Friday, June 28, 2013

Anandamath by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

Anandamath by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee is a Bengali novel originally. The translated version was one of my school syllabus books, but it never got taught as syllabus, so after nearly ten years, I read it just for the fun of it. It was a very different read compared to history textbooks where the heroes are usually rebellious upper class people. Here, it was common people who were behind the movement. It isn’t something that appeals to a reader who likes fast flowing, light reads or even deep character sketching, because it is one that is heavy with slow building up of emotions. It also is quite cultural as well. This is the book from where Vande Mataram came about. It’s a good read, although a very patriotic drama. I think being taught in class would definitely help for it to be understood better.

Reviewed by Leo
Rated 3 Stars

Title: Anandamath
Author: Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
ISBN: 9788122201307
Publishers: Orient Paperbacks
Genre: Patriotic Fiction

Shared with First Reads at b00kr3vi3ws and Indian Quills Review Challenge at The Tales Pensieve.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

There was no one at the Bus Stop by Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay

Thanks to prolific translator, Arunava Sinha, I am learning to be a Bengali all over again. Sinha has translated a number of books by some of the most famous names in contemporary Bengali literature. Thanks to him, 'probashi' (expat) Bengalis like me are getting to savour the wonderful literature Bengal has had to offer in the last few decades. I grew up hearing my mother wax eloquent about writers like Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Sunil Ganguly, Bani Basu, Sankar and others and they were always a world away... until now. Sinha's long list of translations include wildly popular novels, short stories, young adult fiction, and children's stories so far.  I also hear he's also translating some poetry. He has opened many wonderful doors to my mother tongue, one of which is this novella 'There was no one at the Bus Stop' by Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay.

In the middle of a fact-heavy sociological book that I'm dragging my feet, I needed to read something light. So I picked up the slimmest volume from my to-be-read pile of books on my flight to Goa. I didn't realise just how much weight the pages of a book can bear. Although I finished the book in less than two hours, 'Bus Stop' was anything but light.

Set in Kolkata the 70s, 'Bus Stop' is a simple enough story of an extra marital affair. However, it is the sea of emotions that the protagonists experience that drowns you with them. Debashish, a impudent man in his middle age is in love with Trina, a woman he knew as a girl. Freshly widowed, Debashish feels little or nothing about his late wife, but his young son, Robi has many of his heartstrings. Trina is ageing gracefully, with two adolescent children and a husband who cares more about his garden than his wife. A chance meeting brings them together and sows the seeds of desire in Debashish's heart. A melancholy Trina, squarely ignored by her family, gets drawn to him too.

The plot unfolds in a single day marked by two momentous decisions taken by the protagonists. Debashish is compelled to leave his son with his sister for a 'better' upbringing, while Trina, spurned by her family, leaves her home and goes to Debashish, hoping to reach some conclusion about her life. However, they are unable to savour their togetherness plagued by guilt and wrongdoing. It's a love that never will be.

 It is in portraying these evocative feelings that Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay's genius lies. The author's language is shorn of frills, yet amazingly lyrical in places. There are clever suggestions and plenty to read between the lines. There is none of the melodrama to express overwhelming emotions, nor explicitness to express intimacy that we see so much of in today's 'literature'. Understated, yet hard-hitting are adjectives that best describe the author's style. All I can say is that I flew through the book with lumps in my throat. Read it for Bangla literature. Read it for an insight on the beautiful and complex nature of human relationships.

