Book Review : Finders, Keepers

Image Courtesy: Amazon

Image Courtesy: Amazon

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Finders, Keepers. Losers, Weepers Two men are murdered in settings which speak volumes of involvement of some sacred cynicism. A psycho-killer on the loose? Or is this the beginning of something much more grave and dangerous? This is the tale of how Deputy Director, I.B., Shoumik Haldar and celebrated author Ishan Vajpayee exercise all their tools of conventional and unconventional deduction to solve the puzzles thrown across by the enemy, yet unrevealed. Intertwined intensely with the opulent mythological tales and specimens attributing to the rich cultural heritage of this country, the story depicts the resurgence of a dormant historical sect, which attacks the very foundations of one of the most powerful and secreted organizations of all times. Spread across the length and breadth of the entire Indian subcontinent, read the mystery as it unravels with the duo travelling from one corner of the country to another searching for the signs.

Review: 

Before you attempt to read this book, I must advise that you gather enough patience in your kitty. Finders, Keepers is a huge novel, almost an epic with a heavy dose of Indian Mythology. I haven’t read a longer one by any Indian Writer in English yet. And in my opinion, you should read the entire novel only if you have the time to. The story and plot is sprawled all over India with references to Mythology that’s millions of years old. It would be a shame if someone doesn’t read the entire turn of events.

The basic premise of the book dates back to King Ashoka and his devise of creating a clique of Nine Unknown Men with all the knowledge in the world. They gather their respective departmental gems into a book each that will be protected by guardians for centuries. The book begins with two murders and enter IB officer Shoumik Haldar to investigate them by special request from an eminent personality. Anticipating a connect of Mythology in the murders, Shoumik decides to confide and take assistance in a very able author, Ishan Vajpayee. A few murders follow and they unravel the immensely complicated mystery that has been protecting and progressing our country since long. Do the Nine Unknown Men still exist? What knowledge do they guard in each book? Why are they murdered one at a time? Who is behind all the murders and what is their motive? These and many more questions spring up in the first two chapters itself. With a whopping total of 624 pages, the book traverses at a gradual speed to solve the case with the help of two efficient men.

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Book Review : What Might Have Been

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might have beenAs a fashion buyer at one of New York’s most glamorous department stores, Dana McGarry is a tastemaker, her keen instinct for fashion trends and innovative ideas coupled with a razor sharp business sense. But like the elegant and conservative store that employs her, Dana is caught between two eras—between being liked and standing her ground, between playing by the rules and being a maverick. Dana is sensitive and beautiful, but what you see is not what you get. Behind the cool and attractive facade, Dana is both driven by her need to control yet impeded by her expectation of perfectionism. As she competes to replace women at the top of their game, she is challenged by jealous colleagues. And when a wealthy love interest wants to open doors and support her ambition, she embraces Coco Chanel’s mantra of “never wanting to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.” As the women’s movement paves the way, Dana finds a path to the career she wants at the expense of happiness that was not meant to be.

Steward captures the nuances of 70s life in New York City and provides the perfect backdrop for an independent woman determined to make her mark. What Might Have Been is a story that transcends any period.

Review: 

While I have read books covering various industries like hotels, automobiles, hospitals, and even films – fashion is certainly a first for me. A novel that is set in the fabric and fashion world of New York City and in one of my favourite decades – the ’70s – there wasn’t any reason I would turn down this one! And might I add that Lynn Steward has a pretty impressive way of writing her Dana McGarry series. Gorging on What Might Have Been for the last two days, I’m quite tempted to go back and read the #1 in Dana McGarry series – A Very Good Life.

New York City is the epitome of fashion with names that we revere all around the world. I have been to the Fifth Avenue and Manhattan’s high end stores and it has left me awestruck with the amount of hard work that goes behind all the glitz and glamour. With the help of cutting edge technology, using fabrics and designing them has become easier in this millennium. But how did it all work in the 1970’s? How did women working in fashion make their way through an outright competitive industry? Dana McGarry and her journey gives an insight into that era and I think it has been captured beautifully by Lynn Steward who has worked as a buyer.

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6X Green Tea

When Green Tea is mentioned, I’m not exactly the one who’d jump with joy and opt for it. I have tried various brands and can’t proclaim real or even fake love for Green Tea. For most of the brands, they have been good for health and rich in antioxidants, but not much has been done on the flavour. There’s ginger, lemon, honey and even tulsi added to Green Teas by Indian brands, and each of them tends to quiver towards an oddly bitter taste. 6X Green Tea by Four Fountain Labs is probably the first among the ones I had that tastes very well too. I received five sachets as a sample with a note about the product.

6x

How Does 6X Green Tea Taste?

Amazing – if I have to describe it in one word. The best part is that, it comes as a powder in a sachet, rather than a tea bag. The powder is totally soluble in water and gives a light brown hue. I feel tea bags often lead to wastage of the flavour and taste of tea. In that respect, 6X Green Tea doesn’t leave room for any waste. The brew has a subtle flavour of mint and taste of ginger that is far from overpowering its inherent quality. And it is far from being bitter even near the dregs. I loved the refreshing after-taste and the feel it imparts. Easily one of the best Green Teas I’ve ever had.

6xa

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Book Review : Oleander Girl

Blurb View: 

photo 1 (1)Divakaruni’s descriptive, evocative writing makes you race through the book and then mourn its completion. For those who are fans of the author, this is a must-read. For those who have yet to discover her, this book is a must

People Troubled by the silence that surrounds her parents’ death, seventeen-year old Korobi Roy clings to her only inheritance from them: the unfinished love note she found hidden in her mother’s book of poetry. But when her grandfather dies, the young woman discovers a dark secret which will finally explain her past.

