Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Mannequin - S. G. Rogers

Date of Reading: 03/10/2015
Author: S. G. Rogers
Publisher: Idunn Court Publishing
Place: Savannah
Year: 2015
From: the author through Ebooks for Review

          Well begun but abruptly ended; I think that pretty much summarizes my reaction. Usually I side with the young heroine (those ignored wall flowers who finally land their true mate, not because of their beauty or conversation skills but due to a clear heart and extraordinary courage), but not on this one. Aubrey Whittingham is clearly no Mr. Darcy; the young Duke is sure of what he wants and goes for the girl not for her title, but for her. Well, may be this is what distinguishes a hero from an ordinary man. And clearly the notion is accentuated with the role of Joe Fiddick who ardently woos Rosamund eventually to be distracted by the glamour and pomp of London ladies.

        With a clear lucid prose timed with impeccable dialogues this is clearly a fun read which can be finished in one sitting. I would have preferred to prolong Rosamund's adventures as a mannequin but still its worth the time.
Now to a short summary:

          Rosamund Ashfield lives as a poor relation with her Uncle Ferdinand, Aunt Lucretia and her three cousins. Even though her grand father was a viscount she is disowned due to her mother's love marriage to someone beneath her class. Her only friend in the household is Joe Fiddick, the coach man's son who has now cleared his entrance exam to Oxford. He declares his love for her which takes Rosamund by surprise.
       When the family leaves for the London Season, Rosamund gets a job to entertain Aubrey Whittingham, the young Duke who lost his entire family in a boat accident. Her company brings him back from his depressive state and the mutual friendship leads to love, which is encouraged by Aubrey's grandmother. Leaving Aubrey to recover completely Rosamund and the Dowager Duchess travels to London for the Season. They expect the support of her Viscount grandfather for her appearance but he shocks them by revealing that Rosamund is not his granddaughter as a childhood disease had made his daughter incapable of conceiving. 
A shocked Rosamund leaves the household and attains the job of a mannequin with Madame Montana. Meanwhile Aubrey hearing the news form Joe pursues her to London and begins to court her in spite of her position. He stands firm behind her even when her malicious cousins played a ploy to humiliate her. 
         Meanwhile Vivien, the goodhearted cousin who sided with Rosamund visits her grandfather with Mrs. Williams, their head cook who is aware of the facts on Rosamund's birth. She was indeed his granddaughter as Mrs. Williams is an eye witness to her pregnancy and her late sister was the midwife. The Viscount was misinformed by his other daughter.
         With matters cleared Rosamund is accepted by her grandfather and she accepts the proposal to wed Aubrey. Joe remains as her faithful friend.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

Date of Reading: 01/09/2015
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books
Place: New York
Year: 2012

         I was never a fan of romance novels. . . until recently. But when you are stuck with a work which demands undivided attention, this is a sure stop for your addictive brain which screams for some pleasure reading. Plots are predictable, and the tit for tat talks before the falling in love episode is a major attraction combined with the fact that you can finish one story within hours.
        And there are always the cute surprising tales which stick to our hearts even without the happily ever afters. Well, only rarely we get the chance to meet a Segalian love story and 'Fault in Our Stars' is definitely one such fine encounter. Green has taken a challenging scenario with cancer fighting characters whose sardonic and sarcastic comments lifts up the gloom and on passing the last page we may whisper, "surreal, but nice".
         Sixteen year old Hazel Grace Lancaster is affected by thyroid cancer which has spread to her lungs. She breaths with the help of on oxygen tank who is addressed as Philip. Diagnosed at the age of thirteen her cancer is deemed incurable and she faces imminent death everyday.
         To cheer her up her parents forces Hazel to attend a support group where she meets Augustus Waters. One of his legs are amputated due to osteosarcoma but he has managed to outlive the disease. Hazel reminds him of his former girlfriend Caroline Mathers who died of cancer and the two bond immediately.
         Augustus becomes a fan of Hazel's favourite book An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. Its the story of Anna, a girl struck by cancer and the novel ends without a conclusion frustrating the readers. The author has retreated from public life ever since the novel's publication.
        Augustus manages to track down his assistant, Lidewij and through her manages an appointment with the author who now resides in Amsterdam. Hazel couldn't afford such a journey so Augustus uses his Wish for cancer patients to obtain tickets for both of them. Meanwhile Hazel's condition worsens but after a few days in ICU she is allowed to travel for her dream meeting.
They enjoy a beautiful dinner together at Amsterdam and go to Van Houten's home with high spirits only to realise that he is a mean drunkard who has no answers as to the ending of the novel. But the time together brings Hazel and Augustus close and they make love in the city of sin. Augustus reveals the reappearance of his cancer and his health deteriorates after the trip eventually leading to death.
         Van Houten shows up at the funeral to apologise to Hazel and she finally learns that the novel is about his daughter Anna who died of cancer at the age of eight. From Isaac, Augustus' best friend, Hazel learns that Gus was writing a sequel to the novel. Guessing that he might have sent it to Van Houten she contacts Lidewij for the letter. It was an eulogy to Hazel where Augustus proclaims his love.