ISBN: 978-0-142-06773-3
Author: Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay
Genre: Fiction
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin India
Pages: 121
Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Virgins- Siddharth Tripathi



Book: The Virgins
Author- Siddharth Tripathi

From the book cover:

With six unmarried sisters and a perennially drunk father, Pinku, a 19 year old school dropout, has only one dream left: to marry the plump girl who'd caught him stealing flowerpots. His friend and confidant, 17 year old Bhandu, is not faring any better- his parents are divorcing, his father has abandoned him, and the American tourist he is infatuated with doesn't even know he exists. Bhandu and Pinku seek solace in the distracting shenanigans of their friend Guggi- a pampered rich brat who can do anything for a thrill. Guggi's reckless hedonism lands the threesome in a series of 'sexpot' escapades- each adventure weirder than the one before.
But their seemingly innocuous joyride is about to end.
With their Class 12 exams around the corner, Guggi, restless to leave a mark, takes over the school's notorious protection racket in a violent coup. The fallout drags the trio into a murky world of heartbreak, betrayal, and bloody vengeance...

                      Dog wags tongue;
                      There's a dogess around,
                      Bull takes out organ;
                      Where's the cow hidden?
                    - Poem written by Thakur Gajendra Saran Singh (Guggi)
                                               (standard 3; English Class; Suspension: two days)
Guggi was famous for his 'sexpot' plans.
Any plan Guggi described as 'sexpot' involved something against the law and had the following traits, best illustrated through an example:
Sexpot Plan #1719: Do the grass-cutting woman at MG stadium.

Maithili Speaks:

With a title like "The Virgins", the book does promise a lot of things. Not all of them are fulfilled. The book is supposed to be about "coming of age"- which sadly not given its due. The book attempts to be a lot of things which is the reason why it fails to make an impression.
The three protagonist are so markedly different that it is difficult to imagine why they would stick together.

Pinku- The 19 yr dropout whose life looks like a depressing plot. Sarju, his father, is a drunkard who has made sudden appearance after years of absence. His 6 sisters and mother are equally depressing except for the youngest sister Mimmi who is Pinku's only solace.
Bhandu- His parents are headed for divorce. His grandparents write to him regularly but he does not read the letters! Bhandu  is supposed to be studying hard to get into engineering and is the one with a good future ahead but instead spends his time listening to songs and with Guggi and Pinku.
Guggi- His father is a landlord and so was his grandfather. He is a spoilt brat who is trying to operate a protection racket. At the same time he wants to score good marks to impress his father. Really?

There are other characters like Moods Singh, Varjesh Bhaiyya, Mannu Garg, Chacchu Bhaiya who are more interesting than the main protagonists! Their story is actually more interesting to read than the "sexpot" plans of Guggi and his friends.

What I like:
The chapters are short and aren't stretched. Each chapter starts with a small verse imagined to be written by one of the characters (although sometimes unrelated to the chapter)
It traces the growing up in a small town which is a fresh thing to read. The people and their mentality in small town is depicted well in their lines. The book does paint a beautiful picture of the life in Varansi and the trips to various locations there in. Characters like Moods Singh and Thakur Deen Dayal( Guggi's grandfather) bring humor and lightness to the story.
The protection racket which starts in schools was indeed a new thing to read. The school politics was another novelty.
The book tries to break the mold of campus stories and dramas which is another reason why it stands out.
The author has a unique way of narrating the story through the eyes of different protagonists and there is a sense of incompleteness which seems deliberate. You keep wondering what the lines implied. I was left wondering what happened to the characters at the end!

What I didn't like:
Too many plots going on. The books lacks a tight script. The story lacks continuity because of the excessive characters talking here and there and a few "not really necessary"chapters.
What in the name of heaven  is "Mogambo Vagina" that Bhandu keeps repeating in every line?
Is it just me who feels that a sexpot plan to "rape" a grass-cutting woman is not exactly innocuous?
We all know boys use a lot of abusive words but that doesn't mean every line in the first part has to be full of explicit words. After a point, I started skipping lines :P

Rating: I would give it a 3 on 5.

