Monday, 9 June 2014

Believe - Varun Gwalani

Date of Reading: 01/06/2014
Author: Varun Gwalani
Publisher: Frog Books
Place: Mumbai
Year: 2013
From: Goodreads Giveaways

          I remember a story that I heard in my childhood: "a kind hearted man was taking his usual morning walk. Out on the streets he finds a boy starving to death, neglected by the passers by. The man takes the boy home, feeds and clothes him and when the sign of a faint smile appears on his face, the man turns to God and asks, 'why can't you do anything to alleviate the suffering of men?'. God replied,'I have done what I can. I created you'.
          The story mirrors the answer which I got from my father when I asked, 'If God is all powerful, why didn't he prevent World War II (or more personally I wanted to ask how can he let my money purse being stolen)?' Papa has his usual reply ready, 'no need to blame God for what man has done'. Hmmph, a lot to digest.

          Varun's fictional narrative validates the theory; we need to do what we can to save our pathetic lives, help will come for those who seek. Conner White and Victoria proves so.
          Though I was feeling some similarities with some other stories, reading proved quite fruitful in spite of the predictable narrative pattern. Fast paced, it will glue you to the spot for one day (or till you finishes it off). One thought troubles me though, concerning the characterisation of Victoria. Why is she a rape attempt victim, rather than a rape victim? Are our authors (or readers) still reluctant to accept a non-virgin as a heroine even though speeches abound stressing the fact that purity lies in the mind, not in the body???
        Conner White is a popular pessimistic writer; when his wife dies suddenly out of heart attack, he goes to recluse and is horrified to find his readers opinion of him -- he is even termed as a murderer as one university student commits suicide on reading those evil books. Even he is not accepted to his only daughter who hides her last name in shame.
          Determined to redeem himself, he goes to the nearby town of Levion, where an age old religion reigns supreme and isolates the place from others. They are under the curse of a disease called Levitis which attacks suddenly irrespective of age and offers no possible cure.
       
Conner befriends Victoria who becomes his guide in the strange place. Two seduction attempts which she has undergone in puberty has made her an alien among her own people; with the help of Connor she regains her normality. A scrambled study on the history of the town reveals to him that Levitis is caused by the designs of of the high priest (Father Godfrey) and the town physician, Dr. Clark.
Varun Gwalani
         Thwarting their attempt to kill him via poison, Connor along with Victoria, Mrs. Stewart the inn keeper and Rosaline the mayor's wife hatches a plan to open the eyes of the town. The priest and the physician ends up dead, their place of worship, Sinome, burns down and a new age begins for Levion. Roger, the University student, is also proved to be killed due the influence of the priest and the doctor. Connor disappears among the ashes, but Victoria gets a copy of his new book containing a metaphorical story of his life in Levion, informing her that he is still alive.
         

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

Date of Reading: 30/06/2008
Author: Thomas Hardy
Publisher: Macmillan
Place: London
Year: 1963

         I have been waiting to get hold on this one book which made Hardy to abandon his writing career. Curiously I can't still figure out what was all this commotion about; there is his usual pessimism stuff with fate (sometimes taking the embodiment of humans) thwarting expectations, critical remarks on religion (which eventually became too critical for his career as a novelist), and the portrayal of inner dilemmas. But if we take the lives of Henchard and Tess for comparison, Jude seems to occupy the better slot. Well, each of us have our own individual crosses enough to drag us down from the smooth climb.

          Other day I was waiting in que in front of the xerox shop for some printouts; its the day of 12th standard results and not surprisingly there is one small crowd waiting for the verdict. Thanks to the new examination pattern, there are no disappointments or heartbreaks and I can see the family residing in the nearby chawl starting the cries of jubilation; their girl has secured a first class. The new system is open to Judes (at least partially) who are ready to rise from their working class background to the magnificent halls of Oxford. In other words, the illusion of the American dream still permeates hope, even though the odds are stacked against us each.
         Little Jude lives with his aunt Drussille Fawley. He cherishes a dream to have his higher studies at Christminster (symbolises Oxford) and has begun to learn Latin and Greek by himself. As a stonemason he sets out towards his goal but eventually gets trapped into a marriage with Arabella Down who feigns pregnancy to have him take the vows. Soon the infatuation gives way to mutual contempt and Jude proceeds to Christminster when the couple decides to separate. 
        But Christminster is reluctant to accept a common figure from the working class background. Devastated, Jude finds his consolation in his cousin Sue Bridehead with whom he falls in love. Jude's former marriage stops her in taking the decisive step and she accepts the proposal of Mr. Phillotson, Jude's old school master, resulting in an unhappy marriage. She flees back to Jude and after a divorce from their respective spouses, they start life anew. Arabella meanwhile had undergone her second marriage in Australia.

