Sunday, January 14, 2018

Giving youngsters their time under the sun, with a bit of sunscreen (Interview with Preeti Shenoy)

Preeti Shenoy
She was “just a mother of two” (her blog’s name) when she started her blog in 2006 shortly after losing her dad all of a sudden. And in 2008 came her first book. There has been no looking back since then for PREETI SHENOY. She features among the top five bestselling authors in India and finds a place on the Forbes list of the most influential celebrities in the country.

Here, she opens up about her latest book, growing as an author, bridging the generation gap and of course about blogging to DIVYA NAMBIAR. Down to earth, pleasant and downright honest, here’s Preeti at her candid best. We share the tidbits of the interview here:

 A Hundred Little Flames (AHLF) seems to have generated brightness and cheer, yet again. With it topping charts and the signing spree over, how are you spending your time now?
Thanks so much. Haha—I am writing my next book!

9 books since 2008. You are unstoppable, aren’t you?  Tell us how you would define ‘writing’.
For me, writing is life itself. It is as natural to me as breathing. I was writing even when I was unknown and nobody was reading me. I continue to write, even when thousands of people are reading me.

 In one line, explain your journey as an author.
I write, I grow.

Preeti – the author and Preeti – ‘author’-kept-aside. Does it ever happen? Or are you constantly on the lookout for something that serves as fodder for your next book?
I think it is only when others look at me, they look at me as ‘an author’. I don’t define myself that way, nor am I constantly ‘looking for material.’ My mind is a busy place. Ideas are always running through my head. That’s how it has always been. If something has happened to me, which has left an impression, it might find its way into my writing. (Or it may not too)


Cover of A Hundred Little Flames
How much, according to you, does the cover page impact the sales of a book? With that said, are you satisfied with the cover of AHLF?
It is important for the cover to catch the eye of the reader. With AHLF, we wanted to send a clear message that it was very different from my other work; it was my first foray into literary fiction. The illustration on the cover was a commissioned piece of art, and was a deliberate choice. Yes, I am satisfied. It was launched at Birmingham, UK, at Birmingham Literature Festival. The cover itself speaks volumes.

Author, painter, motivator, relationship expert – you don many hats at a time. Is there an untapped potential you look forward to cultivate in the near future?
Yes, Yoga teacher and organic vegetable farmer, also a tutor to underprivileged children.

Your writing career took off thanks to a blog that you actively maintained (and still do). Any tips for new bloggers?
Do be very regular with your content. Be honest, and do not invent an online persona. Most of all, have fun!

Paperback and kindle. Pick one and tell us why.
Paperback. I am old fashioned that way. Also, I love beautiful bookmarks, also the touch and feel of a ‘real book’. Curling up under the blanket with a kindle isn’t the same as curling up with a paperback.

AHLF very minutely traces the journey of a human being and his troubles as he approaches the evening of his life. How does the other side of 50 look like, to you?
I know a lot of people in their sixties, seventies and eighties who lead such inspiring lives. I think it is wonderful if you have managed to keep yourself healthy and fit.

Loneliness is real for many elderly people today and so is their struggle with technology. How can youngsters make things a bit easier for them?
By spending time with them, helping them understand technology and communication with them, sincerely and genuinely.
   
       You speak about casual love in today’s time and love during the olden times that could survive without even a sense of touch in AHLF. Love as it looked in the olden times now looks dreamlike and seemingly dead. But can we totally deny today’s youngsters their time under the sun? (i.e.  Have we trivialized present love stories in the process of appreciating the past?)
I don’t think we have trivialized love stories of present nor have I denied youngsters their ‘time under the sun’. I have only pointed out that wearing sunscreen helps.

Platonic relationships do very much exist these days. It is indeed possible for a man and a woman to be friends, and to love each other, without jumping into bed. The debate of whether a man and a woman can be ‘just friends’ is very old and eternal. Movies like When Harry Met Sally and our own Bollywood films have explored this theme over and over.

I see so many guys and girls who are good friends, and nothing more. I do not see it as ‘rare’.


   Name one of the recent books you’ve read and liked.
I have read 40 books this year. The ones I loved were Benyamin’s Goat Days, Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath becomes Air and Marjane Satrapi’s Perspolis are a few that immediately come to my mind.

