Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Six Stories and An Essay (Book Review)

Six Stories and An Essay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Never before has an abruption felt so perfect, so needful. The best part about this book is her lucid and honest writing that leaves you wanting more and yet leaves you with a strange sense of calm and a sense of revolt at the same time. It is a lethal combination but probably the only sensible thing for us as humans. For how else can one justify the anger of being subjected to racism and yet being happy with 'one's own'?

The book provides an interesting, thought-provoking and firsthand account of someone subjected to racism and the trials and tribulations that need to be overcome in order to 'try and fit-in' in a place that one always considered 'home'.

Brutally honest and immensely touching, it is a must read for all those who have always thought that racism is not a very draining issue and that it happens to 'others'. It is also an important read for a generation that knows only about a history that is seemingly skewed, with important events conveniently hidden away or in other words, torn off from the pages of history forever, according to the author. By that, I definitely do not mean that History-haters would not enjoy it because her way of writing has a power that holds the reader by the collar and without force, we end up getting drawn into the plot.

It is disturbing but at the same time teaches you what its like to walk with confidence on your face even when others are busy shunning you on the basis of the very skin that protects your face!

- Divya Nambiar

Author: Andrea Levy
Other books by the Author: Small Island by Andrea Levy The Long Song by Andrea Levy Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy Never Far From Nowhere by Andrea Levy Every Light in the House Burnin' by Andrea Levy Uriah's War by Andrea Levy

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Bookless in Baghdad and Other Writings on Reading (Book Review)

Bookless in Baghdad and Other Writings on Reading

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only a well-read and well-travelled person could have written this book. As a public figure, there have been quite a lot of criticism about him and his personal as well as political life.

But this book has been a refreshing change, offering a glimpse into the working of mind of an intellectual so often judged upon his 'Indian-ness' on the basis of where he resides and what he has to say about certain issues.
What an awesome way of answering his so- called 'critics'!

His writing is fluid,witty and tongue-in-cheek at many instances. After reading it, it somehow strengthens my belief that books are really an important part of our lives for 'in order to survive, we eat. But why do we live if it is just to eat more and survive? There must be a purpose'. Books do provide a sense and purpose to our existence.

Thanks Mr. Tharoor for offering a glimpse into many events that took place over the years and that too, in your non-Stephen's, yet impeccably Stephen's style.

P.S.: Even though it feels like a heavy read and a dissection and then sewing back together of his own literary journey via books it has much more to offer.

- Divya Nambiar

Author: Shashi Tharoor
Other books by the Author: Show Business by Shashi Tharoor The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor India From Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond by Shashi Tharoor The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cell Phone Reflections on India, the Emerging 21st-Century Power by Shashi Tharoor Pax Indica India and the World of the 21st Century by Shashi Tharoor Riot by Shashi Tharoor Nehru The Invention of India by Shashi Tharoor The Five Dollar Smile and Other Stories by Shashi Tharoor India The Future Is Now The Vision and Road Map for the Country by Her Young Parliamentarians by Shashi Tharoor India Shastra Reflections on the Nation in Our Time by Shashi Tharoor Shadows Across the Playing Field 60 Years of India Pakistan Cricket by Shashi Tharoor Kerala, God's Own Country by Shashi Tharoor Epic India M. F. Husain's Mahabharata Project by Shashi Tharoor A Monsoon Feast Short Stories to Celebrate the Cultures of Kerala and Singapore by Shashi Tharoor Bollywood by Shashi Tharoor

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Literature lovers have a new delight at Mumbai

This article can be read here as well.

Mumbai, October 29, 2015: After what seemed more like enthusiasm to meet some great authors than a crowd trying to get past the security personnel’s bulky arm, TATA Literature Live!: The Mumbai LitFest finally kickstarted at the National Centre of the Performing Arts (NCPA). The opening ceremony was graced by Vikram Seth, famed author of ‘A Suitable Boy’, Germaine Greer, the feminist author famous for her works like The Female Eunuch and the more recent White Beech: The Rainforest Years, who has many times kicked up quite a few storms for her libertarian thoughts and provocative writing. Mr. Anil Dharker, Founder and Festival Director, Dr. Mukund Rajan, Brand Custodian, Tata Sons, and Mr. Khushroo Suntook, Chairman, NCPA were some of the other dignitaries present at the inaugural session.
Germaine Greer in  conversation with Vikram Seth on 'Can books change the World' at Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest 2015