‘A coming of age novel in the best tradition, with a heroine who is both infuriating and endearing and most importantly, brave – Divakaruni’s gift is story telling and she is generous with her gift’- Huffington Post.

Review: 

It’s not easy to review your favourite authors’ books. There’s a certain amount of expectation that you already set even before reading it, and most readers like me keep on tallying their projections with each page or chapter of the book. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is one of my favourite Indian authors and I begin reading her books with an anticipation of new layers opening up in our normal human relationships. She doesn’t write about supernatural or psychos or serial killers, her characters are as close to us as ourselves, which makes them more appealing and real.

If you have read Divakaruni’s books, there’s quite often a story involving an unusual mother-daughter pair or sisters separated by distance and fate. The stories are immensely layered with a plethora of emotions, love, envy and often hatred too. Frequently set across continents and generations, there’s a vast expanse of familial tension, conversations, plots and subplots. Oleander Girl is about Korobi, well, mostly her and Rajat, her beau. Korobi is an orphan, raised by her benevolent grandparents with the memories of her mother.

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The Bhejetarian World of Chhanar Dalna

Yes, Bengalis are the ones who eat fish. That’s the impression of my race all over India, the quintessential ‘Bangali sirf machhli khata hai,’ (Bengalis eat only fish). The idea is as blasphemous as the accusation that we ignore veggies and everything else in the culinary world. I was reading an article the other day on how Bengali vegetarian fare was monopolised by widows forbidden to consume onions/garlic/meat/fish/red lentils. It is still practised fervently all over the state by widows and a few women who choose to remain in the path of animal nutrition are termed ‘liberal’. Given the arguments for this tradition of widows and the sheer number of indigenous recipes that they conjured with scanty ingredients, vegetarian food is entirely their forte. And yet, I wouldn’t like the rest of India to assume that anyone who isn’t a widow in a Bangla household eats only non-vegetarian items in their daily meals.

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Chhanar Dalna

A typical Bengali lunch is a perfect example of a balanced diet in terms of its elements – a teto (bitter) item as an appetiser to unlock your taste buds, daal (lentils, though not exactly in a healthy soupy form), bhaja (veggies or fish roe fried in a batter) for the gluttons, one or two vegetarian items like labra/chochhori/dalna/ghonto (and the list is endless), finally a non-vegetarian dish and then a chutney/tawk (literally, sweet and sour) to relieve your taste buds of the previous clique of items. I wouldn’t claim all of these are healthy in the way we cook them, but the menu is a testimony that all we eat is not merely ‘maachh-bhaat‘ as termed pseudo-fondly by Bollywood.

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Udta Punjab

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Udta Punjab begins at night, in the lush green fields swaying merrily in the winter breeze. A disc that lands flying on the crops costs millions and is picked up by a young immigrant contract labourer from Bihar. And the mayhem commences.

With all the controversy that the film has garnered over the past months, might I say that it is worth almost every minute of watch. The scenario it reveals about Punjab is astounding. Despite the motley of disclaimers that label the film as a work of fiction, it seems shockingly real. I have never been to Punjab but had doses of the silky yellow mustard fields – courtesy Bollywood. I know that romance in those fields is not what Punjab is only about; just like Calcutta that is not entirely resting on Howrah Bridge and roshogolla. The innocence of that romance has long been veiled by the white powder that rules. It seems, the penetration of powder (and liquid) in Punjab is an issue that has been carefully concealed from the rest of the country. In a humongous nation like ours, keeping track of the maladies in each state is something that even Governments haven’t managed to accomplish. It is not an excuse to be oblivious of that scenario in Punjab, it’s a shame that a state is gradually crumbling into ruins.

‘Khet banjar te aulaad kanjar’  – probably sums up the film’s true essence.

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Book Review : Kachher Manush

51EJsNCuFkL._SX400_BO1,204,203,200_It’s not everyday that I sit down to write about a Bangla book. There are a few that not only tug a few strings at the heart, but pull them hard enough to inflict pain. Kachher Manush (The Close One) by Suchitra Bhattacharya is an epic work in contemporary Bangla Literature. SB was an immensely popular writer over decades until she passed away untimely last year. Her stories have always been as close to our middle class reality as they could. She wrote almost solely about the average Bengali family, one you’d spot around you daily with all its problems, undercurrents of tension and occasional bursts of joy. Kachher Manush was written in the eighties, quite early in SB’s career and yet it portrays the mastery that she had in her craft. The writing waned later though, stories became repetitive, plots became a little mundane, but she produced occasional masterpieces like Kancher Dewal, Neel Ghurni, Dahan and Parobash. Among the good, bad and ugly ones, Kachher Manush is the one I love the most.

The opening pages are laced with hope and anticipation. Titir, a teenager in full bloom in the eighties Calcutta has just appeared for her Secondary examinations in school. She awaits her alcoholic father Aditya’s homecoming from a hospital. SB does a wonderful, rather wistful job in narrating the ambience around Titir as she waits for her mother Indrani to fetch Aditya home. She lives in a huge house, in a ‘joint family’ that we were so familiar to in the previous century. Titir’s family comprises of little islands, bound loosely together by her ailing grandfather. Her paternal uncle Sudip and his wife Runa have aptly named their son Atom, probably in apprehension that they would live as a nuclear family sometime in future. Aditya’s youngest brother Kandarpa is a wannabe actor who lives in horns of dilemma, tethering between right and wrong. SB describes these islands through the eyes of Titir’s elder brother Bappa, who admits being the smallest isthmus, waiting to sever his ties with the dysfunctional family soon by applying for a sailor’s job.

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