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.

Friday, 4 October 2013

In Love of Honey, Money . . . and My Virgin Passport - Mita Jain

Subtitle: Story of Indian Youth in IT Industry
Date of Reading: 13/09/2013
Author: Mita Jain
Year: 2009
From: the author in exchange for an honest review

           There are two types of men (or women for that matter) -- Jumbos and Dumbos. The former goes high up in the social ladder, adapts to tricks and traps, gets fat with fame and wealth and becomes the caricatures of excellence and success. And Dumbos . . . alas! its a sad case. These 'idiots' stick to the fairy tale ideals of their childhood and consequently flagged by truth and simplicity ends up in the ditch. Excessive cases might have the rare opportunity to be a part of history, thereby they become instrumental in making future dumbos.
         Mita Jain's story is all about a dumbo, a hard working, truthful one who with his steadfast policies proves that goodness shall indeed prevail, even inside the competitive environment of an IT company. Last week I heard my fellow researcher commenting that Indian English literature is booming. True, at least some of them have left behind the topics of past to deal with the trauma of the new generation. 'ILHM' covers most of the aspects which an Indian youth passes through, especially the role of social networks, job promotions and of course finding of the true love. A true, funny outlook on today's software industry with laughter bubbling over each line. Thank you Mita for sending a copy.
          Vinay Dave is an aspiring engineering student from Uttar Pradesh who finally bagged his job on the 17th campus interview he attended. Company is SolBytes Ltd and he is placed at Hyderabad along with other new recruits from his batch: Cyrus, Farheen, Rajlakshmi, Nikhila and four others.

          Training for two months proved hard which also included a series of written tests which they thought they passed behind. Some of the work ethics too began to come to light which for Vinay was hard to digest. While Cyrus and Farheen copied each other's tests and passed in flying colours, Vinay stood steadfast to his honesty in spite of the difficulties faced. Eventhough it took him double time and twice work, he got his passport too without paying any bribe.
           
With the training period over, he is put into the group of Paramjeet Sodhi and is later on passed to the mentorship of the cold hearted Samar Reddy. Days passed without any work or invitations to projects. As a resume's value is zero without being in a live project Vinay with his friends approaches HR who entrusts them with an internal project. Though Vinay was the brain to solve the major issue Cyrus takes the credits nonchalantly opening up new doors for further projects to him.
          With Rajlakshmi's recommendation he too flies abroad in the end. The project handled by Samar in France was sinking the ship and he resigned leaving it to rot. Vishal Sadana who was on Vinay's interview board took charge and the scene shifted from internal politics to mutual trust.

         Vinay has by then recognised the lover in his best friend Loveleena who is studying in France and the project united the couple. A happy Dave goes back home knowing to full that hard work and honesty has its rewards.

Some quotes from Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/25875125-in-love-of-honey-money-and-my-virgin-passport



Monday, 30 September 2013

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

Date of Reading: 09/12/2007
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Translation: Louise & Aylmer Maud
Publisher: Wordsworth Classics
Place: Great Britain
Year: 1999

           The debate around this all time favorite of  Tolstoy's is been going for years among my friends and teachers. Nature or Culture? Should we give vent to our natural feelings and live accordingly or is it better to live by the code which guarantee a problem free life? Author has obviously chosen the latter, making this the story of a fallen woman, a warning to those who dares to be adventurous.
           Anna is the beautiful wife of Alexis Alexandrovich Karenin, a high profile government official in Petersburg. As her husband is an inexpert lover, Anna's whole life revolves around her eight years old son Serezha. Her brother Oblonsky lives at Moscow with his wife Dolly and five children; his relationship with other women often spurts occasional quarrels between the couple and Anna then works as the mediator.
           