Something to ponder. . .

"You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect. " - 76

"Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin". - 104

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Em and the Big Hoom - Jerry Pinto

Date of Reading: 08/08/2015
Author: Jerry Pinto
Publisher: Aleph
Place: New Delhi
Year: 2012
Rating: 4/5
From: An owl eyed friend 

          Not the usual kind that I pick from a book store. For one thing its on depression (blimey! clearly in my 'not-to-think-about-it' list) and to make it worse its advertised with the comments of two well known writers who are not my favourites -- Amitav Ghosh and Kiran Desai. But the cover looked appealing and so were the words inside; besides it was a birthday present. Definitely something that I have to give a try.
           And I took an instant liking to Imelda or Em as she is called throughout the story. She has her worst moments but when she regains her socially-detached-I am a critic mode, her words shatters everything, never missing its mark. And that forms the beauty of the text and dispelling our fears of a tragedy it glides smoothly into a story of family and relationships.

           Pinto is endowed with an enchanting style and the images he creates haunt you even after the final page and the sweet-bitter taste it delivers remain for a long time. But the publisher or the layout man deserves a huge deal of applause too. The special fonts, the designs at the beginning of each chapter and the dark purple colour surrounding the borders make the book all the more special. A new take on mental illness and trust me, this won't make you depressed. . .
           Mendes family, consisting Imelda, Augustine and their two children Susan and the narrator, lives in a one-bed room-hall-kitchen in Mahim, Bombay. Imelda or Em as she is called, suffers from frequent maniac depressions and the novel is framed on how her family copes with this situation.
         From her letters and her sometime sensible talks narrator manages to stitch together her story. She was the bread winner of her family and she marries Augustine who is also her co-worker after a long courtship. She refers to him as LOS - Limb of Satan - as according to her he makes her sin. For his children Augustine is the Big Hoom, the pillar of their otherwise crumbling family. Without lamenting on the condition of his family, he takes care of everyone silently permeating hope that makes them survive.
 In spite of her hurting words everyone loves Em and keep vigil on her bad days. Their days go on in this tireless routine with Em sometimes attempting suicide or getting her hospitalized where she feels herself at home. Narrator too often haunted with the fear that he too might eventually end up like his mother. 
         Story comes to a halt when Em dies of a heart attack. Mendes family gradually returns to a quiet routine without her.

Something to ponder. . .

"We confess to men who've never had to worry about a family. Naturally, it's a huge sin to them, this abortion business. What do they know? They probably think it's fun and games. Let them try it." - 5

"We were told that men were dangerous. Unpredictable. Violent. You could never be sure what would happen if you were alone with them. They could not be relied on if they had had something to drink. A girl had to be ready for anything. Then, as soon as you were all ready to get married, the same people told you: close the door and be his wife." - 158

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Family Matters - Rohinton Mistry

Date of Reading: 05/12/2014
Author: Rohinton Mistry
Publisher: Emblem Editions
Year: 2002
Format: E-book