        As Sue felt that the marriage has a destructive effect on love, they choose not to take the vows legally. Seen as social outcasts, they lead a miserable life with two children and Father Time, Jude's son in Arabella. Disaster stuck when Sue is expecting her third baby and Father Time grieved in hearing the news kills the other two and himself "because we are too manny". The shock Sue undergoes results in the premature death of the third child.
          Terrified, Sue marries Phillotson again thinking that before heaven they are still man and wife. Arabella, now a widow, persuades Jude to another marriage with her but things were too much for his weak health. He dies at the Remembrance Day, alone at his room.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

A Little Thank You Note

           
         The bright day (a little too bright for my taste) has closed its shutters making way for the whispering, irritable night with the howling of stray dogs. Not an auspicious moment in the traditional sense but . . . its time for my 100th post; to remember those who have given me courage, the boost to collect some words which on a linear arrangement makes some funny little sense.
        All good things start from home, so first its your turn Papa (we should appease the economic side first); thank you for standing by me (as always) and taking a home network connection with unlimited usage which helped me to take the initial steps in 2012.
         Ooh!! I can sense a little resentment in the atmosphere. Patience! Bro, I haven't forgotten you (not yet). These words won't suffice to describe my joy in having you as the best buddy and brother who asked me to start this blog citing the instances of others from newspaper clips you have stored. Thanks a lot!!! And to you too Lulu, for your valuable suggestion to personalize my blog. 
         I do remember Nithya, my predecessor in blogging, who introduced me to Indiblogger which eventually led to many more; Roshni, who put the very first comment (came it rather as a surprise) giving the necessary boost to this pessimistic self.
        Can't end without a word on my friends in IndiBlogger, whose feedback I cherish always and thanks to BlogaddaBook Blogs and Goodreads for providing a platform for free books.
           Time to wind up the speech, so to all mentioned above and to some others which I haven't mentioned by name . . .



Sunday, 4 May 2014

At First Sight - Mihir Kamat

Date of Reading: 14/04/2014
Author: Mihir Kamat
Publisher: Mihir Kamat
Year: 2014
From: Goodreads Firstreads Giveaway
Rating: 3.5/5

         As me and fortune never sees eye to eye, winning a giveaway in goodreads can be termed as a miracle. A small book of 72 pages with twelve short stories celebrating love; a simple but smart cover page featuring a pair of eyes (a tiny glitch I can see is that the eyes speak of an untold woe not of love) and there is the matter of font -- all the stories are given in italics which by the way looks beautiful, but makes the reading miserable in the long run.
          First few stories are the usual cliched ones with unsurprising endings; I can find few novelties in narrative style but things get better when stories get out of man-woman relationships; there are some I felt quite rewarding like 'In a Manner of Thinking', 'Everything' (grandfather-granddaughter relationship), and 'The final dance' (really interesting as the story leaves many loose ends).

          Thank you Mihir for sending me a copy through goodreads. A signed copy from the author is something I will cherish always.
          

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

My Dream Library

           
         By chance I have come by the new topic on IndiSpire: What would your dream library look like?
         Well, I still don't know how it will look in appearance, but I know where exactly it should be or will be. There is this hilly patch near my home which once missionaries tried to have for their hospital, let's just think the land has a different idea in mind and I can just hope it will be there for me when I have the means to buy it.
         Ya folks, curious as it may sound I have the audacity to dream a village library. Oh, not the cozy little one with thatched roof and muddy walls which may remind you of a Wordsworthian paradise, but the well furnished, air conditioned (global warming is at its peak and the villages are not excluded), double storey building (that is the minimum) with a cinema hall and a vast reading room.  
        So all my grumbling cousins can have a peep in during vacations (they will be all grown up then, so we will save it for their kids), can have their favourite books and favourite nooks to perch on. And in weekends there will be the screening of these classic, forgotten movies which adapted literature to screen so that they might come to know how someone else have drawn their imaginations. 

