Book Review : Love & Death in the Middle Kingdom

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Blurb View:

A sixteenth century Vijayanagara courtier, Devadatta is drawn into a strange and intoxicating, even forbidden, friendship with a Persian traveller and a Portuguese trader. In a society driven by caste centred norms and pollution taboos, the stealthy love affair between the courtier and the Persian must lead them inevitably into a horrific doom. Centuries later, the courtiers diary, is discovered quite by chance in the Indian west coast town of Honavar by a student of History, Sharat, who translates the tale from its native tongue to English. Along with his female colleague Nitya, from Delhi University, he sets out on an exciting journey into history through the pages of the diary. What happens thereafter proves to be not only a voyage of self discovery but also an exploration of some of the meanings and lessons in history, in life.

Review:

My last read for this year turned out to be a historical fiction, a genre that I always look forward to. Blending history into our daily lives is necessary to an extent as each day rolls into past with passing minutes. I was waiting eagerly for this book as the genre is rare these days when romance and mythology are ruling the Indian readers’ bookshelves. The author being a professor of history, soared the expectations for me before the book’s release itself.

The book begins at present and not past. A history student of Delhi University, Nitya Ramiah is sent to the west coastal town of Honavar in Karnataka by her professor to look up a precious ancient courtier’s diary. Nitya’s senior colleague Sharat, working at Honavar, translates the diary from middle age Kannada to English and discovers astonishing facts from the era.  The events that follow build up the story. Excerpts from the diary are written in alternate chapters with Nitya and Sharat’s analyses. I particularly liked the diary portions. Though written in long paragraphs and pages, they exuded an old world flavour with a hint of architecture. I felt that the author wanted to convey more about the clashing Hindu and Muslim architectures of Vijayanagara kingdom, but she cut it short in fear of boredom.

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A Close Shave

Image Courtesy: BlogAdda

Image Courtesy: BlogAdda

R shifted uncomfortably in the uber plush revolving seat. It was his fourth day of interrogation at the Cyber Crime Branch. Not really bothering about his fate as a professional hacker, he was more interested in exploring M, the investigating officer for this case. She had her eyes on him as the prime suspect of carving through national security. He had set his goal on piercing her confidence and getting off this case without asking higher authorities for help.

M glanced at her suspect from the other side of the glass cubicle and rolled her eyes.

I hate that unclean stubble. It makes me uneasy and takes away his boyish charm. Is he too worried about the case?’

Brushing aside her little crush, M donned the persona of a stern officer and went in the interrogation cubicle.

“Care to explain these?”

She added a little drama and dropped a few documents on the table with a thud. R was startled and opened his eyes to the lady he was dreaming about. Having been up all night at home researching his way out of the allegations, he hadn’t slept a wink. Waiting for the officer in the plush leather seat cooled by the air conditioner, he had probably dozed off.

It was going to be a bad day. In order to prepare for the case and his defense, he hadn’t paid attention to grooming up in the morning. He would have to try without his handsome hacker’s charm this time.

With a sigh, he started resting his case in front of her.

 This post is a part of the Protest Against Unlean Stubble Activity in association with BlogAdda.

I would like to tag The Whitescape and Manjulika Pramod in this post. 

I am accepting Manjit Banerjee‘s tag in this post.

CalcuttaScape : Simi K. Rao

Presenting a new section to the readers : CalcuttaScape. It would be a guest column on One and a Half Minutes, in which published authors will write about their experiences on visits to Calcutta. I will be approaching non-resident authors who have visited for a vacation or stayed in Calcutta for a short while.

I know, dear readers, the first question cropping in your mind would be, why Calcutta? I’m not sure if I have a satisfactory answer for this one. It is my city, at times it has been my muse, it has been a companion in my early adult years, it has been a witness to a major part of my life. This is probably my way of paying a tribute to Calcutta, by bringing to you words flown from famous authors, on a city that never ceases to amaze.

The fourth article in this column is from Simi K. Rao, the author of ‘An Incurable Insanity.’

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Calcutta For The Soul

Image Courtesy: Rajdeep Mukherjee

Image Courtesy: Rajdeep Mukherjee

It’s said that memories fade with time which is probably a good thing or some of us would find it impossible to go on. But there are certain reminisces that cannot afford to be forgotten. They are like precious keepsakes that need to be extracted from the dusty realms of time. They have to be caressed and fondled with affection; reinforced and perhaps refurbished before being tucked away securely again.

One such precious memory that I’ve guarded fiercely is that of my trip to Calcutta. Over the years it has been revisited a million times; edited and imbued with subtle nuances so to add color and character.

I was perhaps ten, twelve or thereabouts (my mother stresses on the later and she is probably right because I’m pathetically poor with specifics.) The trip would never have come about hadn’t it been for my father, who after one of his numerous travels brought back an exquisite Bengali handloom cotton striped sari of olive green and cream. It became my favorite. My mother looked lovely in it. He also spoke of a land rich in culture that had produced the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Vivekananda, Satyajit Ray and of course the indomitable Kishore Da. Therefore armed with miniscule amount of education and barely suppressed curiosity, I embarked on my sole journey to the east, with my tiny family in tow.

