Love Thy Neighbour!

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

True. Having been taught the gospels of Saint Augustine in a school named after him, this is one of his teachings I believe in. You cannot discover more than half of yourself unless you have travelled. Each new sight and sound, flora and fauna unravels a part of you hidden hitherto from your own soul.

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

I have travelled in India, yes. As a family, we’ve done the usual ‘South India’ tours, the ‘Bombay-Goa’, ‘Rajasthan’, and the shorter ‘Puri’, ‘Darjeeling’ ones. There’s one more tour that people from Calcutta usually cover early in their life – Nepal, our beautiful neighbouring country. My parents had missed it, somehow. My in-laws have visited there recently. It seems we’re one of the few couples in our family not having been there. I’ve always longed to visit Nepal as I primarily adore mountains. The alluring chill of the hills, the tranquility that is hard to find in the plains, and the familiarity of the people in language and habits are reason enough for a visit or two. So I had planned a Nepal trip long ago including places to visit, food to eat, adventure, religious shrines, national parks and lakes. The itinerary got easier with Skyscanner providing a credit of 1 lakh rupees to accommodate all my plans. Here’s the plan all chalked out for any one to have a great trip in Nepal. I have pointed the key places I’d like to visit in the map here – Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Patan (5 km from Kathmandu), Royal Chitwan National Park, Pokhara and Lumbini. Each has it’s own significance in my trip, read further to know how they fit.

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Book Review : The Price You Pay

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Blurb view:

An ambitious rookie reporter, a veteran news editor with a secret, a trigger-happy policeman, a sensational kidnapping: The Price You Pay is the story of Delhi, told through the eyes of the journalists who frame it, and the outsiders who claim it.

When Abhishek Dutta joins the Express as a trainee journalist, he has no idea how his life is about to change. Assigned to the crime beat by chief reporter Amir Akhtar, Abhishek encounters a motley cast of characters: DCP Uday Kumar, the ‘Dirty Harry’ of Delhi Police; ACP Crime Branch Mayank Sharma, who becomes a close friend; Samir Saxena, channel head of News Today, who mentors Abhishek’s move from print to electronic journalism; and dreaded gangster Babloo Shankar, who runs the Delhi mafia from exile. As he rides his beginner’s luck to unearth one sensational scoop after the other, Abhishek will soon discover that in the dog-eat-dog world of crime and politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies; it is every man for himself.

With a plot that twists and turns like the inner lanes of the city, Somnath Batabyal’s debut novel takes you into the dark underbelly of India, where common lives are mere pawns of deadly power games and where corruption lies at the very core.

Review:

Winter has arrived, mostly or at least lurking at the door here. All you need is a fast pacy thriller to cuddle under blankets with coffee. I was looking for a good desi thriller on investigative journalism and Somnath Batabyal seems to have launched a great one for his debut. Investigative journalism, or what we commonly term as ‘crime reporting’ is a tough job. It sounds easy and looks good to people like us, the daily readers who follow a newspaper crime colmn or turn on some news channel for that handsome reporter.

We have been brought up on thrillers and mafia books based radically in Mumbai with pioneer books like Shantaram and Sacred Games. I for one, would love to read more about gangsters and journalists based in the other metros like Delhi and Calcutta. These cities are stereotyped with softer labels but they have very active mafia operations with key activites like kidnapping and extortion.

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Book Review : The Vague Woman’s Handbook

Blurb View: 

Image Source: Self

Image Source: Self

At twenty-two, Sharmila Chatterjee has just married her sweetheart of a few years, Abhimanyu Mishra, a somewhat eccentric if handsome, twenty-three-and-a-half-year-old with obscure academic interests and a small fellowship that never arrives in time. They start a household in a tiny rented flat, fending for themselves in the big, bad and very snooty world of south Delhi, with penny-pinching landlords, some romance, and a lot of anxiety.

At fifty-two, Indira Sen is not sure just how she meandered to where she finds herself now. A senior government officer and single mother, she lives with her daughter and three opinionated old people in a rambling house, drives a battered car, and has a history of credit-card-induced-shopaholism. 

The Vague Woman’s Handbook is a story told with equal parts of humour, hysteria ad tenderness, about the sparkling friendship between two women as they hurtle through life and its mini-crises while trading secrets in the art of survival.

Review:

There are a few books which attract you in the first few pages, the words take you under their wings, make a comfortable nest for you to snuggle in and read away. I wasn’t sure if this book was a chick-lit by the cover and blurb, something told me it will be better than that. It did make my journey much better, though. I was transported into a world of vague women whom we encounter closely in our daily lives.

Who are vague women and why did the author write a handbook about them? These women often reside inside us, for a brief period or for a lifetime. They are absent-minded, geographically and directionally challenged, emotional and stubborn people. Now that pretty much sums up nearly most of us. Being somewhat vague myself, I started enjoying the author’s perspectives on the protagonists. The book is about two women, Mil and Indira, as briefed in the blurb. They are like chalk and cheese in their appearances and lifestyles, and yet they share a lot of similar traits which allow them to bond with each other.

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Author Interview : Sid Bahri

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Meet one of the most impressive debuts in Indian English Literature of 2013 – Sid Bahri’s ‘The Homing Pigeons’.

Brief Blurb:

In the middle of the catastrophic 2008 recession, Aditya, a jobless, penniless man meets an attractive stranger in a bar. Little does he know that his life will change forever.

When Radhika, a young, rich widow, marries off her stepdaughter, little does she know that the freedom she has yearned for is not exactly how she had envisioned it…

The Homing Pigeons is the story of love between these two unsuspecting characters as it is of lust, greed, separations, prejudices and crumbling spines.

Now that almost all of you have read the book, it is time to celebrate its success with the prolific author Sid Bahri. First things, read my review here, followed by the interview.

                                                                  ————————

Conversation:

Photo Courtesy: Facebook

Photo Courtesy: Facebook

1. Congratulations on the overwhelming success of The Homing Pigeons. Did you expect such huge response for your debut venture?

Thank you, Priyanka. The ride for The Homing Pigeons has been fairly bumpy. It was written by night while I was working a day job. When all those nights of labor ran into rejections, I was almost beginning to lose confidence. Yet, most people who’ve read it have liked it.
I’d be lying if I said that I expected the book to be a dud but I wasn’t expecting this overwhelming response either. All in all, it’s a good start that I hope to build on.

2. Aditya and Radhika belong to a new breed of protagonists, much unlike the ideal hero and heroine. What made you break the formula and sketch characters most people would not dream falling in love with?

You are right when you say that Aditya and Radhika aren’t perfect protagonists. You can’t blame me for not creating perfectly relatable characters though.
My intention was to create characters that live amongst us. They come from middle class backgrounds. They are faced with dilemmas and they choose the path that they felt was right. It doesn’t mean that the path they chose was the morally correct path but for them, at those critical junctures, it felt right.

I’m not sure if they aren’t lovable people though. I’ll use the lines from my next novel to elucidate that point

“Structurally, a moth and a butterfly are the same. They both have wings and I hear that they come from the same family. It’s just that one is beautiful, has spots and stripes and the other is plain and ordinary. Yet, in our minds we love one and abhor the other.
We’re all flawed like the moth. It’s just that some of us have money, beauty or fame to color our wings. It’s taken me a while to realize that moths are also beautiful.”

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