Price: Rs 250/-

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Redeemers by Suresh Taneja

Title-The Redeemers
Author-Suresh Taneja
Publisher-Lead start /Frog books
Price-INR 145/-

‘The Redeemers’ is the second book by Chartered accountant turned author Suresh Taneja.His debut work,’We can Pull it off’ which came out a couple of years back,thoughgot noticed for it’s theme and it’s concept(the book also had some really cool thoughts  like ‘Corruption Density Index’ ) ,was let down by poor editing and too many grammatical errors.Thebook,targeted at young readers is infact a complete and improved version of ‘We can Pull it off’.
The Plot-Vikram,Yuvika,Manisha and Akshay are four teenage friends.One bizarre vacation marks a turning point in their lives.’The Redeemers’ is the inspirational story of the unique movement which changed their lives and the destiny of their country.

The writing-The English is pretty simple which is justified as the target reader of this book belongs to a very young age. The Redeemers unlike it’s predecessor doesn’t have  many grammatically incorrect sentences in it,but still there are a few ones here and there(though he had a promising future abroad but he chose to return home,chapter 3).Likewise,it would have been better had the author given English translations for the Hindi dialogues which appear often in the book.

The Characters-Though ‘The Redeemers’ retains most of the characters which were there in the original,the author has intelligently given a family tree of the main characters in the beginning so that the reader is not confused at any point of time.The protagonists are not only well etched out this time but also their actions are also more convincing and believable,this time. On the downside, all the principal characters have been portrayed asepitomes of all virtues that often gave me the feeling that I was watching a SoorajBharjatya movie minus Salman Khan!The characters are often referred to as G3/G4/G6 whichmight not go down well with a section of readers,but I believe,it was cool.

What I liked the most about this book-
1.The Hospital scene (Rohit and G4) and the scene involving the corrupt Policeman in the highway.
2.The book puts forward some really nice thoughts which might be of some help inthe process of uplifting our country from the pits of moral turpitude to which it has fallen into,of late.
3.The concept of Corruption Density Index(CDI)
4.Vibha Sharma,the editor has done a decent job as the editor of this book and one never gets the feeling that this is her first work as an editor.
 What I didn’t Like-
1.Though I totally agree with Taneja’s views and his good intentions,in a country like India where the vote bank-caste politics determines the scheme of things,most of his views/suggestions seem highly impractical.Some of the incidents which Taneja has described in his book took place during the previous  UPA (cash for vote scandal et al) regime and all of us know,how the vote bank-(caste and ‘minority’ appeasement) politics helped them to come to power again after the next elections.UPA 2 not only ensured dozens of Scandals,scams,corruption scandals during their rule but also made sure that the country’s economy hit the baseline.But I am pretty sure that the likes of MulayamsinghYadavs,Mayawatis and NitishKumars will gift us a UPA 3 when the country goes for a general election in 2014.
2.‘The Great Indian School’- Speech scene could have been shorter and written in a more imaginative manner.

Verdict-The Redeemers by Suresh Taneja is a well intentioned ,decently writtenbook.Thoughsomewhat preachy at times,this is one book which should be read by all young readers who genuinely wish to liberate the country from the clutches of corruption and malpractices that has become deeply ingrained in our culture. Rating-3.25/5

(The author is a C.A. by profession and is employed in a large listed company as it's chief financial officer.He can be contacted is an author requested review

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

3500: An Autistic Boy's Ten-Year Romance with Snow White by Ron Miles

About 3 months back I promised myself NOT to buy any new books. and that's the same time  I discovered free kindle books. 3500 ( I will be referring to this book by just this number in the post ) was chance discovery which was made free for promotional reasons and I am so glad I read this.

Benjamin, a nine-year-old autistic boy with a love of Disney, was taking his first trip to Walt Disney World. The last thing his parents expected was to see him come alive.

What followed was a remarkable tale of inspiration, heartbreak, dedication and joy as Benjamin's family relocated from Seattle to Orlando in order to capture that magic and put it to practical use. Amidst the daily challenges of life for an autistic child, Benjamin's passion for one particular theme park attraction would lead his family on a breathtaking journey of hope and discovery.

