially those of graphic encounters. The author has also done her research before writing about things like the lunar calendar and the Alcatraz. It just took me three hours to finish the novel but the story has lingered on with me since then. Very few pieces of fiction have that ability and Columbina is definitely one of those.

About the author-
Cynthia is an avid blogger (blogatcythia.blogspot.com) and loves to travel. On her blog, she writes short stories, book reviews, movie reviews, social commentaries and many more things. She is also a keen reader and loves books. Like a true Indian, she loves the art of story-telling and has trained herself in the same. The aforementioned novella is testimony to that fact.

3 stars ***

Frozen Summer

While Columbina is a work that involved research, Frozen Summer is much like a Telugu Masala entertainer movie. Geetha Madhuri has woven a gripping tale of two women struggling in weird situations. The story relies on extremes. There is extreme evil, extreme docility, extreme everything.

The language is simple and the backdrop of the story is very Indian. It is a tale set in Hyderabad and you feel like you're watching a Telugu movie when you read it. It is a breezy read and the choice of words has been kept quite simple. The crisply drawn characters are the highlight of the story and it can be rated higher than Columbina on the entertainment factor. Columbina scores in the plot and storyline department though.

The cover art is again the same black and white effect as Columbina and it succeeds in giving a racy theme to both the stories. It is marvelous how both the authors have succeeded in completing their complex plots in so few pages without compromising on the quality. There is enough detailing to help you empathize with the protagonists. The cliched plot twists can be forgiven for the entertainment value they provide.

About the author-

Geetha Madhuri is an IT professional in Hyderabad. She is also a writer by hobby and has written a short story - The One And Only Purpose in the anthology- Time's Lost Atlas. She is on twitter as @DGeetaMadhuri

2 and 1/2 stars. **1/2

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

If dentists were completely honest with you...


Wednesday, 11 March 2015

How awesome is the internet?

How awesome is it, right?

This time my #bookwalk with my meetup group- Talking Books in Delhi was particularly memorable.The reason- six amazing bookworms showed up this time and the weather was just perfect. 

Here are the photos from the day- 






Everyone brought in their own distinct flavour in the meetup. Sarah read out some amazing classic poetry while Debashish provoked thoughts by reading lines from a Mulk Raj Anand novel. Siddharth told us a scary horror story while Maha Laxmi read out from a motivational book. Brishti read out lines from Pride and Prejudice while I presented my favourite contemporary fiction titles. 

We went to Eatopia for lunch and came back to Lodhi Garden to talk more. I could have just asked everyone to pack their lunches at eat at the park but hey! You only get so much organizational skills from someone as lazy as me!

The next time we meet is going to be on this coming Sunday when Spring Fever by Penguin-Random House comes to India Habitat Center. 

We also have sample review copies of Jamie's Blues by debutant author V K Sharma with us and shall start circulating them in the group the next time we meet.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Easier done than said. #StartANewLife

Moving between cities sounds much more tedious than it actually is. I can't recall how many times I have moved to a new city thinking that I will never get good friends again and that this was it. But I have been proven wrong again and again.

The first time I came to Delhi for my civil services preparation, I was alone in the national capital with no acquaintances. I went to the local library and struck a conversation with a stranger and now we are exchanging funny images on whatsapp and asking about each others' whereabouts. Living, shifting, moving, settling are much more easier than they initially seem.

As humans we are programmed to socialize with our fellow beings. The society is designed to be our safety net so, you don't need to be scared of any city or any group of people. Because, they are people and wherever there are people, there will be an invisible support system around you.

Time came when I joined a clinic in Gurgaon. I had to shift from Delhi to Gurgaon and the whole ecosystem I had got designed for me was left behind. I thought it would be hard to make friends again.

I sat in my clinic and the first day, the canteen boy brings coffee to me. Bam! There! I had a new friend. Then I hunt for a house and meet a guy who runs a real estate business. I like the rooms and take a double occupancy room. I get a roommate and there! I had another friend.



In the clinic, as the patients started pouring in, they came with their dental problems and shared their problems with me. Slowly, a rapport was built and those handshakes infused life in our humdrum lives and its silly little problems.

The whole experience much like all my older experiences reinforced my belief that it is never too lonely or too late. All you need to do is look around. A new life awaits you, every moment, every second. It hides in your choices, your handshakes, your smiles and your words. The more you interact, even if it is for brief inconsequential moments, your life gets richer and richer.