You have been an author for about a decade now. How would you describe the reading habits of today’s teenagers? (Is it rising or declining? Is there a pattern you’ve observed?)
I guess I would have an observational bias, as I am surrounded by teens who read. Two days back, when I was doing my Christmas shopping (at a bookstore of course) a group of girls from a local school, ran into me. After they clicked photos (and I signed books for them) they asked me for book recommendations. I was delighted to give them a list.

What is next on your to-do list?
To write my next book!

Describe Preeti Shenoy as an author, wife, mother, an artist and an individual.
Have no clue. People can describe me however they see fit. I don’t think so much about myself. I would rather think about my characters!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Women Warriors in Indian History (Book Review)


Women Warriors in Indian History

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historically sound, yet refuses to be a page-turner

Name of the book: Women Warriors in Indian History
Name of the Author: Yugal Joshi
Publisher: Rupa Publications India Pvt. Ltd
ISBN: 978-81-291-4522-2
Price: Rs 195
Pages: 177

As soon as I closed the book after reading Rani Lakshmi Bai’s story (also the last one in the book), I looked around. I was in a ladies’ compartment of a Mumbai Local, on my way back home at a little over 9.45 pm. All around, I could see women – some engrossed in their mobile phones, some having dinner, some looking out of the windows, some laughing with their friends and yet some others worried about being late than usual to get back home. I wondered how these women managed to get there and that too at an hour when women were expected to be at home with cooked meals ready, serving their family members and propping their kids up to sleep.

And then a smile formed on my lips. I silently thanked the many women I had just read about, over the past few days – the valiant warriors, the brave ones, who stood up against a patriarchal society and fought their enemies even when they knew that death and darkness was looming large upon their lives and dreams of saving their kingdoms.

The author has explored the lives of ten such warriors including Razia Sultan, Rudramba, Durgavati, Chand Bibi, Abbakka, Chennamma of Keladi, Tara Bai, Chennamma of Kittur, Avantibai and Lakshmi Bai. Some remain famous even today while some names have stayed subdued in the pages of our history. It was good to revive those names from the annals of history. Nevertheless, they continue to inspire the women of today.

There is a story within a story in each of the chapters. There’s Marco Polo recounting the story of his contemporary Queen Rudramba, Emperor Jahangir narrating the tale of Durgavati to his future consort Nur Jahan and legendary Tatya Tope unfolding Avantibai’s heroics to young Manu (Lakshmi Bai).

It thus brings to life the different eras to the reader. Also, the chronological setting of events from the slave dynasty to the first war of Indian independence (famously known as the war that led to Mangal Pandey’s death i.e. the revolt of 1857) is a challenging one which has been ably presented. It is well-researched and describes well the qualities of the women warriors as they fought against gender, social, religious and political odds.

However, the reader might be baffled by the sheer number of characters whose names appear in the book. It can, at times, divert the reader from an intense plot. This could have been reduced while sticking to the names of the absolutely important characters only. The rest could have been avoided.
Also, the problems faced by the warriors and their fights begin to feel monotonous, trying to derail the storytelling. The horse riding and the warfare can lose the initial intensity it yielded towards the beginning.

In a bid to present a well-researched book, the author has in certain places deviated from the plot to be factually correct.

To those who take a keen interest in Indian history and those who would like to get a glimpse into the lives of the warriors mentioned above, this book could be a helpful tool. To general readers, the sheer number and names of characters in this book could prove to be a dampener. Those who are not too fond of history, can give this book a skip as the minute details could get taxing. Lovers of history have an opportunity to appreciate the gentle weaving of different time periods into the pages of the book in the form of different women warriors whoexisted in each of the different periods.

Readers can live through different time periods of Indian history through its women warriors. However, there was much scope in this book to delve into the kingdoms and the ‘praja’ of those eras.
Even though the book is historically sound, it lacks in being a page-turner.



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Why Won't You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts (Book Review)


Why Won't You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Art of apologizing done right

Name of the book: Why won’t you apologize?
Name of the author: Harriet Lerner
Genre: Self help/ Psychology
Publisher: Duckworth Overlook
Pages: 195
Price: Rs.499
Also available as an e-book
Apologising is an art. If done right, it can lead to a peaceful life. If otherwise, it can lead to a lifetime of uncomfortable silences with those who once were an important part of life.

In a fast-paced life, when people are involved in a cutthroat rat race, seldom do they slow down or pause to apologize to those who may have been hurt by them, intentionally or otherwise.