Nimue Says : The book is written by Ben's Dad and in the beginning itself he states that this is how he looks at life with Ben, what he felt and remembers. That his wife's version might agree or not to this one , makes the tale so much real and true to the words.

This was the first time I read about autistic child and the sacrifices that such a child demands from the parents. I would never imagine moving to a city only for your child's love of the Snow White ride in Disneyland. To hope and have faith that this ride alone can bring so much learning and normalcy to your son's life that you leave everything and your girlfriend behind. But i guess , that what any parent would do. 

The tale just goes on from one year to next , one achievement to another , one sick day to many such days and Ben's recovery. Ron writes from his heart and relies on his memory like a guided tour into Ben's life.

Ben's obsession with the ride , Ron's track of the count of the rides Ben takes every time he goes to Disneyland ( 3 in a row is minimum for him most time) , the staff's affection and help to make every landmark ride special for Ben and his meeting with snow white.

I felt that I was indeed reading a fairy tale based in present times.

The book made me smile , made me cry a bit too. It made me feel good and made me feel so humble and thankful.

One of the best reads in recent months.
And I know I so much needed this blessing.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Envy - by Coleen Nolan

Image Source
ENVY: Chic-Lit, Urban Fantasy, Fiction. 

AUTHOR: Ms. Coleen Nolan (48), is UK's popular TV presenter and a panelist on ITV's Loose Women. She is also known as a runner up in the Celebrity Big Brother 2010 and was also an active singer in her Band - The Nolans. She also writes an Agony Aunt column in Daily Mirror and is infamous for her outrageously flirty behaviour. 

Image Source
BEST SELLER(S): Upfront & Personal (Autobiography, 2009), Mum to Mum - Happy Memories and Honest Advices from a Real Mum (2010) and Envy (2010).

In the glamorous world of television, 
no one is quite who they seem...

Television favourite, Karen King has enough on her plate. She's already torn between her cheating husband and the sexy much younger man she's just met. But life's about to get a lot more complicated for the presenter of the late night hit show Girl Talk


Best Friends Make the Deadliest Enemies.

'Hello! And welcome to Girl Talk!' Julia purred. 'Settle back for your nightly dose of the best news from the best of friends.' She paused and shot a dazzling smile at the others as the director cut to a close-up of Lesley, ever the professional, smiling back despite her pounding head.

Karen King gazed at the women on the either side of her and braced herself for another hour of fake friendship played out in front of millions.

MSM Speaks: You can happily strangle me once you recover from the pink haze I am throwing at you! ^_^ 

Ahem! So yes, prior to Envy I had no idea who Coleen Nolan was and when I did try to dig something, I found out she was no less than a mixture of our lovely actors (certain Ms. Queen-erawat and Ms. Rakhibandhan). Excuse the jibe. I was asked to pick this one up to see the character of Karen King, who also is the protagonist of the book. 

The book deals with the usual, dirt below the carpet reality of the television (fashion/film/modelling - just replace) industry. Karen King dapples with her weight issues, a flighty husband whom she divorces and also with the success that she seems to be gaining suddenly. There are also her co-presenters on Girl Talk and real life "friends" - Julia Hill, Lesley Gold, Faye Cole and Cheryl West

Julia Hill being the oldest (Oops. The most experienced) and a yesteryear A-Lister Celebrity in her younger days is always bossy. She deals with ill-effects of Botox and heavy handedness,making herself many unnamed enemies. Lesley Gold is always drunk, trying to outdo her feeling of loneliness and lack of love. Faye and Cheryl have a thing going on, where Faye lacks the guts to come out of the closet - being married to a local superhero Army Guy. Cheryl is her own person and I really appreciated the portrayal of her character in the book.

The book deals with all these women's stories running in parallel and interconnecting at various points.  Karen's character is portrayed with realistic grey shades, but the writer, in order to make her look like the hero, has made her behaviour a bit unrealistic - too naive and sweet, for someone who is in the TV industry. Secrets of all the women are revealed in the due course of the book and unsavoury vengeances take place between the so-called friends. It does get pathetic at some places, however the twists towards the end made me sit on the edge of my chair. It also shows that no matter where you stand in the fight, if you stand up for yourself, eventually you will come clean - as a winner. 