On such a journey to pacify Dolly, Anna meets Count Alexis Kirilich Vronsky who fall in love with this beauty instantly. Her marriage status won't pull him back and he follows her back to Petersburg. After several encounters Anna is yielded and she gets pregnant. All the while Karenin keeps a blind eye to the situation on fearing the damage that might fall to his reputation.
           Anna gives birth to baby Anna and on watching her alarming state after giving birth Karenin forgives the past and offers the old life back. This is unbearable for Anna and she decides to live with Vronsky. Karenin gets broken hearted at this and Countess Lydia takes advantage of this situation to make him her puppet.
           The fear of her social status forbids Anna to go for a divorce and it takes Vronsky several months to persuade her. But Karenin refuses to comply with this on Countess Lydia's influence. Vronsky's family considers him trapped in this and Anna feels that he is coming under their influence and is looking for another girl. In a desperate moment she jumps in front of the running train and ends her life. A desolated Vronsky joins army and Karenin looks after the baby Anna.
Leo Tolstoy
           Constantine Dmitrich Levin's story goes parallel to this and offers a high contrast to Anna's life. He is rejected by Kitty, Dolly's younger sister, as she preferred Vronsky. But on Anna's liaison with him, Kitty finds that her happiness lies with Levin. Novel ends when she gives birth to their first baby. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

Date of Reading: 27/08/2013
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Publisher: Amy Einlarn Books
Place: New York
Year: 2009
          
        Once I had this nagging fear: what if all the classics run out, and I don't like these post-modern books? Well, 'The Help' has helped to put a rest to that fear and I am glad that the movie experience didn't ruin even the teeniest bit of its charm. Mammy's side of the 'Gone with the Wind', that is what Skeeter describes her work, which is true to the entire novel too. The entire female dominated perspective puts forth the nostalgic feeling of a 21st century Jane Austen novel (oh, not in the case of romance) with its unraveling of  some complex minds.
           Friendship, mother-daughter love, career and boyfriend troubles and most of all racism -- Stockett has put forth a string of themes. And when it comes to the leading role, I am still confused. Skeeter or Aibileen? It could be the movie's influence, I was waiting for all the Skeeter chapters (and Minny of course).
           
"There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends", says Dumbledore in Harry Potter series. Its that courage that puts Skeeter along with Aibileen and Minnie. The sudden realization that your friends are no longer following the right path, the moment when the blindness is lifted of the eyes, is hard for a 22 year old. The fact that you don't have any friends left may not always be your fault. When you stand up for what you think is just and right, you may not get much company behind. Its always easy to lead life according to other's wishes (you just have to put your self respect behind), not so if you want to live it in your way.
           The novel is moored around the stories of three women: Miss Skeeter, the 22-year old Ole Miss graduate, Aibileen the wise black maid who has lost her own son and is now bringing up her 17the white child and, Minny the sass mouthing black maid who by the way is also the best cook in the entire Mississippi. Year is 1962; protests are going on under the leadership of Martin Luther King.

         Skeeter has just come back from college and finds that her childhood friends Hilly (who rules the entire Jackson) and Elizabeth married and settled with children. Her own long stature shoos the boys away and her mother is constantly worried of her ringless fingers. With the intention of being a writer, she takes a job in Jackson Journal. She is to maintain the housekeeping column for which he seeks the help of Aibileen, Elizabeth's help.
         Hilly's insistence on separate toilets for the coloured help kindles an old spark, and with the encouragement of Elaine Stein, the editor of Harper & Row, she decides to make a book of interviews of black help in Jackson. Aibileen agrees reluctantly but they need a dozen more.
         Minny is Aibi's best friend and her sass mouthing and I-don't-care nature puts her into conflict with Hilly and nobody is ready to take her to a household. Finally she is taken by Celia Foote, the pretty new wife of rich Johnny who is not accepted into the lady's circle due to her low birth. Her new changed circumstances where she is considered as an equal in every way, makes her too enter into the book project. But the others still lack courage.
         When Hilly's maid Yule May is arrested for stealing a ring to pay her sons' tuition fees, other maids are aroused to narrate her love and hate stories in White households -- how it is to raise a white child when your own child is looked after by others. Skeeter is alienated from her Hilly due to her stance against the separate toilets and the entire Jackson puts their back on her. On hearing about the secret book project her boyfriend backs away from the intended proposal but she continues the lonely path.