“Apologise? Why should I?” is a fairly common question. Why is apologizing so difficult? And, finally when one does manage to come up with an apology, what does the other party do? It dismisses the apology altogether without sparing a thought for the guts taken by the apologizer to own up to his/ her perceived mistake.

How does one learn this art? Also, isn’t an apology all about saying ‘I’m sorry’ and meaning it? Is there something more to it?

Well, that’s when internationally acclaimed relationship expert and author Dr. Harriet Lerner comes into the picture with this book offering a ringside view of parties involved in tendering and receiving an apology. It definitely is a sanity-saving guide to make things better. She has amazingly quoted real-life stories with impeccable humour and wit. She explains adequately the transformative power of even ‘attempting’ to make amends.

It is an eye-opener and must read for mere mortals as it provides clear answers to ambiguous thoughts and jumbled up queries running in our minds when we are in a tricky situation. To both the hurt party as well as the one who is responsible for causing the hurt, this book has tips to glide through the situation in a respectable manner – yes, with one’s head held high or at least with one’s sanity intact!

Spread over twelve chapters, it offers well-described, witty examples of the many faces of ‘I’m sorry’; of different ways to ruin an apology, tips to handle big-time criticism, how and whether to accept the olive branch, reconciliation failures and finding peace, amongst others.

A very important and often forgotten point that has been brought up in the book is that a sincere apology means we are fully accountable for the part we are responsible for, and for ONLY that. What is also appreciable is that the author has quoted examples from her own life – a distinct feature of a true teacher – to demonstrate how paradoxically, in our most enduring and important relationships we are least likely to be our most mature and thoughtful selves.

It is a fast read and even though it deals with some very important issues of one’s life, it is written in a manner where complexities are broken down so that amidst other complexities, some simplified intake and its assimilation is guaranteed.

Important insights into entrenched non-apologizers’ psychology is also provided. There are those who are too defensive, too covered in shame and can’t or won’t see themselves objectively. In such cases, the book can be considered as a helpful tool to help prevent oneself from increasing their defensiveness and establishing a peaceful situation.

However, there are small chunks in some chapters that could have been avoided. It needlessly lengthened certain areas under discussion. Crisper editing could have helped.

Renowned for her work on the psychology of women and family relationships, Lerner has 12 books published in 35 languages to her credit. She has also authored ‘The Dance of Anger’ (New York Times bestseller with more than 3m copies sold).

An important takeaway that the reviewer found in the book is: “The real question is not who started it, or who is to blame, but rather what each person can do to change his or her steps in the dance.”

Sunday, April 9, 2017


The Peacock Feather

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Name of the book: The Peacock Feather

Authors: Sunil Kapoor and Sudhir Kapoor

Publisher: Rupa Publications India Pvt. Ltd 2017
ISBN 978-81-291-4459-1

Genre: Fiction

Also available as an e-book

Price: Rs. 395

Pages: 195

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ― Gilda Radner

Delicious ambiguity is what this book is about – a slice of life itself. With ten vivid short stories to grip the reader from the very first page, ‘The Peacock Feather’ has an interesting storyline. Written by a pair of monozygotic twins, their various interactions with people from all walks of life and working as chartered accountants and lawyers primarily formed the genesis of this book as per them.

The first thing however, that attracts the reader to this book is its artistic cover with the picture of a peacock flaunting its feathers. The beautiful texture and the merging of the white with yellow apart from the rich hue of blue is surely a piece of art for those with an eye for detail.

The stories are strikingly similar to the ones that we hear happening all around us. And yet, there is something about them – the way the authors have narrated the story, the plot and the setting—that make the stories seem fresh and subtly fragranced… the fragrance of an old world replete with friendships that stood the test of time during the tribulations of India’s partition; the charm of pre-digital romance; the determination of a Britisher to help Indians make their lives easier at the cost of his financial security and life and so much more. The stories range from bittersweet tales of love (‘The Peacock Feather’, ‘Deceitful Paramour’, ‘Nightmare in London’), rags-to-riches tale (‘The Gutka King’) to ‘A Misplaced Draft’ where the evils of the dowry system have been addressed. It depicts the true nature of human beings with all their flaws and nuances.