(L-R) Khushroo Suntook, Chairman, NCPA, Anil Dharker, Founder and Festival Director, Germaine Greer, Vikram Seth and Dr. Mukund Rajan, Brand Custodian, Tata Sons, unveiling the festival brochure at Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest 2015
“Books are a part of the world; it is a categorical mistake to think that they would change the world. They are a part of the process of change. Books are made by the reader, sometimes they can even make a bad book extraordinary, sometimes you get an Illiad and sometimes it can be a Fifty Shades of Grey,” said Greer in conversation with Seth on the topic ‘Can books change the world?’ Seth, seemingly enraptured by Greer’s nonchalant conversation, added, “I agree to that, I find my book Two Lives extremely sloppy. But it seems like they enjoyed reading it.” From cockroaches to copyrights, the audience had a range of information for them to ruminate upon. They did have names of books, which had the potential to change the world, to offer towards the end of the session.
After a seemingly refreshing discussion with the wild hearted Greer, Chacha pe Charcha saw a panel discussion with Anil Dharker, Nayantara Sahgal, writer and Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece, Vir Sanghvi, Journalist and Arun Maira, former member of Planning Commission of India; revaluating Nehru’s contribution to India. Sahgal tried to explain the context of an India when Nehru had taken over as the first prime minister of independent India. She emphasised that he contributed something out of nothing and that secularism was not a policy adopted by him but was already adopted by the spearheads of the freedom movement. What was greeted with claps was the statement that the Hindu Code Bill demonstrated Nehru’s policy making that was ‘consensual’.
Nehru had his share of brickbats to face as well. Sanghvi said, “Nehru paid less attention to the rights of individuals and more attention to groups. That he burned certain books thinking it would promote secularism was one of his mistakes and being attentive in order to include everyone’s views has cost us now.”
According to Sahgal, who fought with her cousin Indira Gandhi during the Emergency, momentum found during the post independence period ran out after 20 years with Indira probably having gone the wrong way.
An interesting vein was struck when one wanted to know what Nehru would have done if he were alive today. On a lighter note, he would have sacked Krishna Menon, his ally, who seemingly rubbed Americans the wrong way. Nehru, according to Sahgal, would have pushed for the Uniform Civil Code which he had wanted since long but was afraid that it would take many more years to get everyone to agree to it.

‘Dedicated to celebrating the written word in all its glorious forms’, this fest offers Mumbai a chance to participate in the many joys of literature. Over 120 writers, thinkers and performers from all over the world are expected to participate during its many events this year at the NCPA and the Prithvi Theatre.

Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest is on till Nov 1.
Entry to the festival will be free and on a firest-come, first-served basis.
For more details about the fest, click here.

Image Courtesy: From the official press release of Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest 2015.

- Divya Nambiar

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sleeping on Jupiter (Book Review)

Sleeping on JupiterSleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

True to the review printed in the book, "This is why you read fiction at all".

More than the journey of a girl rediscovering her birthplace, away from her place of rebirth or perceived rebirth ( post her adoption),it is the little things that give life to the very pages of the book- the aroma of the ginger and clove tea, the sage in sunglasses by the sea,the man watering a rootless plant with unfailing dedication, the braids of her hair, the gold earrings, the chatter of the old ladies and their will to live life in spite of the turbulence in their lives, no matter what situation they find themselves in.

It is about living life, not by closing every page of the past but by seeking reference from it in order to understand the present well. :)

Thank you Anuradha Roy, for breathing life into an otherwise "lesser" mortal.

- Divya Nambiar

Author of the book: Anuradha Roy
Other books by the Author: The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy, An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy, Patterns of Feminist Consciousness in Indian Women Writers by Anuradha Roy,

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hold Still Please (Book Review)

Hold Still PleaseHold Still Please by Tina Huerta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a compilation of poems written by Tina Huerta over time and the aesthetic and subliminal use of pictures make the poems more endearing and sensuous. But considering the Indian sensibilities and set-up, I wonder how many would be comfortable enough to turn over the pages in public.

But it does make for a good read. However, I would have appreciated it more if the layout in some poems had been a bit more easy on the eyes. For example, Soul Twin and Ethereal Rein could have done with a better font setting. But nevertheless, the poems makes up for their placements!

The poems do touch a romantic chord somewhere. Certain emotions expressed through certain words may not be comprehended as per the author's wish but isn't that the beauty of a poem, after all? To be left to be interpreted as per the reader's understanding, rather than pressing to find out what 'exactly' the poet meant when she wrote that particular line?