Plus point for that one. If you have some time to spare for a light, bitchy read. Pick this one up. 

My rating: 2/5 (FL can Laugh at me, as always. Please someone gift me good books!

Envy by Coleen Nolan @Pan Books (2010)
ISBN 9780330516983
Price: INR 248/- (flipkart)
Pages: 336

Only Love is Real: The story of soulmates reunited - By Dr. Brian Weiss

Image source: Self-clicked.

ONLY LOVE is REAL: Spirituality, Psychology and Metaphysics.

AUTHOR: Dr. Brian Leslie Weiss, MD (68) is a traditional psychotherapist. In 1988, during one of his sessions, he was astonished and skeptical, when one of his patients began recalling past-life traumas that seemed to hold the key to her recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks. His skepticism was eroded, however, when she began to channel messages from “the space between lives,” which contained remarkable revelations about Dr. Weiss’s family and his dead son. Using past-life therapy, he was able to cure the patient and embark on a new, more meaningful phase of his own career. Dr. Weiss is graduate of Columbia University and Yale Medical School. He is also the Chairman Emeritus of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. (From the official website
Image Source Dr. Brian L.Weiss, MD
BEST SELLER(s): Many Lives, Many Masters; Miracles Happen; Through Time Into Healing; Messages from the Masters; Same Soul, Many Bodies; Mirrors of Time: Using regression for Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Healing; Meditation: Achieving Inner Peace and Tranquillity In Your Life; Eliminating Stress and Finding Peaceand Healing the Mind and Spirit Cards.

SYNOPSIS (From the Blurb):

                       We all have a soulmate, someone who is special to us.

In his books, psychiatrist and past-life therapist Dr. Brian Weiss describes the extraordinary case of two of his patients, Pedro and Elizabeth, whose shared lives and lifetimes unfolded quite separately in his office. Could they have loved - and lost - each other across time?
Dr. Weiss explains that you may be awakened to the presence of your soul companion by a look, a dream, a memory or a feeling. Finding and reuniting with your soulmate will bring you profound bliss and happiness, safe in the knowledge that you are together always, to the end of time.


I have been here before,
But when and how, I cannot tell;
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.
You have been mine before -
How long ago I may not know:
Just when at that swallow's soar,
Your neck turned so,
Some veil did fall, - I know it all of yore.

You never forget the hurt, but, as time passes, you can live around it. After a decade of pain, we began to understand about the immortality of souls.

MSM Speaks: There are certain genres which people usually don't find themselves attracted to and at the risk of stereotyping, I would say - religion or spiritualism is one such genre. You either need to have a keen interest or a hunger to hold on to the knowledge and wisdom delivered until the end. I came across this book after few of my friends mentioned Many Masters, Many Lives as something that I should pick up. However, Only Love is Real was given to me by one of my friends. To be honest, I did not open it until few days back because of the mental block that it must be highly boring and well, clich├ęd. 

The book starts off at a pretty slow pace to make the reader familiar with terms and issues to be dealt with in Past Life Regression Therapy. Dr. Weiss introduces little verses at the beginning of all the chapters to make them more intriguing. I really loved the verse that I have given in the excerpt - it is in essence, all of what Dr. Weiss is trying to say. He starts with Elizabeth's session who is suffering from anxiety and bad relationships. She is also in deep sadness regarding her mother, whom she lost. A lot of her problems are dealt with and a marvellous connection is brought out to her previous lives. 

In another session, Dr. Weiss is dealing with a Mexican patient Pedro who has been suffering from a lot of mental stress and physical stress. Also, he has recently lost his older brother and therefore, feels an incredible sense of loss that seems to be rooted beyond this lifetime. 

