Book Review : The Winds of Hastinapur

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Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

‘My hair is white and thin now. In a few moons, the Goddess will claim me, and I do not have a fresh young virgin by my side to absorb my knowledge and take my place when I am gone. The Mysteries of Ganga and her Sight will vanish with me, and the Great River will become nothing more than a body of lifeless water… It is my intention, therefore, to tell you the story as it happened, as I saw it happen.’

The Winds of Hastinapur begins at the point when Ganga was cursed and sent to Earth. She lives among the mortals and bears Shantanu, the King of Hastinapur, seven children, all of whom she kills. With the eighth, she leaves. That boy, who returns to Earth, will prove to be the key to the future of Hastinapur. The story, as told through the lives of his mother Ganga and stepmother Satyavati, is violent, fraught with conflict and touched by magic. 

A lady of the river who has no virgin daughter to carry on her legacy, Celestials who partake of a mysterious lake they guard with their very lives, sages overcome by lust, a randy fisher-princess – these and other characters lend a startling new dimension to a familiar tale. Sharath Komarraju does not so much retell the epic as to rewrite it. 

Review:

Another Mythological fiction. Another Mahabharat. Although the epic seems to be the flavour of 2013-14 with a range of books on its characters, Mahabharat never gets tiring for some of us. We’ve had Arjun, Draupadi and other characters adorning our bookshelves these days, but Sharath Komarraju presents us with two very interesting and often neglected characters – Ganga and Satyavati.

The book begins with Ganga reminiscing about her life, her mother and the influence of Gods on her. Most of us have known Ganga only as a river and mentioned in Mahabharat, but her history and the course of her life is as interesting as other women in the epic. Ganga’s identity is primarily showcased as the mother of Bhishma who also bore other children to his father Shantanu. Satyavati is Bhsihma’s stepmother whom Shantanu married after he got besotted with her. Ganga and Stayavati make an interesting pair of women to be compared with each other.

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Book Review : Mistress of the Throne

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Image Courtesy: Google

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1631, the Empress of India Mumtaz Mahal has died. Yet, rather than anoint one of his several other wives to take her place as Empress of India, Mughal King Shah Jahan anoints his seventeen-year-old daughter Jahanara as the next Queen of India. Bearing an almost identical resemblance to her mother, Jahanara is the first ever daughter of a sitting Mughal King to be anointed queen. She is reluctant to accept this title, but does so in hopes of averting the storm approaching her family and Mughal India. Her younger siblings harbor extreme personalities from a liberal multiculturalist (who views religion as an agent of evil) to an orthodox Muslim (who views razing non-Muslim buildings as divine will). Meanwhile, Jahanara struggles to come to terms with her own dark reality as the daughter of a sitting King, she is forbidden to marry. Thus, while she lives in the shadow of her parents unflinching love story, she is devastated by the harsh reality that she is forbidden to share such a romance with another. Mistress of the Throne narrates the powerful story of one of Indias most opulent and turbulent times through the eyes of an unsuspecting character – a Muslim queen. It uses actual historical figures to illuminate the complexity of an era that has often been called India’s Golden Age.

Review: 

Historical fiction is one of the most difficult genre to delve into. You can’t have too much of history or too much of fiction. Any extreme will turn it into a drab history book or a complete fiction. Much kudos to Dr. Ruchir Gupta for choosing a very unusual subject – Jahanara Begum for his book. A quick recap into history and you’ll find that Jahanara was the daughter of Shah Jahanand Mumtaz Mahal, elder sister of Aurangzeb and the first crown princess of India.

The book covers Jahanara’s journey from teenage till her last days. It is a very comprehensive account, more intriguing as its written in first person. The reader feels like residing inside Jahanara’s heart and brain all the time. I must say I’m very impressed in the way Dr. Gupta has approached the subject. The fine line between fact and fiction is so well blurred at places that readers would doubt their own knowledge of history.

Jahanara Begum has been a fairly neglected character in history. Many of us might not have heard her name at all. But her importance in Indian and Mughal history is brought up beautifully in this book. Readers traverse through Jahanara’s life with each important incident beginning with her mother’s death. After Mumtaz Mahal’s death, Shah Jahan was devastated and became a loner. Jahanara held the family, her brothers and father together, and as a result was crowned the Princess of India, on the throne of the dynasty. Her life became important than anybody else in the kingdom, but at the same time, she was forbidden to marry any man according to Mughal rules.