           Compared to his two other books this bears a different signature style of Mistry. Avoiding the political drama that usually characterizes his novels, this is entirely based on family and personal relationships. Even the title is ambiguous; if we take the 'matters' as a noun then the entire novel becomes a peep into the private matters of one family. On the other hand, if we take it as a verb, it summarizes the whole intention of the story; we need a family -- family matters . . . a lot.
          Woven around a handful of characters the novel provides a remarkable picture of Parsi family life in Mumbai. From the two children to the old Nariman they are equally likable even with their flaws making them humane, and in turn making the story realistic. 
             Setting is Mumbai. Nariman Vakeel is a retired English Professor who now resides in Chateau Felicity with his step children Jal and Coomy. His own daughter Roxana lives with her husband Yezad and their two children -- Murad and Jahangir -- in Pleasant Villa, a little flat gifted to them by Nariman.
         Though suffering from Parkinsons, Nariman is adamant to take his daily evening walk against the constant warnings of Coomy until on a fatal day he falls down and break his leg. Doctor advises a three weeks rest but Jal and Coomy fails miserably in taking care of him. And they didn't have enough funds to hire a hospital ayah and Nariman had spent his retirement money to procure the flat for Roxana. As a last resource they pack him off to the congested flat of Roxana where in spite of the irritation from Yezad's part, he finds love and peace with the two children.
         His traumatic past haunts Nariman at night. He was in love with Lucy Braganza against the wishes of both their parents as she was a non-Parsi. Finally the pressure from the parents breaks the alliance and Nariman marries Jal and Coomy's widowed mother, Yasmin Contractor. But Lucy continues in her efforts to be near him which irritates Yasmin extensively. The public drama involving both the lovers ends tragically when both Lucy and Yasmin falls from the rooftop while quarreling, to imminent death. 
         Yezad works in Bombay Sporting Goods Emporium with a meager salary and now with his father-in-law living in the house has turned the matters worse. To prevent Nariman from moving back after three weeks, Coomy destroys the plasters on the ceiling making it looks like a leaking accident. A complacent Jal goes with the plan reluctantly.
        When Edul Munshi, their next door neighbour offers to repair the ceiling free of cost, Coomy agrees; but in his inexpert hands the beam falls down killing along with Coomy. On the same day Mr. Kapur, the employer of Yezad is stabbed to death by supposedly Shiv Sena workers for refusing to change the name 'Bombay' from the shop's board.
         Jal offers his flat to the unemployed Yezad and the money got from selling Pleasant Villa is used to repair the ceiling; and they live by the interest got from the rest of the money.
         A long epilogue is given through Jahangir's words who narrates the death of Nariman and later the conflicts that sprung between Murad and Yezad, who has suddenly turned into a religious fanatic. Story ends with the birthday celebration of Murad as it is begun by Nariman's birthday.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Attractive Nuisance - Jennifer Griffith

Date of Reading: 25/04/2015
Author: Jennifer Griffith
Format: Kindle E-book
Year: 2015
From: The author through eBooks for Review

Blurb from goodreads:
         Camilla Sweeten is serious about her job in the County Attorney's office. She's even working up the courage to ask her boss to consider her for promotion to deputy.
         Then, into court walks the gorgeous Zane Holyoake, and disaster strikes - in the form of a total brain fog right in the middle of her closing arguments. In front of both her boss and the meanest bear of a judge in the county, Camilla hears herself saying, "Like, I totally made my point," as though she'd flown in from 1980s California in a time machine airplane.
        Now her boss will never consider her for deputy - especially since Zane turns out to be a new lawyer, possibly brought in to steal her dream job.
         But when a notorious criminal is caught in their county, Camilla must focus on getting the thief convicted and not on Zane, who smells heavenly and is bent on distracting her with lunch offers and wacky Boy Scout stories that may melt her many resolves.
       It's going to take incredible willpower to ignore this attractive nuisance.

         I must confess that it is the green tinged cover image that prompted me to request a review copy. A combination of romance and mystery!!! -- just the thing I needed for my train journey to home. But the high expectations started to crush at the beginning itself.
         Camilla could have been a likable character, if the writer had resisted herself from putting down all her mental thoughts. After each dialogue there is a long description as to how she thinks about that particular line (which is supposed to be amusing, I know), cutting out the reader from imagining something. Short sentences of exclamation would have served the purpose much better.
          Then there is Zane and here I agree with Camilla; his ungrammatical sentences were far from being funny. As a non-native speaker I was forced to skip many of his lines which was difficult to comprehend.
Jennifer Griffith
        And the entire plot revolves around Camilla's reluctance to marry because according to her the right age has passed and now she won't be able to see her kids marry and to share the happiness of grandchildren. Well, what should I say? She is twenty seven and for her marriage is over??? And she needed a good looking guy to point out this utter nonsense. Did she really pass that barrister exam? I certainly doubt it.            

Friday, 1 May 2015

The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Emma Orczy

Date of Reading: 16/04/2015
Author: Baroness Emma Orczy
Publisher: Feedbooks
Year: 1905
Rating: 3/5

          I was searching for a classic to read and stumbled on this name on Suey's blog. Well, its a short, cozy book with some mystery and romance. Some of my great hopes regarding this was crushed on reading, as the characters were not completely developed and the author's constant ramblings on the virtues of aristocracy seemed to have got on my nerves. 
          More than a critique on the Reign of Terror, the story tends to focus on the nobleness of English gentlemen who daring their lives try to save the French aristocrats from guillotine and conveniently forgets that British also had their fair share of savagery when they beheaded King Charles I. And thinking of the cruelties they meted out to Scots and Irish, I doubt whether they have the right to condemn the French. But keeping this political prejudices apart, this is an altogether nice read you can finish very easily.