I treated an autorickshaw guy and now he throws a friendly salute at me whenever he sees me walking on the footpath. I gave a sample of a medicated toothpaste to the hospital's security guard who had bleeding gums and now he smiles at me whenever I pass by. I helped the receptionist with her toothache and now we flash a cordial 'good morning' at each other every morning. Life is made of such small things.

It is funny how I don't miss my ex anymore, how now I look forward to every day and how I have new bunch of people to share life with. Gurgaon is not scary anymore. And I am sure, whatever future city I move to, won't be either.

Speaking of moving, here is a link to Housing.com- https://housing.com/
Check it out, they are pretty innovative with their ad campaign.

Dream with Your Eyes Open (A book launch)

Hi everyone,

A friend from Flipkart sent me the following info about a recent book launch. Sharing it with you all-







The superstar of Bollywood’ first family, Ranbir Kapoor, launches the Book Cover of India’s early first-generation entrepreneurs, Ronnie Screwvala







~Ronnie Screwvala pens his entrepreneurial journey – Dream With Your Eyes Open and announces the commencement of online bookings~

28th February 2015, Mumbai: Ronnie Screwvala’s entrepreneurial journey is an inspiration, to say the least. Founder of one of India’s largest media & entertainment conglomerates, Ronnie Screwvala has penned a book on his journey, from Cable TV to toothbrushes manufacturing and from Theatre to Media and Entertainment, Dream with your Eyes Open, which aims to champion entrepreneurship in the country. Bollywood’s latest entry to the superstar brigade, Ranbir Kapoor, unveiled the cover of Screwvala’s book at the event held in the city today.



“Ronnie is an inspiration for everyone who dare to make their dreams come true. His conviction in an out-of-the-box film like Barfi made me realize that when belief meets innovation, it creates magic! I am delighted to launch the cover of his book and look forward to its release. I will definitely be buying the first day, first copy”, said Ranbir Kapoor at the event.



Speaking about this book, Ronnie Screwvala said, “Dream With Your Eyes Open shares failures and triumphs, thoughts and anecdotes of my journey. It details out my vast experiences and myriad lessons learned from more than two decades of building some successful (and some not-so-successful) businesses.

This book is about ‘it can be done’, not ‘I did it’. It’s all possible. Just dream your own dream—and when you do, dream with your eyes open”



At the event, Ronnie Screwvala also announced that the commencement of the online bookings for Dream With Your Eyes Open, with the book slated to hit the stands on 2nd April 2015.



Demonstrating an innate ability to merge creativity with commerce, Ronnie Screwvala has been termed Jack Warner of India by Newsweek, Esquire rated him one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st Century and Fortune as Asia’s 25 most powerful. He is credited with pioneering Cable TV in India, building one of the largest toothbrush manufacturing operations – before founding UTV, a media and entertainment conglomerate spanning Television, Digital, Mobile, Broadcasting, Games and Motion Pictures, which he divested to The Walt Disney Company in 2012.





Onto his second innings, Ronnie is driven by his interest in championing Entrepreneurship in India, and is focused on building his next set of ground up businesses in high growth and impact sectors. His more recent commitment to being a first mover in Sports has made him lend his support to Kabaddi and Football. He is passionate about social welfare and with his wife Zarina and through their Swades Foundation has given single-minded focus to empowering one million lives in rural India every 5-6 years through a unique 360-degree model.

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Now, do whatever you want to do with that information!

Until next time then!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Book Review- Finders, Keepers- Sapan

Title- Finders, Keepers
Author- Sapan
Publishers- Frog Books (www.leadstartcorp.com)
Genre- Fiction/ Thriller
Price- Rs 400
Pages- 623

This book review is a part of The Readers' Cosmos Book Review Program. Sign up to receive free, freshly launched books.



A mega novel by Sapan spanning for more than 600 pages and containing researched bits of mythology along with some thrilling psycho-killer/ murder mystery backdrop- is how one can describe this book in my hands. It is surprising to see that the author is a BTech with a career in engineering. It goes on to show how in India, to be anything, you have to be an engineer first.

The artwork on the front cover is fascinating. The image of almighty Shiva always evokes reverence in the eyes of the beholder. Sapan nails it with the content of the novel. It is the current hot favourite among Indian fiction fans. A wild goose chase with mythology in the background.

The book falls in the much too familiar slot of historical/ mythological puzzles and a bunch of guys trying to put the clues together to look at a larger picture. There is nothing new in the premise of the novel but, if you like the genre, you will perhaps like the book.