A book of short stories is at times not preferred by those who love reading novels. But with this book, those readers can veer into a world where they have a range of situations to delve into. With the authors’ simplicity and depth, as a result of their immense efforts, this book is a smooth-sailing journey despite the highs and lows that it offers.

After reading the book, I tried re-living the set-ups that I had found myself in while reading it. I couldn’t pinpoint one story that I liked most as all the ten of them have something to offer to the reader. Often, one tends to forget the story that the title holds as one looks at the index, even after relishing the entire book. However, here it was different. The titles took me back to the different worlds I had been to.

Often, we delve into worlds that are different from our own and wonder if it is even possible once we get back to the reality. However, here the authors have taken up real-life situations and built their tales around them. Fascinating as they are, they also render the reader speechless at the simplicity of the choice of words and the magnetic appeal they offer from the very first page of each new story.

This book can be read at leisure and be rest assured to traverse different eras in the comfort of your own book-reading nook.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Perhaps Tomorrow – The Memoir of a Sri Lankan Housemaid in the Middle East (Book Review)

Perhaps Tomorrow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Name of the book: Perhaps Tomorrow – The Memoir of a Sri Lankan Housemaid in the Middle East
Name of Author: Pooranam Elayathamby with Richard Anderson
Publisher: First published by Wheatmark,USA 2014; IN India in paperback by Speaking Tiger 2017
ISBN: 978-81-933141-6-6
Genre: Non-fiction/ Memoir
Price: Rs 299
Pages: 244

Imagine carrying a thirty-kilo sack of rice on your back, even before puberty struck, and carrying it door-to-door to sell it. Add to it the scorching summer and a barefooted you; and adding further salt to the wound, your former classmates are off to school to do what you have always loved to do—study—while you slog knowing that there is no other option if you want your family of a widowed mother and five sisters to survive.

This was just a part of Sandy’s (born Pooranam Elayathamby) routine in her early years in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. Poverty was a perpetual visitor or rather like a family member—always tagging along with them. Married at sixteen, she had three children before she turned twenty-two and was widowed by age thirty.

Perhaps Tomorrow is her story and the story of many others who had no other option but to leave the surroundings they grew up in, their families – often consisting of kids who haven’t had enough of their mom’s presence in their lives – all in the hope that perhaps tomorrow, there would be a better roof upon their heads to protect them from the vagaries of nature and fellow human beings; there would be enough of clean water to drink and food to give them the energy to survive another day. The book provides a firsthand experience of surviving amidst a twenty-year-long civil war replete with day-to-day examples of how much the war had claimed and left people in the lurch. Constant security checks on the way to Colombo, the deserted airport area, a sudden swoop by police doubting her to be from the LTTE and her narrow escape from doom were only some of the problems faced on a regular basis.

The Tamils feared the Army, and the Sinhalese soldiers in turn feared them, suspecting that all were either LTTE regulars or supporters of their cause. Tamils were summarily arrested, taken from their homes, questioned and most often, removed to areas where they were beaten, tortured and incarcerated. Most villagers tried to remain neutral but found it difficult to do so. LTTE trucks occasionally made hurried runs to places near Kommathurai to seek out new recruits among the younger men and women. This was an added woe to Sandy who worked hard in the Middle East in people’s homes, did part-time work – all in a bid to earn a little more so that they, as a family, would have a better life, perhaps tomorrow.

The memoir also takes the reader along to experience Sandy’s life in the Middle East, who was at the mercy of those who hired her as a housemaid. It also sheds light on the work laws and the precarious living conditions of workers abroad. They risked – and continue to risk—being bullied, humiliated and often starved and beaten. There was only hope, a will to survive and a dream to give a better life to her family that guided her and made her trudge through every adversity she faced.
However, there were kind masters as well, with whom she shared her life story and who helped her find a footing in a place that she entered not out of will but out of sheer incapability to dream of something else. The kind ones were the real oases in the desert of her life. Her struggle over several decades to save her family, her home and herself from poverty, discrimination, violence and the horrors of a long civil war didn’t go in vain. Her story of courage, personal risk, faith and unwavering commitment towards ensuring a better life for her children saw a better day when she met Dick or Richard Anderson (the co-author), whom she later married.