           Harper & Row publishes the book as The Help with limited copies and without revealing the writer's identity. And names of the maids and also that of the town is also changed. Suspicions grow around but Minny's episode with Hilly saves the impending disaster. As a revenge on the toilet issue and spreading lies on her Minny has mixed her shit with chocolate pie which Hilly eats with relish. Hilly, ever afraid of this secret to be in the open, declares that the book is not on Jackson.
         
Kathryn Stockett
The Help gets a reprint and Skeeter is off to New York for her new job with Harper. Minny leaves her drunken, beating husband at last; Aibileen loses her job because of the book but she feels free and decides to be a writer.


--- The 2011 film adaptation of Tate Taylor got four Academy Award Nominations and Spencer won the Best Supporting Actress award for playing the role of Minny.
           
            

Friday, 19 July 2013

Chat Love - Justine Faeth

Date of Reading: 08/07/2013
Author: Justine Faeth
Publisher: The Small Press
Place: Texas
Year: 2012
From: The author in return of an honest review
      
           A 'Beauty and the Beast' fairy tale or in modern terms a Rhett Butler - Scarlett story is, what can I say, always enchanting. And so does Faeth's 'Chat Love'. From beginning to end we are glued to the pages (or to the laptop screen, as in my case), and the figure of Lucia gets entangled with our own lives. One that is always seen but never much noticed.

The intimate narrative style of Faeth often reminds me of Kinsella, but she lacks in the act of perfect plot making. Searching for the Mr. Right everywhere and at last finding him in the Byronic colleague, is a common but fascinating theme. The tiny glitch was that from the moment Jackson is introduced, we get the flow of the story and there is no surprise. Even the episode of Jack in the chat love website is too easy to guess and there is nothing original. Whether the title is suitable for the novel is debatable, but most of the chat love dates felt like a digression from the main plot (without contributing anything) rather than an entertainment.
           Even within these limitations, Faeth has produced an outstanding work of chick lit. I did have a good time with the kindle edition.
          Lucia Fabbo is a 28 year old Italian beauty who hasn't found her Mr. Right yet. Her dates are collapsing one after the other while her friends walk towards the altar or enjoy seducing the opposite sex. Her younger sister is pregnant and the pressure is mounting up.
         As the last attempt she turns to chat love, a site where people who look for serious relationships talk and arrange dates. She had a crush towards her British colleague Jackson, but as he is not a faithful husband material the case cannot be prolonged. That won't retract Jackson though. Gradually they come to know of each others stories, but a relationship is still at bay.
          Lucia continues with the chat love dating and the novel continues with the humorous situations she encounters. She gets a friend to share her thoughts too -- a mystery man named Jack. They get fond of each other and he is turned out to be none other than Jackson who is also surprised by these turn of events. 
Justin Faeth
           But Lucia is afraid of another heartbreak (which happened with her former relationships) and it takes her sometime to realise the love towards another who too had suffered like her once. The lovers are united and the story ends with the amazing proposal of Jackson.    

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Perverse - Larry Rodness

Date of Reading: 22/06/2013
Author: Larry Rodness
Publisher: Ithoh Press
Place: USA
Year: 2012
From: the author in exchange of an honest review
My Rating: 3.5/5