The book's USP lies in its content. The clues and the parts where the protagonists Shoumik Haldar and Ishan Vajpayee put them together to decode the mystery. Ancient historical sects, brainy guys chasing them, murders- you can almost fit Ashwin Sanghi or Dan Brown's name on the cover, had it not been Sapan's excessive toil behind creating the clues. He has worked quite hard on it which is evident from the lengthiness of the book.

There are a whooping 108 chapters- all untitled. This is where Sapan has let go of a good branding opportunity. The chapters appear shabby without taglines or titles on the index page. The book could have easily been divided into different parts and sold as sequels.


All this book needed was a good editor and it has been kept bereft of the same. Surojit Mohan Gupta has let the typical Indian errors in the syntax creep in the narrative. They are distracting. It is so difficult to put down a novel which you know has great thrill quotient but some cringe-worthy English. For the most part, the language is good, but there is a colloquial element to it.

The publisher could have done a better job with the branding and design as the book appears too plain for all the thrill in contains. The blurb at the back cover is not quite up to the mark. The book could have been presented and edited better. It shines though, in parts, like a lotus in the mud.

I will give it 2 and a half stars out of 5.


A story about optimism

This blogpost is a part of the Happy Hours campaign by Indiblogger and Lookup.

Check out the LookUp Housing website- https://housing.com/lookup . They have done some amazing branding for their venture.





Prompt- Write a story around a moment that filled you with optimism and hope for the future. 

My story-

I had newly taken admission in a dental college in Davangere, Karnataka. After the counselling was over, it was time for me and my Dad to explore Bengaluru. After getting accepted in one of the topmost dental colleges in India, I had sprouted new wings and was looking at the world with rose-tinted glasses. I had bought for myself a newsboy cap and had convinced at least myself that I had given myself a makeover.

In that jolly mood, we explored Bangalore. I wondered what life had in store for me for the coming five years. I knew it wouldn't be all fun and games but, the toughest part in one's academic life- getting admitted in a good, reputed college was finally over. I was looking forward to everything that lied ahead in my path. Finally, we reached the famous Bull Temple in Bangalore and went inside to offer our prayers. Unmindful of the expected decorum, I wore my cap inside the temple premises. My father went to the other side of the temple and I stood right in front of the deity with folded hands. So there I was, a newbie in the city, unprepared, excited, standing with folded hands in front of a familiar God among unfamiliar people.

Suddenly, I felt a gentle pat on my shoulders. Perplexed, I turned around to find an aged lady. She was smiling and had a kind aura about her. I looked at her quizzically. She pointed to my cap and said, 'You should take it off as a mark of respect to God.' Scared that I had broken some rigid protocol, I took off my cap at once. She smiled. 'Don't worry. You haven't broken a rule,' she went on, 'It is just that these small gestures make you a gentleman.'

I nodded in acknowledgement and was truly quite thankful to her. She offered me prasad and disappeared in the crowd. As soon as my father came back, I told him about this stranger who had cared enough to offer me life advice. Dad smiled and appreciated the gesture. He asked me to hold on the crux of her message and the wisdom behind it. My education in the real world had started then and there and is still going on. 

The optimism and hope behind this short incident in my life was that there are people in this world who care enough to offer you advice. They watch your back. You might know some of them, some might be family to you but some might be complete strangers. It is not a story about an old lady, it is the story of a stranger who can just pat you on your shoulder, say something that can mould your personality and then disappear like an actor who has completed her role in the play.

The best lessons are taught to you by those watchful guardians. The world is truly one big family and one doesn't need to feel alone at any time. We're all driven by ripples in this boundless ocean of kindness.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Whose Temple Is It Anyway?

The following piece is based on real events. I know writing about religion is always risky but, it is not about a particular temple or religion but about an individual's comical plight in response to certain rituals of religious places.

It was a happy day for me. I had heard a lot about the ISKON temple and was looking forward to the visit. I had been to famous temples and loved how in those swarms of crowds and those unruly queues, there was still this calming serenity once you entered the temple garbhgriha or the sanctum sanctorum. I had been to Konark, Khajuraho, Tirupathi, Kashi Vishwanath, Ujjain's Bhairavnath, Pushkar Temple and had always marveled at how these temples stood for an assurance that antiquity had made plans for the safeguarding of posterity.

The idea that something is as grand and as imposing as those temples of ancient times and yet is a product of the era in which I have taken birth was fascinating. I wanted to jump traffic lights and reach there as early as I could. I did reach early, a little too early. The temple wore a sleepy look. It was not one of those temples which woke up like your grandmother and took bath at 6 am. It was your sibling who woke up after you and was grumpy after the rude awakening. The cleaning lady was throwing water on the verandah and the splashes made me run for cover. It reminded me of the Comesum restaurant inside the Nizamuddin Railway Station premises. The sleepy staff, the grumpy janitor and the red stone-tiled floor. Difference is- that restaurant still wakes up in the wee hours of the morning.