Now to the story:
scarlet pimpernel flower
         Setting is 1792, and the French Revolution has entered into the period of Reign of Terror, killing hundreds of aristocrats each day. A secret society of English gentlemen, named The League of the Scarlet Pimpernal, led by a single man has managed to save many from the clutches of guillotine. Name of the league refers to a red flower found in English countryside with whose symbol the leader signs his messages.
        The new French envoy to England, Citizen Chauvelin, is determined to catch this British pest. He blackmails Marguerite St. Just, a beautiful French actress now married to a wealthy fool, Sir Percy Blackney. Chauvelin has procured some papers which shows the involvement of Armand, Marguerite's brother with the secret society.
Frightened Marguerite finds the league's place of appointment, but Chauvelin is confronted by a snoring Sir Percy at the prescribed time and none other. Marguerite is having an estranged relationship with her husband  as she confessed that it is her unintended comments on Marquis de St. Cyr which has sent him and his sons to guillotine.
          But later out of desperation she reveals the danger Armand faces to Sir Percy but not her involvement with Chauvelin. Next day itself Sir Percy leaves to his estates which puzzles Marguerite. A search in his room reveals him to be the Scarlet Pimpernel and the thought terrifies her. Chauvelin is after him and unknowingly she has given away her husband's identity. So Marguerite follows him with Sir Andrew who is one of the members of the League.
          Though Chauvelin plans his trap very well Sir Percy escapes with Armand and Comte de Tournay whom he has come to save from imminent execution. He is warned in time by Sir Andrew and thus taking the disguise of a Jewish driver he joins the search party of Chauvelin. Marguerite gets captured while following them but later she is left with the Jew as Chauvelin intends to pursue Sir Percy.
          Marguerite's courage rekindles the love in the couple's lives and safely boarding on the schooner, the Day Dream, they sail for home.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Serious Men - Manu Joseph

Date of Reading: 01/03/2015
Author: Manu Joseph
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Place: Noida
Year: 2010
From: Prachand Narayan
Rating: 4.5/5

           It could be my general aversion to the news paper, I never had any intention to read this popular debut book of Manu Joseph which is awarded the 'The Hindu' Best Fiction Award in 2010. But the pressure from the part of my best friends and the novel's undiminished presence in literary seminars, finally driven me to have a peep inside and . . . lo, I got clearly surprised that I loved it.

          Sometimes, when we are tired of this recurrent life style with no prospects of change in the near future there is nothing better to do than laugh at life itself; and that is what Ayyan Mani does. He had the courage to stop and look around, which made him realize the void in others, the insecurity that lies behind the clever mask of success and smart talks. Wonderfully written Ayyan's character jumps out of each page with some serious plots among serious people. His astonishing wit and out of the way cunningness creates the light mood that makes the novel really enjoyable throughout. I could never stop laughing when I think about his thoughts of the day.
             Well, I should not be carried away by Ayyan, because this is the story of Acharya and Oparna too and also the 'crazy' Brahmin scientists of the Institute engaged constantly in the pursuit of truth. Even with his grave demeanor Acharya is a likable character, but I can't say the same of Oparna. Whether or not the author had done justice to her character is a different matter; she has come a long way in a male dominated professional group, but her character lacks the grit and confidence expected from her position. Does the story intend to show women are emotionally vulnerable and so they should be kept  in their place??? 
           In his elegant, humorous style Manu Joseph interweaves many the issues faced by contemporary India. His bold strokes cut deep all the while making you laugh to your heart's content.
          Ayyan Mani works as a clerk in the Institute of Theory and Research where high minded Brahmins continue their pursuit of truth and Dalits work as peons and toilet cleaners. He has been  in the place for fifteen years, working his way up from an office boy and for him the place is another big joke of the Brahmins.
         In order to escape from the routines of his everyday life, he starts playing a game with his eleven year old son Adi. Boy learns high standard questions from him concerning the universe or mathematical problems and utters them in the middle of the class causing a disruption. Gradually the boy who is deaf in one ear comes to be regarded as a genius. Ayyan gives money to a Marthi daily reported to have a news item published on his son, and thus begins Adi's first steps to popularity.
         Soon the boy's photo appears in Times of India when he successfully recites the first thousand prime numbers. Ayyan manages this by putting a small recorder inside the hearing aid and placing that on Adi's good ear.
           Meanwhile a situation is brewing inside the Institute. Scientists under Jana Nambodri rebels against director Arvind Acharya for his Balloon Mission to find the presence of aliens in the atmosphere. The rebel group wants to investigate the same through analysing radio signals but the director's idea gets privileged. 
          A hot air balloon is sent out to collect air samples in which one is later analysed in the Institute, and the other three are sent to Boston and Cardiff. Oparna Goshmaulik from the department of astrobiology was the project coordinator. She gets infatuated with Acharya and succeeds in seducing him while his wife was away. But the casual fling dies soon, when Acharya comes to his senses and confesses everything to his wife. Oparna, though grieved on this sudden turn of events concentrates on the Balloon Mission.