Two parallel therapies are taking place - two parallel connections are being drawn. Masters from the other side meanwhile give messages worth reassessing our position in this world. Yes, we are indeed a tiny speck, but we are also one of a kind, the sui generis. Dr. Weiss does not impose what he believes, just gives his take on the principle of past life regressions.

I had to finish this book, and yes, somewhere somehow, even though the contemporary upbringings tell us to believe otherwise, I ended up feeling hopeful about myself. A complete feel good book. 

My Rating: 4.5/5

ONLY LOVE is REAL@ Piatkus UK ( 2004

ISBN 978-0-7499-1620-6
Number of Pages: 176
Price: INR 225 /- (flipkart)

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Redeemers, by Suresh Taneja

About the author:
Suresh Taneja is a chartered accountant by profession. He published his first book, “We Can Pull It Off” and this book is an improved version of that. He wishes more youth read it, and believes that the youth have a very important role to play in the development of India.

My thoughts on the cover design:
It feels casual, like a light read is implied. Gives out a projection of excitement and enthusiasm.

My impressions from the blurb:
Well, if Suresh’s belief is that youth should play a part in the country’s future, the novel seems to be a reflection of that. A story of youth who have set out to make a change.

My review:
Well, we begin at a time in the future, 2030 to be exact, where things have turned on their head. There is a young Indian ambassador to the US, and India is the leading superpower in the world. Indian companies have become THE brand abroad and such. We’re introduced to a closely knit group of four friends and their families, who are currently holidaying in the United States. This group (G4) are part of the initial revolution that changed India and got them to where they are now. Chapter by chapter from this point, we are taken back and forth in time to see what started it all, and how the change came about.

This book is inspiring, and calls for action from the youth to battle and conquer corruption that has taken over our country, and left it, as rightfully said on the blurb, in a shameful state. It tells us that small things and prompt thinking can help bring about that change, as shown when young Yuvika’s prompt thinking prevents her family from being unjustly accused and charged with murder. It also tells us change might not happen overnight, but working toward it can make it more possible that we feel it is now, to implement the good ideas we might have for changing the nation is also important. Lastly, it also shows we need to have dreams and believe in them, and we should be given that space to believe in them rather than other dreams pushed in, so they become true.

On the downside, editing lacked. A major mistake was Kolkata being spelt with a double t. It is in the future and by that time, another t might be added for all I know, but felt very odd. It also was very off-putting to read the sentences like “G4 initiated discussion with G3” or “G6 wished in chorus” etc. To show that all of the group said it felt wrong. Perhaps it might have been better to put it like one of them wished and the other followed in chorus, or one by one. And also, though they are known as a group like the parents together as G6, fathers alone as G3 and the four of them as G4, just using the group names felt seriously strange. Similarly with the discussion, when political parties was discussed. Names to the parties brings a more realistic feel to it. Things like India’s state of domination in 2030, with us lending huge amount of money to the Americans felt nice, but to be frank, it also felt unrealistic given the pace of development we are currently at. One suggestion from my side is that rather than starting out with India as a fully developed, global superpower, what might have been more apt is for the story to start in the present and go along from there till 2030. That, and being narrated from the point of view of G4 members, like one chapter from Yuvika, the next from Vikram etc., might have made it more effective and touching, rather than starting out with all is fine and narrating the past to their already awestruck children.

The Redeemers is a feel good story that leaves us wondering if we are asking the right questions and how the onus is on us to ask the right ones and be the stepping stone for change.

My rating: 3.25 Stars

Book details:
Title: The Redeemers
Author: Suresh Taneja
ISBN: 978-93-82473-39-8
Genre: Fiction/Drama
Publishers: Leadstart / Frog Books
Price: INR. 145

Reviewed by Leo

Shared with:
1. First Reads at b00k r3vi3ws
2. Indian Quills at The Tales Pensieve

This was an author-requested review. I thank Suresh Taneja for the review copy.

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