That said, I will gladly preserve the autographed copy of Hold Still Please that I received from Tina, thanks to Goodreads.

- Divya Nambiar
Author: Tina Huerta
Other book by the Author: Forgotten Race Saving Grace by Tina Huerta

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Tuesdays with Morrie (Book Review)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Morrie became my coach as well, long after he passed away and found peace. I laughed, cried and ‘thought’ with him, thanks to one of my colleagues at office, Mr. Sumeet Naik, who introduced me to Morrie and Mitch.

Imagine sitting on a chair in your room and looking out of the window. You see patterns in the distant sky and try making shapes or look at the hibiscus plant that has been witnessing changes in days and seasons, along with you, for quite some time now. Then there is an occasional sound of a truck pulling by, on the opposite street. Life seems blissful, isn’t it; to admire the beauty of the subtle movements in the big thing called life?

Now here comes the “minor” glitch. While you do see people roaming around in the park through your window, to your left, you have to make peace with the fact that you can only be a mute spectator of it.

Never again in your life would you be able to do it-  to walk in the green, lively park filled with the happy chatter of children and laughter of those accompanying them. Maybe soon even the luxury of sitting like that on your chair would become a chore. Even though you might think, “When you’re in bed, you’re dead”, eventually that is where you would spend the final days of your life. How much time before that, you ask? The doctor has said few months or even two years. Who knows? The little monster is claiming you bit by bit. From the tips of your toe, it has slowly ascended till your knees. It is on its slow yet constant journey upwards. You have a feeling that once it reaches your lungs, you would be gone. The monster is ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) that gnaws at your neurons.

Now imagine having no fear of death in spite of knowing that it is looking you in the eye; just the precise moment when it will claim you is what you are unaware of. You talk not of regrets or fear, nor even of the sad approaching end of your life. What you talk about are lessons for those who are still out there, in the mad race, unaware or rather ignorant about the fact that before death catches up with them, they need to learn how to catch up with their lives!

Tuesdays with Morrie is a compilation of those very lessons taught by Morrie to Mitch, his “ex-student” who remained his student till his teacher’s end. And the teacher- he remains that even now- every time a person picks up this book and reads it.

Guess that is the magnanimity of few souls who stay with us- long after they are physically gone from the face of the earth. Fun, painful, humorous, informative and brutally honest, this book is another important perspective from a dying man.

Of course there would be people who would beg to differ from Morrie’s point of view with respect to topics that have been discussed in this book within different chapters, namely- the world, feeling sorry for yourself, regrets, death, family, emotions, fear of aging, money, how love goes on, marriage, our culture, forgiveness and the perfect day. That we are different in our opinions about such issues is only fair and natural. But in spite of this, Morrie leaves behind something for everyone who reads it, thanks to Mitch! What it ultimately remains is a powerful narrative and a fresh perspective of life.

Morrie… yes, I know you are smiling when you realize that your life has “touched” another one as you lie at the place that overlooks the pond. Truly there is no better serene place than that.