            Hmph! . . . I am not exactly a fan of vampire stuff (well, except for 'Twilight Saga'), and this cover page almost scared me off. But tempting is the offer of a free book and so here I am. Larry is indeed blessed with an enchanting language, the narrative is so gripping that it is impossible to put it down without finishing.
          Some of the plot can be predicted, but not the climax. And isn't their some truth in Laszlo's question? If there is a devil that sucks your blood out and turn you into a blood longing vampire, shouldn't there be a God to cure the virtuous? Too bad this book too follows the age old dictum; once a vampire, always a vampire.
            The total atmosphere is eerie, which suits to the theme. But I would have preferred some comic relief in between. There is the absence of a parallel plot which is often felt as the story goes on in the same place circling around a few characters. On the whole a good book for one time reading and much better if you are travelling.
            Emylene Stipe is a rare second generation Goth and as she finds that her parents have already revolted against the existing social system, she revolts against the parents. With her friend Nancy she does some perverse attempts to experience the stage between life and death which when found  by adults results in the separation of two.
           As a teenager she moves out of her home and starts working in a textile shop. She comes into the friendship of a man called Stelio who is twice her age, but the absence of a romantic interest from his part frustrates Emylene further. Once when he shows interest on an anique picture, she wins that from the reluctant shopkeeper.
         
She hangs the picture on the room and a girl appears who seems to be pursued by the men inside. Emylene helps her come out and names her Poinsettia, but things begin to change on her arrival. Stelio dies suddenly and her store and apartment is burned in fire. Poinsettia persuades her to take her place in the picture as she nothing is left for her in this world. Emylene goes in, too late in understanding the true nature of her friend; people believe her to be dead and the place comes under the influence of her vampire friend.
           After two years she is saved by the shop owner Laszlo Birij who gives the real story of Poinsettia. Her real name is Mira and she was his wife. After the attack of a vampire during her honeymoon, she too is turned and is put into the picture until a cure can be found.

         Now the city has become a ghost town, but Emylene succeeds in finding her mother alive. Father is still under the clutches of Mira and so they set out for a final battle together with Laszlo. The surprise comes in the form of Stelio who turns out to be the master vampire. With the help of her parents Emylene destroys him and Laszlo stabs Mira. When they burn the whole town to demolish other vampires, Laszlo gets trapped. At the end of the novel he is seen to be feeding Mira in their secret place.          



Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Ring the Bell against Child Marriages!!!

               
            I have been to a conference in Durgapur, West Bengal last week and I remember watching a pregnant woman with her little child taking rest on the platform.
          "How old can she be?", my friends were whispering.
             "Not more than sixteen, for sure".
          Not an unusual sight you might say, and I can't contradict. When Indichange has asked me to write on child marriages, I searched my memory; Hmph . . . none of my friends have got into that misfortune, they have fought well with the support of our teachers.
             
Indian law says a marriage below the age of eighteen is child marriage. Will a girl turn into a grown, emotionally matured woman by the age of eighteen? For God's sake, she will be in the first year of her graduation (that is, if she is born into a cultured society where women are educated). While her male counterparts travel through colleges with PhDs and Post-PhDs, she is deprived of her platform to perform, succeed and be independent.
            A marriage before or after eighteen won't matter, if her status remains same. In a country where the usual law of marriage is disregarded quietly, it might be fruitless to talk about a raise in the age of marriage, but it should be done; so that no girls will have to write their exams with bulged bellies and morning sickness again; so that they won't be ashamed of their birth as a woman and unhappy in their role as a mother.
           As always reform should start in families; so let each mother and father take the pledge of bringing up their boys with respect to women and their girls with respect to themselves. Its a small step, but one that will go far.
          

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Shoes of the Dead - Kota Neelima

Date of Reading: 10/06/2013
Author: Kota Neelima
Publisher: Rainlight
Place: New Delhi
Year: 2013
Rating: 4.5/5

             Each book in my shelf has an outside story; a tale through which they came to my life and this one is going to be special. Thanks to BlogAdda's Book Review program, this third book of Kota Neelima was my constant companion throughout my train journey which extended to three states -- Andrapradesh, Odisha and West Bengal. 
             As one of the members of new generation who is acquainted with agriculture through the plays of Farmville, a political novel on farmer suicides is an eye opener. Rains may not come, and crops might wither but there won't be any free gifts or mystery babies to wait for. The green fields with lotus ponds and the waving children covered in mud whom I can watch through the train window presented a contrasting picture to the one I was reading. Nonetheless, the story is about them, a time they might have passed and wish to forget -- the time of rice water survivals. By the time the story reached the meager survival of Gangri, the severe food poisoning episode has taught me hunger and my experience of the book was complete.