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Book Review : Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai

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Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Autistic. Schizophrenic. Psychotic… 

They use these words to describe Babloo the doctors, his family, his teachers everyone except Vandana. She treats him the way he wants the world to see him. 

Mumbai the city that defines his ultimate desires. Will it allow him the love and normalcy he so craves?

Vandana yearns for a soul mate to rescue her from the confines of the Railway Colony they all live in. Is she looking in the right place?

Rail Man a fearless, real-life hero who succeeds in doing all that Babloo secretly wishes to do is Babloo his inspiration or is it the other way around?

A random twist of fate on Mumbais endless, serpent-like, jangling local train tracks ties all these characters together in a complex weave of love, heartbreak, and courage. 

Babloo draws the reader into his fascinating, heart-rending journey through the twisted, choked lanes of Mumbai, into an open space where he can finally exhale, be born again.

Review:

Babloo Srivastav is not your usual colony guy. Bandra Railway colony, that is. He wakes up with the vibrations of the first train in the morning and explores the railway tracks which are his own. He feels more at ease with the tracks and trains than his kin and kith. He doesn’t have any friends but is devoted to his lady love, Vandana. There are mysteries in his life that he isn’t much aware of.

Sounds good enough for a thriller?

The book cover and blurb suggests a love story, probably a one between Babloo and Vandana. But I would surely label the book as a thriller, not a romance. The adventures of Babloo are more important than his obsequious love story. He struggles to find a meaning to his caprices and is guided by an inner voice. Compared to his younger and efficient brother, he’s nothing, really. And yet his steely resolve and demeanour is frightening even to his parents. I can’t reveal the story here, but it is about Babloo turning into a different person altogether to prove himself to his lady.

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Book Review : It’s Never Too Late

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

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In a nation where most women are taught to be submissive at every stage in life, Maya stands out. In a society that finds fault in women for heinous crimes like rape, Maya stands up. Maya and Rajat fall in love while they study at IIT Kanpur, their daughter Sejal only makes the bond stronger even after years of marriage. Life is almost perfect when two petty criminals decide to make her fairy tale life a tale of horror and fear with their intention of molesting her. Will she be able to fight her fate while Rajat is away and save herself and her five-year-old? Will she be able to undo all stereotypes and face the male-dominated society after that fateful night? Will Rajat stand up with her as she decides to battle her fears and take the culprits to their just punishment? Its Never Too Late is a story of every woman who decides to fight her fears and even destiny of every human who chooses the right over the easy of every wife who shoulders all responsibilities of the house and of every mother who is unwavering in her resolve to ensure that her daughter grows up in a safer world.

Review:

Rape. Molestation. Sexual Abuse. Attack. These are the words each woman in India dreads today. Increasing cases every day, rather every hour, creep into our TV channels and newspapers. Every woman is livid each time they go out on the streets. But danger doesn’t lurk only on the streets, it can inch it’s way inside your house too. That’s what happens with Maya, the protagonist of It’s Never Too Late.

In this post-Romance-genre era of Indian Literature, we have a book that touches the most relevant issue in India these days. What does a woman do when she’s alone and attacked inside her own house? How does she protect herself and her daughter? How does she overcome her fear? In the book, Maya has a loving husband Rajat and a pretty little daughter Sejal. She’s a happy woman, bound within the wings of her wonderful family. Snippets from her life are framed into scenes and described to the readers – from her student self at IIT to the wife and mother that she becomes later.

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Book Review : The Caretaker

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Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

A compelling thriller that introduces a new hero for our times: Ranjit Singh, former captain in the Indian Army, illegal immigrant in the heart of white America and caretaker to the rich and famous.

One harsh winter, Ranjit illegally moves his family into an empty, luxurious vacation home belonging to an African-American Senator. Ensconced in the house, he tries to forget his brief affair with Anna, the Senators wife, and focuses on providing for his family. But one night, their idyll is shattered when mysterious armed men break into the house, searching for an antique porcelain doll. Forced to flee, Ranjit is hunted by unknown forces and gets drawn into the Senators shadowy world. To save his family and solve the mystery of the doll, he must join forces with Anna, who has her own dark secrets. As he battles to save his family, Ranjit’s painful past resurfaces and he must finally confront the hidden event that destroyed his career in the Army and forced him to leave India.

Tightly plotted, action-packed, smart and surprisingly moving, The Caretaker takes us from the desperate world of migrant workers to the elite African-American community of Martha’s Vineyard and a secret high-altitude war between India and Pakistan.