As a reader, what I found surprising was the mechanical descriptions of Sandy’s war-inflicted neighbourhood, her first husband’s death and funeral and a perpetual lack of emotion in the storytelling style. This could be the book’s failure or its ultimate charm for it was devoid of any frills and undertook a direct approach to show how things were, through Sandy’s eyes. Was it a reflection of how Sandy’s life had shaped into a constant struggle to provide for her family with no time for emotions?

The book remains an essential read for anyone who wants to know firsthand about surviving a storm and emerging victorious. It also provides very minute information about Visa issues and immigration rules, divesting the reader of interest from the storyline at times.

- Divya Nambiar


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Jump by Steve Harvey (Book Review)


Jump: Take the Leap of Faith to Achieve Your Life of Abundance

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Name of the book: Jump

Author: Steve Harvey with Leah Lakins

Publisher: Amistad – An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

ISBN 978-0-06-222035-6; e-book available

Price: USA $25.99/ Canada 431.99

Number of pages: 196
‘Take the leap of faith to achieve your life of abundance’ is written on the book’s jacket. Steve stands in his signature suit with his bald head, flashing one of his widest smiles. ‘Jump’ – the text is not screaming at the reader but there is something that makes the reader want to flip the pages.

As I was in the process of reading it, a family friend visited. On seeing the book, she asked me, “Isn’t he the same guy who goofed up on stage while announcing the name of the Miss Universe, sometime back?” It was then that it struck me too. I had totally forgotten that incident. I then started reading the book with renewed interest, wondering if he had to say anything about that incident in this book. We’ll come to that a little later.

Steve, in this inspirational book, urges the reader to jump from a spot that seems to stunt his growth, makes him unhappy and leads to a general sense of discontent within him. He does this by baring his own story in front of the reader. He speaks about the lows and highs of his life and how he jumped out of all his lows, guided by a hope that better things surely await. Right from practically living in his car to leading life paycheck to paycheck, to the riches he found on the way, he inspires the reader to take that ‘jump’. Now this jump does not necessarily have to be quitting a job abruptly, because it does not make one happy. It could be as simple as deciding that you will do something about it and then working towards it. Sometimes, not giving up hope when facing adversity is the best thing one can do to move ahead. However, he warns how just hoping about something and not doing anything about it would not help make things any better.

Coming from a person who knows well how it’s like to face seemingly overwhelming odds – failing in college, being fired from his job, being homeless and in debt – that can send any human being into a shell he is afraid of coming out from, Steve explains how it is all okay and how it is not the end but merely a place from where one needs to jump with the hope that he will be in a better place. Of course, it might not necessarily be better the moment one lands in a different place because one needs time to dress the scrapes, nurse the wounds and then look ahead and gear up for the journey ahead with a new vigour.

The concept of Jump was first introduced by him at the close of a taping of his syndicated hit show Family Feud. Talking to the studio audience as only he can, the Emmy Award- winning host spontaneously delivered passionate advice on the secret of his success. The video immediately went viral with 58 million viewers (and counting) worldwide. In this book, he builds on that invaluable advice.

Steve also speaks about juggling things and yes, he does elaborately explain how the major Miss Universe goof-up happened. When he takes the reader along his journey, the reader gets to know about the other side of the story – Steve’s side, the behind-the scenes mishap. He humanises the story and it makes sense why he admitted the mistake, took full responsibility and did not deprive the real Miss Universe her rightful moments of crowning glory.

He credits his wife Marjorie for being a driving force for him and how he is lucky that he found someone who could jump with him. We need people who can jump with us – no questions asked. And finding them, as per him, is what makes one truly blessed.

He encourages and teaches the reader to take a jump by laying out his core principles which include identifying the lessons and blessings in life; utilising the practice of stillness; putting past mistakes in the rear-view mirror for that’s where they belong and they should not hamper one’s journey ahead; trusting in God; and taking full responsibility, especially in difficult situations.

According to Steve, with every jump, we are elevating our lives and reaching closer to the great life that God has planned for us. There were instances where I felt there were repetitions which might have been used to emphasise what he wanted to tell the reader. Also, I wondered if it was his attempt to clear the air – a certain PR exercise? Be that as it may, I still consider it to be a confidence-building; morale-boosting book for those who believe and would appreciate the fact that something better is in store for them, no matter how gloomy or great life looks at the moment. Also, coming from a man who has seen a certain type of hell, lived and overcome it – it definitely remains a good read. For those who believe in taking risks and keep steering away from ‘playing it safe’, it will be a pat on the back and would further enlighten them about the paths they have decided to walk upon. To surge into your unique destiny by overriding your fears, Steve’s Jump will have your back.
This review can also be found at : http://www.freepressjournal.in/book-r...