            Neelima's career as a journalist has quite evidently helped in the writing task. Nazar Prabhakar, the sharp journalist works as the writer's unconscious and his occasional repartee is the most cherished moments in the story. There are three story's running simultaneously -- Nazar and Videhi's, Gangri's and Kayur's -- but author hasn't let the reader stray from the central theme, debt related farmer suicides. 
             Author has avoided the usual cliches of blaming the democratic system and the political representatives, instead a middle path is taken to know the ways that make them forcefully corrupt to adapt to the political tides. The writer expects some fruitful action, not another discussion with fancy words in the news room. A fast paced serious work which will leave its trace on you and is much recommended in this turbulent times.
             
The district of Mityala is witnessing an increased number of farmer suicides due to successive crop failures and the burden of debt. When Sudhakar Bhadra succumbs to this same fate, the powerful district suicide committee of Mityala which governs the interests of moneylenders and traders dismisses it as aptra and refuses compensation to his widow.
            Sudhakar's brother, Gangri, who was working as a teacher in the city resigns his job and vouches his life for the justice of other farmer suicides. He becomes a member of the committee and influences others to vote rightfully.

             This increase in the suicidal rates engenders the political future of Keyur Kashinath, the first time MP of Democratic Party from Mityala. As the son of Vaishnav Kashinath, party's general secretary, he is heir to his father's power in Delhi politics. His intention to oust Gangri from the committee through foul means catches the eye of the young journalist Nazar Prabhakar and the news creates ripples in Delhi politics.
            Keyur is forced to investigate the issue personally and his contact with Gangri turns him against moneylenders. Farmer suicides of the past years are reconsidered and the deserved ones are given compensation.
             
Kota Neelima
Meanwhile Gangri's nephew dies of malnutrition and fever and a heartbroker Gangri commits suicide. Keyur resigns his MP position and comes to Mityala to implement Gangri's plans.
 


Something to ponder:  
"The increasing toll is bound to trouble the people in power because farmers like us are not supposed to be visible to the government. . . But now our lives are drawing attention because of our deaths." - 93

This review is a part of the biggest <a href="http://blog.blogadda.com/2011/05/04/indian-bloggers-book-reviews" target="_blank"> Book Review Program </a> for <a href="http://www.blogadda.com" target="_blank">Indian Bloggers.</a> Participate now to get free books!           
            

Monday, 29 April 2013

War Horse - Michael Morpurgo

Date of Reading: 29/03/2013
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Publisher: Egmont 
Place: London
Year:2010 (as e-book)
Rating: 3.5/5

           May be I am a little too old for children's fiction, but here we are. I have watched the Steven Spielberg movie, so thought its time to lay hands on the book too. All in all its Black Beauty gone to war; except for the introduction of  World War I, there is not much difference from Anna Sewell's work, Spielberg at least has succeeded in producing a reunion theme out of it.
           One thing puzzles me though, how can this horse understand three languages? (English, German, French). And his narrative voice is much like that of  a full grown homo sapiens, not of a horse. Pretty impressive!!! 

            Joey, the horse is narrating his life story and it begins with his separation from his mother. His master turns out to be a gentle boy, Albert, who trains him as a farm horse and also rides him well. With the outbreak of World War I, the situation changes.
            Joey is sold to the army where his superior abilities attains him much respect. A new friend -- Topthorne -- comes to life. Joey's owners (first Captain Nicholls and later Trooper Warren) gets killed in the war and soon both horses find themselves in the hands of the Germans. They are used to bring the wounded back from the battlefield.
             