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Book Review : The Almond Tree

Image Courtesy: ReadersCosmos

Image Courtesy: ReadersCosmos

Blurb View:

Gifted with a mind that continues to impress the elders in his village, Ahmed Hamid struggles with knowing that he can do nothing to save his friends and family. Living on occupied land, his entire village operates in fear of losing their homes, jobs, and belongings. But more importantly, the people fear losing each other.

On Ahmed’s twelfth birthday, that fear becomes reality. With his father imprisoned, his family’s home and possessions confiscated, and his siblings quickly succumbing to hatred in the face of conflict, Ahmed begins an inspiring journey using his intellect to save his poor and dying family. In doing so he reclaims a love for others that was lost through a childhood rife with violence and loss, and discovers a new hope for the future.

Review: 

My year had begun with a lot of changes – cities, mindsets, people, work, leisure and most importantly, hope. It is almost serendipitous that the year is ending on the crimson note of hope. I think most of us believe that life is a journey from the moment your eyes open till they shut forever. There are a number of things, material and tangible, that stay with you throughout this journey. For me, great books are the priceless things I have been collecting to make my journey of a life a little better. There are a few books which will stay glued to me wherever I move, The Almond Tree has been added to that collection now.

The genre of writing about the Middle-East or Afghanistan is not easy. It has never been so. The countries and their people have gone through such things that the rest of the world would find difficult to even imagine. I, for one, didn’t have much idea about the Israel-Palestine conflict until this book. To put it softly, I thought they were the ‘India-Pakistan’ of Middle-East, a term we often use casually to describe a conflict.

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First Reads Challenge 2014

Image Courtesy: b00kr3vi3ws.in

Image Courtesy: b00kr3vi3ws.in

I had participated in the Indian Quills Reading Challenge 2013 without giving it much of a thought. In fact, I had set a very modest target for myself as I knew I’m a slow reader. And, I didn’t review every book I read. With all the writing and editing targets to be fulfilled, reading debut authors had become cumbersome throughout the year. Most of them came to me for reviews, I approached some of them out of my own interest in their books, others were won by me in contests/giveaways. These books have clambered for space in my cramped up old bookshelf. I had no idea a year ago that I would be reviewing books and reading such a huge number of authors for the first time.

In the wee hours of December, I think I’m ready for the next challenge. DDS of b00kr3vi3ws has come up with her next edition of First Reads Challenge for 2014. I hadn’t participated last year as I wasn’t sure about reading too many Indian debut authors. This time I’m geared with review requests and scourging new authors for interesting books. DDS has set challenge levels which makes it all the more challenging. I know I’m nowhere near the biggies of book reviews, so I’d again set a minimal target for 2014.

Challenge Level:
Amateur : Choose to read 1 – 25 New Authors
Lover     : Choose to read 26 – 50 New Authors
Expert    : Choose to read 51 – 75 New Authors
Fanatic   : Choose to read 76 or above New Authors

I’m happy with being Amateur for now, though I might upgrade the level if there’s any chance in mid-2014.

If you like to read and review, join us in this journey of reading authors for the first time and writing about their work.

Present for Future

Image Courtesy: BlogAdda

Image Courtesy: BlogAdda

Christmas is around the corner again and everyone gets the chance to play Santa to their loved ones. Being a parent probably gives one the perks of playing Santa to their children all life. There are innumerable things, material or intangible, that you can gift your children besides memories. Of course, memories are the best gifts for their future. I still cherish my childhood for everything my parents had done to make it a memorable one. I am yet to start raising a child, but I would like to jot down five gifts that would be essential in crafting their future as stellar human beings.

Image Courtesy: 123rf.com

Image Courtesy: 123rf.com

1. ‘No’ to gender stereotypes  – I noticed that the advertisement for this contest suggests planning Stanford education for sons and wedding expenses for daughters. Do we really need this stereotyping even in the 21st century? Too many people, like in this advert, still believe that little boys ask for toy aeroplanes and girls ask for princess dolls. I think we should finally cross the barriers of aeroplanes and dolls and make them available for all children irrespective of their genders. I would like to gift my child the sensitivity to steer clear of gender stereotypes. Be it a girl or boy, I would want my child to believe that they have the right to both dolls/Stanford or aeroplanes/lavish wedding, whichever they choose to ask for.

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A Clean Step

Image Courtesy: BlogAdda

Image Courtesy: BlogAdda

R kept glancing at the woman sitting right opposite to him in the metro. He was half way through to office on a boring, gloomy Tuesday morning, already craving for the weekend. He was reading on his old-fashioned large e-book reader and not the sleek ones. The lucid, delicious descriptions of food in the book made his empty stomach growl. Breakfast in office was still twenty minutes away. R stole another glance at the woman to distract himself. She was reading a paperback with so much intent that it seemed she would be seated in this train forever. He regretted sporting a two-days stubble that probably made him look dirty.

Wednesday brought better promises with itself. R boarded the train clean-shaven with a full stomach. He spotted the woman two stops later, leaning near the door. She gave him fleeting stares, probably of appreciation or flirtation. ‘My clean shaven look bowled her over,’ smirked R. He didn’t notice her alight the train behind him. A tap on his shoulder while walking towards office made him turn around. She flashed a card briefly to him. Her Phone number? He was hopeful.

“Officer M, Cyber Crime Branch. Would you like to be under arrest?”

 This post is a part of the Protest Against Smelly Stubble Activity in association with BlogAdda.

I would like to tag Sudeshna, Diptee, TheWhitescape, Parama, Soumya in this post.