          Her team succeeds in finding fungal presence in the air sample making headlines in the newspapers. But the samples in Boston and Cardiff proves to be empty of alien presence. Oparna sends a confession letter to the Ministry stating that she is pressurized to contaminate the container by Acharya. This was her revenge which ruins both their lives.
         Jana Nambodri assumes the post of director and he gives Adi permission to write the entrance test of the Institute as a repayment to Ayyan as he kept mum about the relationship between Acharya and Oparna. Still Ayyan feels that Acharya was a better man and resolves to help him.
Manu Joseph
He needs to get the question papers for Adi. A deal is made between him and Acharya who writes down the questions and answers from memory. Adi passes the exam in flying colours and in the press meeting that follows Ayyan exhibits the CD which has secretly recorded the conversation between Oparna and Acharya which proves his innocence. Another recorded part contains anti-Dalit, anti-women comments of Jana Nambodri and his group causing mass riots and attacks towards the Institute. Acharya is reinstated on his place and Ayyan continues to plan new games with his son.

Quotes I Liked:
"Jesus Christ, with a crown of thorns on his head, surveyed the room morosely with a hand on his visible heart, which was on fire". - 20

"They were highminded; they secretly believed that their purpose was greater, they were certain that only scientists had the right today to be philosophers. But they counted cash like everyone else. With a wet index finger and a sudden meditative seriousness." - 24

"Acharya wondered why daughters always went away. So keen they were on finding a moron and leaving. The futility of love and marriage - did they need a whole lifetime to see through it all? Didn't they learn anything from the lives of their parents?" - 71

". . . love is like a forbidden wealth. Its glow cannot be hidden. Sooner or later everyone comes to know. And two people become spectacles in a show they do not know is running to full houses" - 175

"More than the impoverished girls of the chawls whom they hoped to uplift, it was Oparna and her lemon-fragrant friends who were weak and dependent on men. They appeared to do marvellous things, but what they wanted was a man" - 183

"Ayyan detested this moronic pride more than anything about the country. Those flared nostrils, those dreamy eyes that people made when they said that they were once a spectacular race. . . In this delusional heritage of the country, his own ancestors were never included. Except as gory black demons in the fables of valiant fair men." 286

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Amazing Racist - Chhimi Tenduf-La

Date of Reading: 21/03/2015
Author: Chhimi Tenduf-La
Publisher: Hachette India
Place: Gurgaon
Year: 2015
From: BlogAdda

           It is not often we come by an amazing read which makes us wish to shout "I loved it". I didn't carter much expectation on this debut novel and was not at all amused by the pranks of Menaka and Eddie (immature love birds, I thought) in the first half of the novel. Good that I didn't give up, by the time you reach the middle there is no going back; Things have perked up and we could never resist loving Thilak Rupasinghe or Uncle Thilak as I would like to call him. By the end I really missed him along with Eddie and Kiki. No one can replace those crackling wit and a soft heart hidden behind a rough exterior and an unpredictable mouth.
         Giving the impression of a love story, the novel soon changes its direction to the deep bonding between the quiet English man and his barking father-in-law. Set in Sri Lanka, it gives a satiric insight into the aristocratic life style, their extravagance and faulty charity initiatives. But what makes it worthwhile is the character of Uncle Thilak who is scared by all but loved by his granddaughter, Kiki. Author's wife Samantha and his daughter Tara too makes a brief appearance in between which makes it all the more amusing. All in all a hilarious read for  the holidays!!! 

         Eddie Trusted, an English school teacher lands in Colombo for a teaching assignment where he falls in love with the Sri Lankan beauty Menaka Rupasinghe. Within weeks of acquaintance, they decide to marry but Thilak Rupasinghe, Menaka's scary father is set against the white man. He tries fierce and friendly manners -- treating him as a servant, making him sleep out in the verandah on their weekly trip together and offering him the job of an accountant which was illegal and would have deported him -- but Eddie stays put and succeeds in marrying Menaka with Thilak's blessings.
          While Prabhakaran gets shot, Menaka gives birth to their daughter Kiki. Soon she is off to many of her charity trips leaving Kiki in the hands of Eddie who finally resigns his teaching position to be a full time parent. Uncle Thilak, with his taunting humour turns out to be an unusual partner for him.
Menaka drops out of the marriage and starts a relationship with Gayan, her second cousin. Uncle Thilak and Menaka's elder brother warns him that she may battle for the custody of Kiki as there is a chance that she might inherit some of their fortune. Eddie gets absorbed with Kiki and gives blind eye to the legal proceedings and soon he finds love again with Caroline, the new teacher in school.
           As expected Menaka starts the divorce proceedings and Eddie decides to run away with the child as court in all probability will side with Menaka when it comes to the possession of the girl. On boarding the flight he is informed that Uncle Thilak is dying and is asking for Kiki. Eddie goes back and Thilak dies that night after giving instruction to him as to how to bring up Kiki.
        His will leaves half of his wealth to his eldest son and a quarter each is given to Menaka and Eddie. Nothing is left to Kiki and as Uncle Thilak expected Menaka didn't attempt to get her daughter. Eddie marries Caroline and his bond with Kiki gets even deeper.