           Emilie, a little French girl, becomes their guardian while they are camped at her grandfather's farm. But the friends are soon parted as the horses are taken away to pull the artillery. Topthorne dies in the no-man's land leaving Joey run for safety. He gets wounded and in a surprising turning point in the story, a soldier from both sides come to help him. They toss a coin for the ownership and the English side wins Joey.
             
He is transported to the vetenary hospital nearby where he finds his Albert waiting for him. He has joined the army for the sole sake of finding his companion. Joey is nursed through difficult times and the war too gets over. Horses are auctioned in public and Albert loses Joey to Emilie's grandfather. She is dead and Joey is the last part that is associated with her memory. Hearing about Albert's devotion to the horse, the old man hands over Joey asking him to take care of him till his life's end.
           
Michael Morpurgo
Albert returns to his farm at Devon and marries his sweetheart. Joey says she never liked him.



--- the story is adapted for screen by Steven Spielberg in 2011 and film won six Academy Award Nominations including that of Best Picture.              

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Tantra - Adi

Date of Reading: 11/04/2013
Author: Adi
Publisher: Apeejay Stya
Place: New Delhi
Year: 2013
My Rating: 4/5

             I did have my premonitions on seeing the cover page of this book, but fortunately the story fared better. A female action figure from an Indian English fiction!!! A feast to the mind indeed. Adi has left some loose ends, but considering that a sequel is expected, we might know the answers soon.
           An obsessive sadhu using the evil tantric techniques to conquer the world is not a new story when it comes to Indian movies and regional literature. The twist here is an intermingling of East and West and the introduction of a female savior. Anu is a no-nonsense professional vampire killer and her male allies are not jealous of  her powerful reputation.The usual difference that irritates me so often when a male author writes on a girl is not even felt, but the sad part is, should we need to be brought up in America to become an enlightened heroine?
           
Setting could be Delhi, but as all the characters seems to be well versed in American English, this seemed unreal (where in Delhi we can find these kind of people, who can crack good Western jokes, is beyond my imagination). One reminder is the usual criticisms of India -- bad computer facilities, dirty slums, ignorance and fear. 
          Over all Adi has succeeded in maintaining a rhythm and balance, and a wise selection of characters adds to this gleam. Somewhere in the middle we might feel that his knowledge on tantra is a bit shallow, but that could be forgiven for this excellent plot. As a thriller cum spiritual reader, this is an interesting one for everyone interested in the genre. Thank you BlogAdda for giving me a free copy through your book review program. Now to the story.
            Anu Aggarwal is a professional guardian with a reputation for killing the most dangerous vampires in New York city. When her enemies murder her lover, Brian, she puts in for a transfer to New Delhi where she expects to find the killer.
           But things in India is more than she has bargained for. For one, her fellow operatives have made a truce with the vampires to keep a balance in the city. Now the children have started disappearing and Anu suspects vampires. Dr. Sharma, a University Professor gives another thread and she finds out the one responsible -- Baba Senaka, the renowned spiritual leader. He needs the spirits of children to store the energy he has accumulated through tantric ways.

             In order to stop this evil, Anu starts training with Dr. Sharma in sattivic way of enlightenment. On the day of Chotti Holi, the epic battle takes place. Baba has realised Anu's potential and has wanted her on his side, and with this intention he kidnaps her new friend, Gaurav. With Dr. Sharma's abilities combined with hers, Anu uses Brahma Astra and Senaka gets defeated. Sharma agrees to teach Anu the tantric techniques.