        Yes, that's my dream. A dream where the students in my school doesn't have to pay for expensive academic books, a dream in which the life of this community center around our library, a dream of my people set out in the world, armed with the knowledge they got from here, which instills in them a pride for themselves and a respect for others so much so that they won't trample on others or get trampled on.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Inferno - Dan Brown

Date of Reading: 30/12/2013
Author: Dan Brown
Publisher: Doubleday
Place: New York
Year: 2013

          Why do you read Dan Brown? Is it for the intricate, heart throbbing journey through Robert Langdon's mind or are you attracted to the final turn and the destination that saves the world from an imminent catastrophe? If ever such question has popped up to you, 'Inferno' is the answer.
         As always Dan Brown takes us to another detour of Italy, through its high artistic culture which offers a plethora of intricate meanings to the ever curious minds. I never had much taste for Dante, or anything related to him but the novel had me glued to the spot till the end. Well, isn't that why we call it popular fiction and the former the classic!!!
         Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Florence without any memory of his last two days and how he got from Harvard to Italy. An attack at the hospital springs him to action and he escapes with Dr. Sienna who was attending him at the time. He finds a cylinder inside his jacket pocket which displayed a modified version of Boticelli's painting Map of Hell. As a request for help brought an attack from US consulate, both of them follow the the clues to Palazzo Vecchio, the museum.

       The director recognises Langdon and mentions his arrival in the previous night with Ignazio Busoni, the director of II Duomo to see Dante's death mask. Now they find that it is stolen and the video footage shows Landon taking that out. A call from Ignazio's office informs that the director died of heart attack and he left a message to Robert giving him the directions to Florence Baptistry.
Dante's Death Mask
        There they find the mask which is inscripted with some secret messages. Jonathan Ferris, who claims to be from WHO saves them from the scene and they follow the riddle to Venice, where Langdon is captured but Sienna manages to escape.
        He is brought before Elizabeth Sinskey, the director general of WHO and the mystery of the two days unfolds. They are here to stop a virus created by Zobrist, the brilliant geneticist who speaks vehemently against over population. He has committed suicide on the completion of his project which is supposed to be some deadly plague to annihilate the human race. Sienna was his lover and the attack at the hospital was her plan to trick Robert.
Dan Brown
        Langdon leads them to Istanbul where inside the huge cistern they find that the virus has been spread from the water soluble bag. He gets hold of Sienna who explains that the virus induces infertility but that won't mean the end of our race as there will be many who can adapt to the new condition and survive it. She accepts the offer of Sinskey to work together in implementing preventive measures. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Prisoner, Jailor, Prime Minister - Tabrik C

Date of Reading: 03/03/2014
Author: Tabrik C
Publisher: Hachette India
Place: Gurgaon
Year: 2014
From: BlogAdda in return of an honest review

         Let me begin by introducing the author, as he might be new to many. Tabrik, as it is given in the inside cover is a political enthusiast, perfumer, and internet entrepreneur. He owns a post graduate degree in History from St. Stephen's College, Delhi where he was also the president of the student's union. His major interest lies in the observation and analysis of political personalities, and their subsequent influence in the destiny of the nation.
          True to his background we can call his first novel as a political thesis come to life. The future of India for the next two years is drawn with clarity and precision, and his suggestion of boycotting Chinese goods I find interesting though rather unrealistic. Alas! a superstar like Siddhartha Tagore might be able to persuade the Indian youth where I failed miserably with my friends.When they can't even leave this disposable Chinese pens which cost only two rupee in the market, what can replace the electronic goods??? 
     The protagonist, Siddhartha Tagore, is projected as India's savior who employs a kind of monarchy in the nation. He takes pledge in private without a cabinet which only later comes to existence to slow down his decisions. A single handed constitution as the author suggests will strengthen the nation and fasten the development, but placing the destiny of a vast, and diverse nation under the mercy of a man will suppress the marginalized voices and destroys the promises of stability that our democracy offers. A Prime Minister, who is born with a silver spoon in the mouth, educated abroad and keeps company with the so called elite class will ever be able to grasp the real India whose soul lies in the villages?
       
As to the women in the story, I find their characters rather repellent. Rubaya is the muse of the 'Mozart man' who enjoys being a pilot and crashes her plane in this attempt to share the domain of men. Rukmani Devi, the Nobel laureate, wins the elections but makes a comic figure in her first appearance in the parliament, leaving her opponent Siddhartha to mesmerize the members. 7RCR yields to her only at the charismatic withdrawal of the musical genius.
        All in all its a true political thriller to which the element of music and the bipolar and bisexual hero add a special charm. A commendable achievement by the author from whom we can expect more. Now to the story:
           Set in a futuristic India, precisely that of 31 December 2016, story starts with Siddhartha Tagore's ascend to power as the new Prime Minister of India. Moments before Pokhran has witnessed some nuclear attacks from terrorists and the new PM has also had to face the threat of BJP led by Rukmani Devi in demand of a change in the constitution. He proves to be a stern ruler with an iron fist who leaves no mercy to anti-nationalists.
         His rise to power has been swift as his father had already made his way as an MP from Calcutta. After a few years of recluse life in USA, he is eventually brought back by the third front leader, Lok Neta, to finish the dream of his father.
       