-Divya Nambiar

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Gurus: Stories of India's Leading Babas (Book Review)


Gurus: Stories of India's Leading Babas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Find the review here too : http://www.freepressjournal.in/book-r...
Name of the book: Gurus – Stories of India’s Leading Babas
Name of the author: Bhavdeep Kang
Publisher: Westland Limited
Genre: Non-Fiction
Price: Rs. 295
Number of pages: 240

Also available as an ebook

In the author’s own words: “This book is not a piece of investigative journalism; definitely not an exercise in PR. This book neither debunks nor celebrates the subjects. Also, it isn’t a collection of thumbnail biographies. Nor is it a work of scholarship. It is not, even remotely, a philosophical study, a sociological commentary or a psychological analysis. It is a peek at the men (and woman) behind the guru personas.” She has based their profiles on subjective impressions, interviews and research (a lot of it), viewing them from as many angles as possible. However, her reporter’s instincts couldn’t be sublimated at all times and she has analysed and even criticised the gurus’ statements or actions. In the entire process of scurrying in and out of ashrams and meeting devotees to cover varied angles, she found herself grouping them into three categories: the revelationists, the quondam skeptics and the seekers.

India is a land of diversity with almost equal weightage given to doctors, teachers, babas and yogis. While skeptics would question the importance given to certain babas who according to them are fooling around and minting money with their convoluted tips and advises to the needy, there’s no doubting the fact that they have an important place in our society. If it wasn’t so, these yogis wouldn’t have made a mark and considered worthy enough to write a book on – in all their established eccentricities.

A journalist with over 30 years of experience, it is no surprise that Bhavdeep managed to pull off a book on some of the gurus who have grabbed international headlines and who surprise people and make them wonder about their journeys from obscurity to fame, the clout they carry and the enigma surrounding them.

Her witty writing style made sure that this book remained a page-turner until the very end. If it weren’t for her writing, this could have been a very dry read.

Coming to the subjects, she has peeked into the lives of nine gurus (The reason for number nine has also been described in the Introduction). They are: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (The Pop Guru), Dhirendra Brahmachari (Indira Gandhi’s Guru), Chandraswami (The Shaman-Shyster), Mata Amritanandamayi (The Divine Hug), Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (The Art of Selling Love), Morari Bapu (The Chronicler of Lord Rama), Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (The Metaphysical Mystic), Baba Ramdev (The Virtual Guru), Bhaiyyuji Maharaj (The Metrosexual Seer).

India’s godmen are among its most colourful, cultural products and the cover page does justice to that fact. Attractive in red and yellow, with ‘Gurus’ emblazoned on an image of the sun, it sets the tone for the read. However, do not be mistaken by the spiritual, mystic appearance of the cover. It, in no way, professes a particular religion. So atheists and agnostics need not panic! In fact, it is a worthwhile read for all, irrespective of the religion they follow or the lack of it.

Also, there are certain habits that can amuse the reader and some values that can be imbibed from the lives of these godmen – some do not mind marketing themselves and their teachings (How else will people know where to find help?); some give lessons of following a simple lifestyle (no matter what their own realities are); some emphasise on love, brotherhood, charity and the need for empathy and compassion (heavy words for sure, but not without roots); one of them consumes food prepared with the water from the Ganges and drinks water too from there (even though I do not know how safe that is considering today’s scenario where pollution in the Ganges is topic for heated debates and discussion).

There are amazing tidbits too – of how a Godman loves science-fiction, how the Beatles inspired another – that let the reader know that even though some of them claim to have certain powers and moments of enlightenment, they are essentially human beings with considerably normal lives and interests.

There were dull moments at times when I thought why I was even reading about one of the godmen, and considering the time of reading (noon), I did skip his story, only to return and complete reading it again! I couldn’t miss out on that piece of information, after all. That’s the writer’s charm I guess.

Gurus remains an essential read for those who would not mind delving into the lives of those godmen who are sometimes simply considered to be maniacs. It covers their immense public lives and mysterious inner lives. A well-researched piece of non-fiction, it seeks to answer who these godmen are in real lives.

-Divya Nambiar