Something to Think:

"God is on everyone's side. It is up to us to tip the balance to the one we favor". -- 257

"Most people would have to be told by someone that they were special, with a unique gift that would allow them to rise above the rat race". -- 269

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Thursday, 7 March 2013

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini

Date of Reading: 22/02/2013
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Place: New York
Year: 2007

         Exam times produce miracles; songs we don't usually care sounds truly meaningful, scenarios that we usually pass with a dry glance opens with a new beauty and oh, what to say even I wait for news time everyday (only time allotted to TV). Something similar got in me while reading this book; while scrolling through each page I felt  someone like my hostel warden is going to catch me (obviously I was supposed to do something else). Even the mess bell sounded a burden. Sure, the novel has its charm, along with one more feeling -- depression.
             I had a friend in hostel who used to say "Being a girl itself is a curse, and I will never pass that to anyone else. So all my children are going to be boys. A man's 'silly' act can ruin a girl, and a day that vanishes that fear will never come". As usual in the spirit of  youth, I used to argue for hours on this, but a tiny voice inside used to whisper, 'isn't there some truth?'. Yes, at least in war times when the animal takes the better of man, when reason gives way to blind obstinacy and each afraid of the other, it is a fact; One will regret this birth as a girl. That is what dear reader, this story is all about.
           And today it is woman's day, around me there are the beginnings of festivities and awareness programs. Let's hope that a time will come without anymore woman's days, leaving all days to them.
           Novel revolves around two women -- Mariam and Laila. Mariam lives in a kolba on the outskirts of Herat with her embittered mother and her rich father Jalil is in the city with his three wives and nine children. He pays a usual visit on Thursdays. As a harami (illegitimate child), little Mariam is not acceptable to the outside world. But on her fifteenth birthday she breeches this unwritten rules to go and see Jalil, and is fated to spend the night outside his home in cold. She finds her mother hanging from the tree on returning home, thinking that her only daughter has deserted her. Jalil marries her off to Rasheed, a shoemaker from Kabul, who is thirty years her senior. But when she fails to produce a heir, there begins the days of beatings and silent suffering.
         Laila and her friend Tariq also live in the vicinity; she has lost her two brothers to the war between Mujahideens and Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union disintegrates at last, everyone anticipates peace, but now the Mujahideens are cutting each others throat. Tariq leaves the city with her parents and their emotional farewell ends in the consumption of love.
          Laila'a family too decides to leave in the end but as they are packing, a rocket comes down destroying her house and killing her parents. A severely injured Laila is taken by Rasheed and Mariam.
          On recovering she finds that she is with Tariq's child and the news of Tariq's death shatters her, though it didn't prevent her from eagerly accepting Rasheed's hand for her unborn child. She gives birth to a daughter, Aziza, and soon Rasheed gets suspicious. Laila strikes a friendship with Mariam and together they try to run away but gets caught.
            By the time Laila has given birth to Rasheed's son, Zalmai, Taliban has assumed power and tyranny reigns on Afghanistan. A drought that follow makes life unbearable and Aziza is sent to an orphanage. Tariq's unexpected appearance from Pakistan and lovers' reunion gives new twist.
            Hearing the news Rasheed starts to beat up Laila, but this time Mariam intervenes and kills him with a shovel. Taliban shoots her dead; and Laila and kids live with Tariq in Pakistan till the fall of Taliban. She visits Mariam's birth place and finds the money that Jalil leaves for her on his death. The pair returns to Afghanistan and Laila assumes the position of teacher in the orphanage which sheltered Aziza once.

Something to think:

          "Had she been a deceitful wife? she asked herself. A complacent wife? A dishonorable woman? Discreditable? Vulgar? What harmful thing had she willfully done to this man to warrant his malice, his continual assaults, the relish with which he tormented her?

           Had she not looked after him when he was ill? Fed him, and his friends, cleaned up after him dutifully? Had she not given this man her youth? Had she ever justly deserved his meanness?     
Khaled Hosseini
        The belt made a thump when Rasheed dropped it to the ground and came for her. Some jobs, that thump said, were meant to be done with bare hands." -- 182


"Listening to Naghma, Mariam remembered the dim glimmer of cold stars and the stringy pink clouds streaking over the Safid-koh mountains that long-ago morning when Nana had said to her, Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam." -- 191


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