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.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Book Review : Lead Tin Yellow

Blurb View:

Image Courtesy: Amazon

Image Courtesy: Amazon

Robin was stunned! Why should his father chuck a bag of old newspapers over a bridge moments before he was shot? He was just a retired small-town engineer, so what secret was he hiding? He had lived all his life in a small Midwestern town and led a dull, gray-flannel life. The police were curious too. There was a ghastly murder on their hands. When Robin found a key with a tag in his raincoat he knew his father had deliberately secreted it for him. Now he had a clue, but where would this take him? There was something his father wanted him to know, and he had to get there before the police. It was now between him, his father, and his killers. The secret lay in Robin’s discovery of how lead and tin were combined by sixteenth-century artists to make a brilliant yellow. In his pursuit of his father’s killers, Robin puts his journalistic career on hold to enter a world of corporate thugs, unrequited love, and medieval art. He pursued his quarry, just as his quarry pursued him, from the East Coast to the Midwest to Quebec and back. His partner, a high-end fashion designer, and his quarrelsome but astute half-brother step up to fill in the blanks that help Robin get closer to his target. Events build up to a dramatic climax at which point Robin and the police have identical interests. The showdown is on the same bridge on which Robin’s father was shot. In his lifetime, Robin hardly knew his reticent father. But after his death, as he unpeeled his father’s life, he got to know of the courage and affection this man was capable of. A grave tragedy helps a near-dysfunctional family to rekindle an absent affection that should have always been there.

Review: 

The book mentions an interesting factoid in the inside back cover – that the author is a renowned sociologist. Few pages into the story, and I have a glaring suspicion that his intentions in writing this book might be a sociological experiment. The premises seem to be exciting, there’s an anticipation of a taut thriller, a glaring mystery that compels anyone to pick up the book.

The story is about a journalist, Robin Miller, who is grappled with a sudden situation of his father’s death. As the blurb tells you, Robin unravels a mystery that leads him to his father’s secrets through a big maze of events. There are guns, paintings, a little war history, dysfunctional families, love affairs. It’s a mishmash of stuff the author wanted to fit into his story. The story is credible at times, but at other times, it would seem a bit loose. There’s a definite plot and thankfully not-too-many subplots to make things more complicated.

Continue reading

Book Review : God is a Gamer

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Blurb View: 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CROSS GAMER, BANKER, POLITICIAN AND TERRORIST WITH VIRTUAL MONEY?

From the bestselling author of If God Was a Banker comes the first ever bitcion thriller. God is a Gamer is a world where money means nothing, martyrs are villains, predators are prey, assassination is taught by the ancient Greeks, and nothing is as it seems.

Moving from Washington’s Congress to Delhi’s finance ministry, the beaches of Goa to the corporate boardrooms of Mumbai, this is Ravi Subramanian’s most gripping novel yet.

Review:

Ravi Subramanian had already raised all expectations with his banking series. Though I haven’t read any of his previous books, ‘Bankster’ is on my To-Read pile since long. ‘God is a Gamer’ being India’s first ever bitcoin thriller, had garnered hopes and thrills from readers in belonging to a niche genre. Banks, currencies, virtual banking, gaming and eventually the introduction of bitcoins should have been more interesting than it turned out to be.

The book began well, I must say. It hooked my interest into the world of bitcoins and virtual money transfer, interspersed with a murder and lot of suspense. Swami, Aditya, Malvika and Sundeep had all started as bankers and diversified into different fields after awhile. Aditya owns a gaming company that Sundeep has helped him build up. The tussle between Malvika and Swami in their banking operations has been pulled off well, though it turned out to be a sub-plot. Then enter Varun and Tanya, the two key protagonists of the story. We see whirlwind romance between them and it is structured pretty well to fit into the story.

Continue reading

Book Review : The Winds of Hastinapur

Blurb View:

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.

Continue reading

Book Review : Mistress of the Throne

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Blurb View:

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.

Continue reading

Book Review : Uff Ye Emotions – 2

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Blurb View:

Like the lyrics of an old song which keeps repeating themselves in our mind or a fever dormant in the blood or an importunate lover impossible to get rid of, the memories of love or love itself keeps returning in our lives again and again at the oddest of times and the strangest of places. Randomly, beautifully, haphazardly or passionately, love lives up again for it has been waiting for you, waiting for this union, waiting to merge with you at last. So, keeping the trend alive and after the roaring success of our novice, Uff Ye Emotions, we are back once again with Uff Ye Emotions 2. With Love, comes many emotions some of them being pain, betrayal, hatred, hope and friendship. We fall in and out of love time and again, but we can never be tired of it because it is one of the only few aspects of life we can’t keep ourselves away from, isn’t it?

Review:

An anthology on love. Presumably the most common genre in the Indian literary world right now. Each such anthology needs extraordinary stories to stand out among the readers. The more I browse through such anthologies, the more mediocre they get. The original Uff Ye Emotions was probably very popular, though I confess not having read it. Part 2 gave me the impression of a badly filmed sequel.

Going by the usual drill with anthologies, I’m bound to dissect each story separately as they are all ingredients that make (or break) the dish.

1. The Client (Vinit K. Bansal) – A story with a predictable climax. The kind that makes you feel i’ve-read-this-somewhere-already, and it did get boring towards the end. Considering its the editor’s story, I didn’t expect grammatical and typographical errors, but they were galore.  Not impressive at all.

2. Moksha (Kunal Marathe) –  A better story among the others, with a good climax, tacitly written.

3. When Destiny Strikes! (Mahi Singla) – Another predictable story with errors. Not entirely badly written though, marred down by typos.

4. The Woman Who Waited (Shalini Katyal) – Shalini, I would say, has a flair in writing. But she chose a boring plot for this one. There’s way too much mush and emotion in the story which dilutes its essence. Climax is not bad.

Continue reading

Book Review : Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai

Blurb View:

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.

Continue reading