About the Author:
       Half English, half Tibetan, Chhimi Tenduf-La grew up in Hong Kong, London, Delhi and Colombo, where he now lives with his wife, Samantha, and daughter Tara. This is his first novel.

This review is part of the biggest book review program for Indian bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

#Together With You Mom

“A woman who was just dumped needs a shoulder to cry on, not a critic -- ‘It’s not your fault’, ‘He just wasn’t the right guy for you’ -- a friend who can say this”, says June, in my favorite Korean movie Seducing Mr. Perfect. Life is never smooth and when the enraged waves smash against you, we need someone to fall back on – parents, friends, pets or teachers – whose company gives a sense of assurance that we are not alone and this is not the end. And their presence fuels us with enough energy to move on or continue what we love.
It was my 12th standard board exams. Language papers are over giving us minimal trouble and then comes the turn of the terrible three – Physics, Chemistry and Biology – of which the first one gives me nightmares. There is a two days gap which I plan to devote to revisions and also to practice the question papers of previous years. Sitting on my usual spot on the staircase I started with the last years question and finished those within fifteen minutes. Woo!!! I was able to answer TWO QUESTIONS!!!
Sometimes we desire for the blessings of a coma, to sleep and escape without any qualms. I just wanted to die but that is not so. I will be eighteen soon (I reminded myself) and being an adult I am supposed to face situation in a matured way and most importantly -- no more tears. Easy to say, my eyes were already brimming, asking for the floodgates to be opened and I didn’t know what to do. My brain is swept clean and there is no sign of those twisting formulas which I have shelved with lots of hard work. And I have two days . . . only.
As usual my siblings have spied on my sad pledge and I ran to the usual refuge, Mom. Will I ever be old enough not to depend on her? I don’t know and I don’t want to be. The cozy kitchen with its familiar smells never fails to give me the confidence I need. She was wise enough to grasp my state of mind and kindly asked me to start over and that is what I did. Soon the little kitchen table got filled with my text books and notes and I began reading aloud to this silent listener. Mom took a leave from work and sat there with me patiently, listening and gently correcting when needed. And on entering the exam hall with her blessings and best wishes, I knew I will pass and I did . . . with distinction.
It’s been years now and I have crossed bigger hurdles, but I could never forget that day when my life stopped almost and I needed hope and support of a firm ground. And I could never completely thank my Mom for being there with me always.

Posted in collaboration with

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Heart Beats of a New Life

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;”
-         Robert Frost (The Road Not Taken)

Life begins with endless possibilities; as positive as it may seem, this creates a lot of confusion if you don’t know the way to which your brain is wired to. And this journey is all about understanding yourselves, the choices you consider being just the beginning. Constrained as it seems with its endless rules, we tread this weary path in hope to witness mysteries unfold as a result of our actions. There is always a time we meet a crossroad and hesitate.
The tenth standard exam was my first alarm bell. Inexperienced as I am it never crossed my mind that this is just the first of its kind and soon that infuriating voice will pierce my eardrums. Life ran smoothly till then with small worries concerning home works or the canings that I will have to avoid from my teachers. But this is a new hurdle (not the exam, but the choice that I need to make afterwards) and thus began my growing up.
Our institutions offer three options – science for the bright minds, commerce if you want to be competitive and humanities for the good for nothing who are not fated to become doctors or engineers, the golden and silver trophies offered to every aspiring student. Well, being a topper, I am supposed to be in the ‘bright minds’ category but where should I go to cater its growth? And thus seeking fresh pastures, I joined one of the convent schools in our esteemed corporation.
Being educated in a village school where the medium of learning was my mother tongue, for me this English medium school was a tough nut to crack. The place, with its well built infrastructure and tight necked uniforms looked and felt alien; strange tongue, strange people and strange games. Our black board showcased lines that I couldn’t fathom, which according to them represented force, mass and acceleration and what not. Spending endless nights on the rain swept verandahs by hearting the scientific names, I knew my life has changed and I could never go back.
It would be a fitting end to say I came out of that concrete jungle in flying colors; but I can’t because I didn’t.  I managed to escape with enough marks to start afresh by choosing my favorite subject in humanities. And my two years was not in vain as they created me as I am today. I learned to follow my heart and do what I love most . . . reading. It taught me to live outside the protective shell of home and not to commit the same mistakes twice. My higher secondary school life asked me to choose wisely, to chase the ignored track and not to turn back; because sometimes you can’t.
Let me conclude with Frost’s lines,
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
    Posted in collaboration with