Review: 

I have always proclaimed how I love thrillers. They take me to another world, where every moment is pumped by adrenaline rush. The chases, hideouts, clues, investigations, even murders make me happy. Not many thrillers are doing the round in the Indian Literary Circle these days, they still are dominated by the Romance genre. Themed thrillers are also gaining momentum gradually – banks, media, police, even Bollywood!

In this hiatus, The Caretaker is compelling. It has a setup that I’m vaguely familiar with – not the Martha’s Vineyard part, but the one about immigrants in the US of A. Many Indians, despite having legal visas would grasp the dilemma and fear of Ranjit Singh, the protagonist. An ex-military, he escapes with his family from India to Boston for shelter. You have to read the book to know why, since that is the parallel plot. Stifled in a grocery store run by his wife’s relative, Ranjit moves to Martha’s Vineyard for greener pastures (not literally!). He and his daughter like the quaint coastal tourist spot for the rich.

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Book Review : I am Life

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

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An edgy modern-day fable that takes you on a mystical journey with life.

You are from India the land of three hundred and thirty million Gods and you say you dont believe in even one of them? I think its time to go home, Sid. Andreas words have been echoing in my head since last night when she poured another round of scotch. I entered God in the Google search bar and of all the places, it directed me to India a place where I had buried my childhood dream eleven years ago and moved to New York. I waived God away when I got to New York and to be honest, I didnt need Him either. Until now.

Lifes always been a bitch but this time its gone too far. I want my money and my company back and I will find God one way or the other to get my answers. Ive boarded the flight. Hop on and yes, carry some scotch along.

See you on the other side.

Cheers,

Sid: Siddharth Khanna

Review:

There aren’t many Indian books in this genre yet, hence the comparisons have adhered to Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. In case you haven’t noticed, this book is a ‘Philosophical/Spiritual’ Fiction. The genre should have been popular considering the vast spiritual resources in India, but it hasn’t. Perhaps because it is quite difficult to write about life in a simple manner. Shraddha Soni has performed the task pretty well in her debut book, I am Life.

Titled simply with a beautiful cover (which explains itself later), the book is set at a slim less-than-200 pages. It might seem an easy read from the blurb and volume, but it isn’t. Shraddha raises questions, provides problems and long-drawn solutions at the climax with an earnest seriousness. The book begins with Siddharth Khanna, a successful businessman from New York suddenly discovering his world upside down with an impending divorce and loss of everything he assumed to own. The beginning is in a casual way that draws the readers’ attention without sounding too heavy.

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Book Review : An Incurable Insanity

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

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Her heart fluttered when she heard the sound of the key turn in the lock. She quickly adjusted her maroon silk sari with the yellow border, the one that had caught his eye, and waited eagerly for his footsteps. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven… Yes, exactly seven steps before he stopped, hesitated for a few moments, then removed his shoes one by one and arranged them neatly side by side on the shoe rack. She smiled. He had been mindful of taking his shoes off every day now. “I am not used to it, but I will if you want me to. It’s probably a good thing to do anyway.” As he settled down, he would pick up the TV remote and, without looking at her, would say in his smooth baritone, “So how did you spend your day, anything interesting?” Shaan Ahuja found himself bowing to tradition and agreeing to an arranged marriage to the beautiful Ruhi Sharma. He went through the motions but had no intention of carrying through on his vows. His last foray into matters of the heart with an American girl had left him scarred and unwilling to try again. Thoroughly disillusioned and disgruntled he wasted no time in making his intentions clear to Ruhi on their wedding night. But, he was completely unprepared for what his new wife had in mind.

Review: 

Just when I had thought I had enough of Romance novels in 2013, another one came to me as the first book to be reviewed in 2014. I don’t know if it is coincidence or serendipity that the more I wanted to run away from Romance genre, it keeps coming back to me to usher the new year together. I’m not sure which genre the others have put this book into, but when I read it to the entirety, I would definitely term is as a Romance novel.

Author Simi K. Rao had me into a little surprise when her first chapter introduced the protagonists as Punajbis. Now, I’m strictly not a racist/provincial here, but being a writer myself, I know that most authors stick to their comfort zone in their debut books. Simi has managed to inculcate the perfect Punjabi flavour to her protagonists. The story is a racy, passionate, fierce, often violent, and completely on-the-edge romance. It is that kind of romance which most people are afraid of since its a little too much to handle.

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