His outrageous ideas against Pakistan infiltrators and a proposal to boycott Chinese products, put this musical genius into lime light and the sudden, unexpected death of Lok Neta opens the doors of 7 Race Course Road to him.
         In between the readers are transported to his Harvard days where he meets the beautiful twins from Mumbai, Rubaya and Karisma. He falls for Rubaya right away, but his bisexual nature makes him seduce his room mate Gregory Templar, who aspired to be a priest, and this alienates them both. He is prone to occasional insanity which he controls by taking Lithium pills regularly.
        Ruby and Siddhartha eventually gets married, but the joy lasts only for one day as Ruby dies in a plane crash piloted by herself. He goes into an irrevocable depression from which he gets consolation from Karisma. Finally he disappears to New York from where he comes out of the trauma through politics.
         Thor, the foreign professor in Delhi School of Economics who is also an accomplice of Rukmani gets wind of his past and a search in Mumbai reveals that Siddhartha has son in Karisma which is unknown to him. His influence brings together father and the son -- Kabir -- but PM's affair with President's OSD, Krish Rathore, brings shock waves to their bond.
        When Rathore is found murdered, suspicion falls on Kabir but Rukmani thinks otherwise. A quick search in Thor's place yields the necessary evidence she needs; the foreign professor smells the danger and promptly returns to US. He was the one behind the explosion in Pokhran and Krish threatens to reveal that he is conveniently killed.
         Siddhartha suffers a stroke due the attack of a protestant and he announces fresh elections. But before the campaign begins, he goes for a promotional trip to US for his new album "Rubaya" and there he confronts Thor who is revealed to be none other than Gregory Templar. Karisma's timely intervention saves his life, but the assassination attempt brings back the stroke which forces him to retire from active public life. 
         
Tabrik C.
Rukmani wins the election but not with a majority to change the constitution. Message of the people has been clear and India continues to sail forward notwithstanding foreign threats.




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Friday, 24 January 2014

Seven Little Australians - Ethel Turner

Date of Reading: 06/01/2014
Author: Ethel Turner
Publisher: Penguin 
Place: Australia
Year: 2010
Rating: 4.5/5

          Thought I have grown out of reading children's books, but we never will be. More so when the story line concerns with seven naughty ones. But be warned, these are not the peppermint children of 'Sound of Music' for the "very excellent reason that Australian children never are". Even their house bears the name 'Misrule' and that is what the story is all about; the little anarchist kingdom that runs behind a military strict father and their subsequent growth to maturity through sometimes painful experiences. 
          They might have shared a different century with the aboriginal-white discrepancy raging outside but not tampering with their blissful lives, but the delight the reading permeates remains same so much so that the sad fate of Judy wrings out hearts, and we may wish our best for Meg but surely we will miss the plump, little General from our drawing rooms. Now to the story:
         As the title suggests the protagonists of the story are seven Woolcot children - Meg, Pip, Judy, Nell, Bunty, Baby and General. They live in Sydney in the house which goes by the name Misrule with their Captain father who has little understanding of them and stepmother Esther who is only twenty so lacks the experience to handle this herd.
         They wreck havoc in the house and embarrass their parents in front of guests which of course never goes unpunished by the firm Captain. But once Judy's and Pip's little prank goes out of limits and Judy is sent to boarding school mercilessly.
         Meg gets influenced by her friend Aldith at the sweet age of sixteen and is given due training in the art of flirting. Accordingly they make acquaintance with two young men but Meg falls in love with the older, clear headed Alan who is not in the group. When one of her letters are misdealt and is wrongly delivered to Alan, he strongly reprimands her recent behaviour and faulty friendship, thus putting an end to this coquettishness. 
         Meanwhile Judy runs away from school with a burning desire to be with her siblings and they conceal her in a deserted loft. Captain eventually finds out this 'spoilt' girl but her sick state prevents him from sending her back.
Ethel Turner
        To assist Judy's recovery Esther's parents invite her with children to Yarrahappini where they spend some happy days. But an unexpected end comes all this when on a picnic day Judy is crushed to death by a falling tree, while saving the little General. Sobered by her death the family returns home wiser; Captain is determined to cherish his remaining children on account of Judy's sacrifice.
        