Thursday, 5 March 2015

Optimism: The Opium that Fills our Hearts

            “A person without hope is as good as dead”, my best friend used to say. She is no longer around to push me out of my frequent lethargic states, but her words stay on, coming alive with occasional phone calls, E-mails and facebook chats. In a world filled with weariness, fret and fever, a world from which we long to escape, optimism is the last beacon of recourse; the banner that proclaims the significance of light which can’t be redeemed without the presence of darkness around. For me that beacon is . . . my home, the light house that guides my way when turbulent storms rocks the boat.
          I don’t have particular moments to recount because all elements that constitute my home are precious and they permeate hope and the strength to move on. Greeting smile of my Papa, bitter gourd curry of my Mom (my favorite), jokes and pranks of my siblings, and the little garden in the front, shade of the coconut trees, smell of jackfruit and guava in summer . . . home is an urban paradise which asks me to look up and go forward with steady steps fixed firm on the ground.
          Well, this may be the usual ramblings of any hostler. Having grown out of the nest years before, we are no longer affected by that homesickness that makes a fresher cry in her sleep but still it is the last place of refuge when your colleagues speak against you, friends betray you or when you get scared of the coming exams. I still cherish the sight of my sister's running legs coming towards me in welcoming gratitude when I get back home for the vacations. Finally this is the place where you are accepted, believed and loved.
My Home
          From the small kitchen table where we share our food to the computer room meticulously arranged near my cot, the place has our hand prints and it contains our memories under its firm shelter irrespective of the changing colours and paints it takes every five years. As stable as its base and the supporting pillars, home symbolizes for me the steadfastness I need to acquire to reach my goals and it fuels me with the optimism that “this too will pass”.
          My house which has completed its silver jubilee years ago showcases the imagination and planning of a handful of people who worked hard from its design to the collection of brick and mortar. Thanks to them and because of the timely caring of my parents it is withstanding the pressures of time, sheltering the third family who has come to live under its protection.

          Housing is a necessity, it is the hope and refuge we look for after tiring days. So meet Look Up, the new housing brand pledged to share the positive spirit of life and is driven to revolutionize real estate with their 10x mantra.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Cocktails for Three - Madeleine Wickham

Date of Reading: 04/02/2015
Author: Madeleine Wickham
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Place: New York
Year: 2006
Rating: 4.5/5

         As most of the Sophie Kinsella books have passed my 'read' list, there was no other way but to shift the attention to Madeleine Wickham ones, though the novels are quite of a different taste and it is hard to believe that they are from the same pen. And after much soul searching in different reading groups, here I am, with 'Cocktails for Three' a story blended with love, humor and mystery.
         Three cocktails, that is what Wickham offers in this single volume; three stories with their sole connection knotted around a cocktail bar in Manhattan, involving the lives of three women who are unable to say 'no' because they are too good and is determined not to fail. And that is their hubris -- by not opening completely to their best friends and by keeping up the image of the invincible lady, they lose their battles . . . or almost. This is not an Aristotelian tragedy but a story that reminds us of the significance of relationships (whether that is friendship, love or marriage) and the importance of asserting one's identity and above all, not to be ashamed of yourself.
Candice, Roxanne, and Maggie are three best friends who work in the fashion magazine, Londoner. Maggie is an editor, Candice conducts interviews, and Roxanne is a glamorous freelancer. In the first of every month they meet together for cocktails in a quiet Manhattan bar, which by the beginning of the story has become quite popular and therefore noisy.
         All three has a secret not shared to anyone. Roxanne is having a secret affair with a married man. Maggie is in the advanced stage of her pregnancy but she is afraid of motherhood but her proud self doesn't allow her to give a hint even to her best friends. Candice's father had robbed people of money by persuading them to invest on his schemes and the details revealed only after his death shattered her life along with her mother.
         On this particular day in the bar she finds an opportunity to diminish the guilt that weighs on her, when she meets her high school classmate Heather Trelawney. Heather's family has gone bankrupt due to their association with Candice's father and she dropped out of school when her parents divorced. Candice assists her in getting  a job in Londoner and even shares her flat with Heather against the better judgement of her friends. But Heather had other goals in her mind.
          As per her husband's wish who wants their children to grow up in an unpolluted environment, Maggie moves to a country mansion where she feels utterly alone in spite of the frequent visits of her mother-in-law. And the arrival of the baby exhausts her completely but she is too embarrassed to ask for help.
         Roxanne is devastated with her secret lover, Ralph, who is the owner of the Londoner. He refuses to go for a divorce as his little son may not comprehend the situation. But now his days are running short due to the attack of cancer that is creeping on him, a fact he hides from his lover. 
Madeleine Wickham
           Meanwhile Heather has started her moves. She makes Candice do her works, steals her ideas and finally succeeds in splitting her from her cocktail club friends. She soon loses her job too for a crime she has not committed but forged by Heather. 
         Ralph dies leaving his house to Roxanne and thus gives legitimacy to their relationship. And when Maggie breaks down in frustration her mother-in-law intervenes asking her son to take equal responsibility in taking care of their baby. They decide to move back to London so that Maggie can resume her job.
         Candice finds her refuge in Ed, her rich neighbor who always wanted her to understand his secret feelings. The calamity brought down by Heather brings them together and she learns from Heather's brother that she was offered education and security by their stepfather but she just chose to rebel.
          Roxanne and Maggie clears Candice's name and their friendship is back on track. Story ends with the baptism of little Lucia and she is welcomed to their cocktail club.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Ramayana The Game of Life (#2): Shattered Dreams