-Divya Nambiar

Author: Mitch Albom
Other books by the Author: For One More Day, The Five People You Meet in Heaven  A Fable (Unabridged) by Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom, For One More Day by Mitch Albom, The Fab Five  Basketball Trash Talk the American Dream by Mitch Albom, (HAVE A LITTLE FAITH BY Albom, Mitch(Author))Have a Little Faith  A True Story Hardcover Hyperion Books by Mitch Albom and more.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Scion of Ikshvaku (Book Review)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tripathi has done it once again- restructured ancient mythology to suit modern preferences- making history so much more colourful and sensible!
The first in the Ram Chandra series, it perceptibly has Amish’s magical storytelling. Indians undeniably grow up listening to stories from ancient epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Some read the original version while others read it year after year.  In fact, there are times when Hindus dedicate an entire month to read the Ramayana (that concluded on August 16, this year, according to Malayalam calendar). Being a Malayali, I keenly observed my grandmother reading it bit by bit every single day and finally flipping through the last 5-8 pages today. It is said that reciting Ramayana during this month leads to blessings being showered upon the next seven generations by the almighty.
Keeping the myths aside, I did think of it from a new angle. It is probably said so because of the wisdom shared in it that echoes with present situations as well.
But not all have the patience to muster up the courage to read mythology. Some find it boring and too unrealistic, thanks to the televised programmes on TV that most Indians grew up watching. But the less genuine looking bows and arrows in those programmes apart, there is so much that Amish shows the reader. He humanizes the so-called “Gods” and then lets the reader decide why they were placed on such pedestals in the first place.
Amish breathes life into Ram, Sita, Lakshman and the other characters and the kingdom of Ayodhya, Mithila and Lanka. Readers would be captured by the sheer brilliance of architecture and intelligence that took place while planning cities of olden-days.
The way Amish merges the past and present together is indeed a craft. Critics may say that he has distorted history by way of bringing instances of Mahabharata in Ramayana in the part where he wrote about Sita Swayamvar. But it must be kept in mind that he never claimed it to be the real version.
It remains an essential read for the dose of philosophy tinged with humour, suspense and a warm feeling that leaves the reader wanting for more. This surely seems to be another feather in Amish’s hat with the previous ones sitting proudly, added thanks to his Shiva Trilogy.
What caught this reviewer off guard was his art of merging current issues into his story as well as providing very clear-headed solutions to them, providing food for thought to a person who would not in his living hours have got a moment off to think about “dharma” or “karma”. But that is what he always does- he makes one think, deeply. Glimpses of the Nirbhaya gangrape case flashes into the mind of the reader during an instance in the story. His weaving of the modern into the ancient is worth appreciation. Coming to that, he makes the ancient look not so ancient anymore.
His writing seems to be his way of standing up against inequality and gender bias. Cheers to Amish for presenting a mythological epic with copious doses of present issues sprinkled, often challenging, faced by the society in the 21st century.

This is the first in the Ram Chandra Series and the disappointment when reading "To be continued..." is regretted.

To be continued... ;)

Author: Amish Tripathi
Other books by the author: The Immortals of Meluha (Shiva Trilogy, #1) by Amish Tripathi, The Secret of the Nagas (Shiva Trilogy #2) by Amish Tripathi, The Oath of the Vayuputras (Shiva Trilogy, #3) by Amish Tripathi

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Amy Snow (Book Review)

This blog was started as an assignment during the course of MA in Communication and Journalism. Many books were reviewed and many more relationships established with different worlds thanks to the varied journeys they took me upon.

I got to know authors, their journeys, their views about the print media and their take upon the profession of story-writing.

While I believe that the journey has just begun and that I have miles and miles to go before I sleep (yes, Robert Frost), here's a review that found a place in Mumbai's Free Press Journal, one of the oldest dailies.

Amy SnowAmy Snow by Tracey Rees
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The review - epaper.freepressjournal.in/556248/The...

-Divya Nambiar

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Walk in the Rain (Book Review)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A walk in the rain, said the title of the book. Please not another mushy love story, I prayed. It did start like one. Oh… please no, I prayed. It was the line below the title that kept me going as it said- ‘A journey of love and redemption’. Love and redemption sounded like a lethal combination. To an extent it was. The fact that it was a romance thriller further fuelled my interest.

For a first time writer, he has done a good job. But I really would like to suggest that often, self publishing has its cons too. For one- there is a tendency to look over minor mistakes that are bound to be committed in the eagerness to complete our book. The second, as told by a professor in my college once, never ever fall in love with your work. When that is followed, you seem to be in a better position to access your own work.

Coming back to the book, it has got many instances where the innocence of a childhood crush or the many little moments, that are said to bring immense joy to one’s life, are all there. It does make the reader smile at times, also capable of tugging at the heart, at other times.

The twists were well placed, unfurling the story bit by bit. There were minor flaws, bound to happen.

In the beginning, I found that there were too many characters- some needed, some worth avoidance. The introduction of Sunny’s (protagonist) friends were nice but as the story progresses, some of the characterizations fall flat, making the reader wonder what happened to those instances of their lives.

Life in a brothel has been elucidated with a human touch to it. The so-called ‘body-sellers’ and their often painful, better forgotten pasts as well as their permanent ostracization from the society of the so-called well mannered, civilized citizens is worth more than just a thought. I wish people could see beyond mere professions of people, for behind each face is a story of which, we have no idea.

As a reader, I found the resolution building part a bit too dragged. The description of the fight could have been cut short because the darkness during the entire fight ended up clouding my mind as well. But that said, I definitely would like to appreciate the author’s storytelling capability that can at many times make the reader feel as if a movie is being played- which reminds me to say that the writing seems more like a script for a movie rather than a novel. Well, that could be taken as a compliment or otherwise, whichever suits better. :)

Best wishes to the promising author with a long way to go!

- Divya Nambiar

Author: Udai Yadla