Friday, 27 December 2013

Meeting Miss Konni Chiwa: A Short Story - Mita Jain

Date of Reading: 21/11/2013
Author: Mita Jain
Format: E-book
From: The author in exchange of an honest review

           I hate short stories for the obvious reason that it is short. But time was of short nature, needed something for a quick finish and this was the shortest inside my collection. Well, Mita is not expected to be boring and the 'before-to-read' instructions compels one to go on. All in all it felt like Browning's dramatic monologue in prose version; it is in the form of an interview, and the reader is the journalist who conducts the meeting, but quite contrary to the expectations, narrator is the interviewee who smartly describes you too. Hands off to Mita for this wonderful creation, as always you find fun in the most ordinary circumstances.

            This is a part of "Last Love Series" where the reader is a journalist searching for extraordinary love stories among ordinary people for the next valentine's day edition and Aman Singh is the focus of this issue.
          He is a teacher of foreign languages and trains foreign nationals who visit India on the pretext of studying language. Aman belongs to a curious multinational family with an Indian father and British mother, brother married to an American and sister to a Spanish. And in India Aman meets his other half, the Japanese lady, Miss Konni Chiwa. As to his bad fortune, she is under another Indian teacher, Uday, so each day he is forced to make some pretext for meeting her without arousing suspicions. Her nasal English is not to his taste, therefore the communication element is seldom.

          One month passes like this with the Japanese girl who is clueless about his affections and Aman decides to go a step further. She comes out of the class with Uday who watches their communication with amusement and as the girl says farewell, he explains that Konni Chiwa is a form of addressing someone, not a name. Her real name, now Aman realises is Sakura Nakajima and she is leaving India that very day as her one month visit is over. Frantically Aman rushes to the airport but fails to communicate his intention. Exhausted, he uses Hindi which surprisingly the girl deciphers and Aman's multicultural family receives a Japanese member 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Shalimar the Clown - Salman Rushdie

Date of Reading: 24/06/2008
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher: Vintage Books
Place: London
Year: 2005
    
           A story on Kashmir brings its own faces as well as prejudices. As the name of Salman Rushdie is synonymous with 'Midnight's Children', Kashmir is tagged with terrorism and war -- the one time pride of Hindustan turned into a deadly nightmare and issue of pride. Its mere mention is enough to cause ripples in the crowd and the atmosphere grew tense whenever a Kashmiri guy stands up to speak. Governments have come and gone, but their pains have remained as pains.
           The aura around some writers makes it embarrassing to confess that this is not my cup of tea. Rushdie, no doubt, is one. I still remember reading the acclaimed 'Midnight's Children' for the sake of reading it. This book, on the other hand is a different story; set in Los Angels and Kashmir, Rushdie has drawn a verbal portrait on the transformation of a victimized generation. Its been years since I have last read the story but two images haven't yet faded -- the cunning brain washing in the terrorist camp and the stunning stand of the Kashmiri women against wearing purdahs (they preferred to be naked instead). Fresh and crisp, 'Shalimar the Clown' smells of India.
         On the year 1991 in English calendar, Maxmilian Ophuls is knifed to death at the doorstep of his illegitimate daughter India by his own taxi driver who is mysteriously called as Shalimar the Clown; place is Los Angeles. Max, a French Jew and a World War II resistance hero was a former United States ambassador to India and subsequently been working as America's counter - terrorism chief.
         Pages turn to Kashmir to trace the story of Shalimar. His real name is Norman Sher Norman, a Muslim. Married to a Hindu girl, Boomi (also called as Boonyi) he was settled in the village of Pachigam. The village dance troop, with Boonyi as the leading figure once performed before ambassador Max. Boonyi stayed with him to master the dance and a forbidden relationship bloomed; she gave birth to a daughter. Max's wife, Peggy Rhodes adopted her and named her as India, her pinnacle of humiliation in this foreign land.
         Boonyi is declared as an outcast and her enraged husband joined with the terrorist group. He began his sacred killings with Boonyi and years after Max too succumbed to the same fate. India became the next target ever though he was arrested and sentenced to death.
          India collected the details of her mother and renamed herself to Kashmiri. When Shalimar escaped from jail and came in pursuit of her, she was ready. India bowed an arrow to kill; as often she never missed.