Date of Reading: 16/02/2015
Author: Shubha Vilas
Publisher: Jaico
Place: Mumbai
Year: 2015
From: BlogAdda 
Rating: 3.5/5

            This is the era of retelling for Indian mythology. Ever since the success of Amish Tripathi more and more writers have ventured into the market with counter narratives to our favourite epics or by giving voice to a minor character ignored in the course of main events. As I was familiar with a few of them, the task of reading a work which is faithful to the original version of Ramayana proved difficult than usual.
          Shubha Vilas' Ramayana, let me assure you, is not a novel; I would rather call it a spiritual guide on Ramayana. He hasn't made any changes to the original story but the plot is enriched with some additional details like how Nemi became Dasaratha or the origin story of Ravana which was completely new to me. And the constant use of capitals when it comes to addressing Rama (the personal pronouns like 'Him, His' are capitalised in the beginning) constantly reminds us of the divinity status attributed to Rama by the author and gives the atmosphere of a religious book though it is claimed to be a gripping new-age thriller.

          If you are familiar with the outline of Ramayana, there won't be any problems starting from the second book without reading the first. Most often we get the feeling that this is an English translation of the verse epic to prose as the metaphors like lotus feet, lotus face and trees shedding the leaves due to grief are repeated without any change which is felt out of place in a prose narration and also in a modern retelling for laymen.
           What is commendable about the work is the little words of wisdom added as footnotes which takes us to the deeper levels of Ramayana and teaches how a story that happened thousands of years ago can still inspire us with new notions. This self-help book is not a one time read, but something to be cherished always and as Bacon reminds us it is to be "chewed and digested".

Short Summary:
Dasaratha wakes up from his nightmare drenched in sweat, haunted by the curse which is looming over his life. In an urgent court meeting next day, he declares Rama's coronation and the whole of Ayodhya rejoices in the news except one. Manthara, the hunch backed maid of Queen Keikeyi warns her Queen of the dangers that may happen if her son, Bharata, is not declared as the king. Keikeyi redeems her two boons from Dasaratha and asks kingship for Bharata and fourteen years of exile for Rama. 
           Rama, along with Sita and Laxmana, sets out immediately and the old king dies of separation from his son. Bharata, returning from his maternal home, is astounded by the turn of events. Embarrassed by  his mother's actions he tries to pacify Rama to return to Ayodhya but to no avail. Finally taking his brothers sandals Bharata returns to the kingdom and promises to rule it for fourteen years with Rama's sandals on the throne. Rama, along with others moves to Dandakaranya forest.

Quotes I Liked:
". . . jokes can be costly. Although meant to lighten life, when shared with the wrong people, jokes could end up burdening our lives" - 89

"Seeing the positives in every situation is the nature of a pure mind" - 129

"Good relationships survive when those involved realize that the greatest gift two people actually have is each other." - 131

"Finding fault with your own thought process is an important aspect of growth, but seeking forgiveness for faulty actions is important for survival" - 184

"Lamentation that causes prolonged inaction is actually irresponsibility at an individual level and leads to chaos at a collective level" - 281

"One should fear an untruthful person more than a snake. Every good quality has its foundation in truth" - 354 

About the Author:
Shubha Vilas, a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker, holds a degree in engineering and law with a specialization in patent law. His leadership seminars are popular with top-level management in corporate houses. He also helps individuals apply the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana and other dharmic traditions in dealing with modern day life situations. He believes that a good teacher always sees the process of learning and teaching simultaneously as an inherent aspect of personal and spiritual growth.

This review is part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...