Nonetheless, I went inside the temple. The absence of any queue was a delight actually. Chants of Hare Rama, Hare Krishna came to rescue me and I started to yet again, feel a part of the temple. I knew Rama and Krishna. I loved them. They had been their in my subconscious since I was first introduced to religion. As I started basking in the familiarity, a bunch of dancing priests came parading in front of the idol to which I was about to pay my respects and prayers.

This was a choreographed routine. Everyone had their hands in the air, they all knew the steps. It seemed like a big shooing away. I sheepishly made way for the devotees and stood in the corner- cornered by something I didn't understand. Also, the main idol wasn't of any of the known gods but of the founder of the ISKON cult.

I left the temple, leaving behind the food court, the gift store, the book store, everything that went into branding and commercializing God and His name.

One Year Later

It is my birthday and I am on my way to Akshardham temple. I have a vague idea that it is also called Swami Narayan temple. Narayan is Vishnu so, I assume that it is a Vishnu temple. It wasn't. Swami Narayan is a devotee who was escalated to the status of a deity.

The security is high, I am with my cousin. Both of us are asked to submit our camera and mobiles before entering the premises. Only one of us can go to the cloak room for submission. Of course, once I come back from the cloak room, I have lost my cousin in the crowd. Of course, there is no way of contacting him as our phones have already been submitted. Finally I find him and we head toward the temple. I wonder what is worth so much protection.

The stone carvings are mesmerizing but, there is an ATM inside the temple premises. I go 'uh-oh' in my mind and we keep walking. Yes, it is difficult to run a temple without donations and commercial ventures but, there are less lewd ways of doing it.

Again as I enter the main temple, I see the pattern repeat. Cornered Gods, exalted saint Swami Narayan and people walking around as if they are inside a mall. I guess this is what a 21st century temple is, I guess I am out of date. Because in my little mind, I imagine a temple where a priest is performing aarti to an idol which is decorated with flowers. There is 'bhakti' in the eyes of people and everyone who returns from the temple has the mandatory tilak and prasad. People return with merchandise like t-shirts and takeaway foodstuffs from the modern day temples. There is no pujari. However, there is a counter where if you pay Rs 50, they will give you a glass of water which you can pour on your idol. Then there are upgrades on that 'abhishek'. Money-matters should be subtly addressed in places like hospitals and temples. In the Abhishek Mandir there, a guard stands looking at your hands. If you have bought the coupon, you're let inside the main worship area. But if you're just there for 'darshan', you're showed the way in a caustic unfriendly manner by the guard. I am not hurt. I just think it eats away at the soul of the temple which shouldn't happen.

The prasad is also available for purchase. So, if you enter there penniless, there is nothing you can take away from the temple. No charanamrit, no tilak, no abhishek, no prasad. It a temple for those who can spend. The most crowded area is not the sanctum but the food court which says something about the management authorities.

Counter-arguments-

Now, I might be just liking the idea of rebellion and thus might fall in the trap of cynicism. So, I told all my thoughts to a friend of mine. She happened to like the Akshardham idea and told me that there was a certain freedom associated with such temples. You can pray, you can just look around and observe the grandeur. I complained about the lack of spirituality and she replied that what might be spiritual or holy to me, can be tedious for someone else.

If there are temples where you can just visit like you visit a church and not worry about cracking coconuts, burning incense and offering prasad, it might just be freedom Hinduism needs. We have been tied up in rituals so much that we often forget the real purpose of a prayer.

To that I bring up the case of ISKON. That is where one sees over-ritualization in the form of choreographed routine and distinctive patterns of prayer. She again defends that by saying that no one asks you to join in their routine. The temple creates an aura of its own by having certain in-house monks who help in keeping the sanctity intact.

Then to the argument of worshiping the founders of cults instead of mainstream deities, her argument is that those who are gods in my mind are mere mythological figures in the eyes of the west. So, how does it make the temple any superior or inferior based on the God it chooses to worship. The escalation of devotee to a godlike status is not a new phenomenon but a recorded trajectory in Hinduism. It is acceptable to the religion then, why can't I make amends with it.

She does agree though that the commercialization of prayer offerings ie abhishek is a bit taking it too far though. The whole registration and coupons for prayers thing makes it look very obscene.

For now, I do not know right from wrong but I do know that there is something either in me or in these temples that needs fixing.

Asto ma sadgamaya