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Book : The Winds Of Hastinapur

Publisher : Harper Collins

Price : Rs. 299

Indian mythology is complex. In school, I had my first introduction to the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The textbooks tried to cover the entire epic without getting into the details. Obviously, it all seemed like one long story which didn’t really connect. Watching the same on Television was a different thing. I still recollect the excitement of seeing one arrow splitting into ten and killing ten people in one go! Oh the thrill of it 😀 !!
Obviously, limited special effects had their moments of glory 🙂

Over a period of time, I treated the epics for the tales they were and nothing more.There were a myriad of characters over different periods of time and it became difficult keeping track of them. That was before I read Chitra Banerjee’s stellar “Palace Of Illusions”. It woke me up with a start and I realized that there was more to the Mahabharata than what I initially thought! If Palace of Illusions was Draupadi’s take on the Mahabharata, Sharath Komarraju’s “Winds Of Hastinapur” narrates the epic from Ganga and Satyavati’s perspective.

I was hooked to WoH the minute I started reading it. The story begins from a time past, when Ganga, the Lady Of The River was a mere slip of a girl.The book is split into two parts, the first half is the narration by Ganga and the second half is the story of Satyavati, the fisher-woman who marries Shantanu, the King of Hastina. The tale begins with the circumstances that  result in Ganga coming down to the plains of Hastina,marrying Shantanu and bearing him sons.  The story ends with the birth of Dhritrashtra (Satyavati’s grandson) and the expected birth of Pandu  and Vidur.

Of all the characters in the book, it is the character of Bhishma, who holds the tale together. It is him we find out more about, the origin of his birth, his life, his oath and the reasons for his actions and his popularity . Sharath draws a very believable picture of Bhishma, a person as much a man of his own making as that of the circumstances surrounding him. It is difficult, not to feel for this person, his inner strength, his control over his emotions and his sense of loyalty.

The other character who stands out is Satyavati, the fisher-woman. She is someone I never heard of before, maybe only as the one because of whom Bhishma takes the oath of celibacy. Here, Satyavati is a character who has her own failings. When younger, she is proud and haughty but as the book progresses and she ages, we realizes just how naturally she becomes wiser. Her moments of conflict and eventual regret are beautifully put together.

While reading the book, I realized how much the author’s style is different from his previous outing, “Banquet of the Dead”. While BoTD was a murder mystery, WoH is a retelling of an epic in a beautifully articulate manner. It is surprisingly mature and delves deep into the psyche of its characters. Frankly, I had trouble believing that the two books were by the same person!

Here are some snippets from the book, which I personally liked :-

“She felt her stomach churn and threaten to turn itself inside out. She had almost forgotten what it felt like to curse someone. A curse came out of that part of you that was black and it nurtured all that was bad inside you and brought it to the fore, made it bigger and made you feel small and weak. She had heard sage Vashisht say once that that man is truly good who has the ability to curse but still cannot, for that means there is no blackness in his heart.”

“….every woman had to give up her son for fostering at some time or the other, and she now saw the wisdom in the High Sage’s words. The line of men was always measured by the father. Yes, the mother bore him, fed him, carried him, reared him, but it was the father whom the son ought to follow, and it was the father’s deeds and name that the son ought to emulate. That was the way of the world, and it was neither cruel nor kind, for the world does not care for the whims of man.

So it was right that from now on he was no longer the son of Ganga. He was the son of Shantanu.

And the son of Hastina.”

The “Winds Of Hastinapur” is a classic tale retold in a simple manner. The author claims that it is his own perspective of the epic and I am inclined to go with his version because it just makes more sense! There is a logical outcome of each situation, nothing is thrown at us in the name of special powers or magical prowess. There is no mention of arrows splitting (alas !) and maybe that is why, it is easier to relate to!

Do pick up your copy if your interest is piqued just as mine was. I’m going to place my copy right next to the “Palace of Illusions”, a book I hold in high esteem.

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FKSS

Author: Shailendra Singh

Publisher : Rupa Publications

Price : Rs.195

Has anyone read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People? It was a pretty good book which put me off self-help books forever 😐 .

I mean, it did spout a LOT of wisdom and all that jazz, but I could appreciate it only when my eyes were open. For the most part, I believe I snoozed my way through it.

(These opinions are mine alone and NOT mean to hurt sentiments of true-blue Stephen followers. Peace 🙂 )

I saw “F?@k Knows” and another book on Blogadda  and applied to review both (secretly hoping that I get the other one). Imagine my horror when I got this one instead 😐

It was going to be tough. It didn’t help my cause that I abhor self-help guides, I hate preaching of any kind. Period.

But what must be done, must be done. After 3 days of dillydallying (while the clock ticked and my review-publish date drew closer), I finally ground my teeth to powder and sat down to finish the darn book.

After a few hours of   “Hmmmmmm…..flip flip flip….*chuckle*…..he he…flip flip flip…LOL!!……*chortle*….gasp!..flip flip..Oh!…he he…” – Repeat X (number of pages)/2 , I realized one thing –

There are self-help books and then there is F?@k Knows!

Unashamedly unapologetic with a generous dose of humour. Take it or leave it!

Shailendra Singh makes no bones about his intention of penning this book. You may either take time to ponder over his pearls of wisdom or throw the book in a trash can. He doesn’t give a F?@k.

And thats why, for someone who loathes self-help books, “F?@k Knows” comes as a breath of fresh air.

The book is divided into multiple chapters, with titles ranging from “F?@k Knows Why the Word Suicide is Called ‘Khud-Khushi’ in Hindi” to “Chi F?@k Po” 😀 . The incidents mentioned in the book are all from the author’s personal experiences. Though some of them are grim, he manages to coat them with a sugary layer of wit and humor.

I personally wouldn’t recommend the book for teenagers for it has its share of hidden profanity (not that kids these days don’t know the meaning of all of them 🙄 ). There are also some sections dealing with more intimate matters which are expressed rather artfully I must say.

Shailendra Singh, Joint Managing Director of Percept India and the brain behind Sunburn and Go For Gold, is a born dyslexic. In the earlier sections he mentions that he always had trouble reading and the only books he could get through were the self-help ones.

Looks like those books helped him big time, because along with dishing out wisdom, Shailendra has successfully blended his sense-of-humor and earthy common-sense in the narration. Nowhere in the book does it appear as though the author is droning on issues which have been hammered into our heads by many more before him. Though some sections have been put forward by other authors, none have been successful enough to get a laugh out of the reader like this one  🙂

“F?@k Knows” is just the right book to grab when you have a few minutes to spare, while traveling or waiting at the airport/railway station. You can read a couple of chapters while drinking a cup of tea/coffee  during office breaks.

The best part is that the chapters are short and sweet and just long enough to drive the point home. They are easy to remember and quote….maybe thats why the book makes its impact 🙂 .
This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

 

 

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RIP_1

Without any preamble, I’d like to start off by saying that there is nothing, nothing subtle about RIP!  Read the disclaimer at the beginning, if you may, but its more fun if you just ignore it and jump into the book. The blatant references to corrupt politicians and their ilk is so wickedly juicy, you might as well super-impose their actual names over the ones given by the author. I think if this book lands in the hands of any of the people in authority, Mr.Mukul Deva would find himself in BIG trouble 🙂

RIP or Resurgent Indian Patriots is a bunch of Special Forces ex-officers who go by the moniker, The K-Team (as all their names begin with ‘K’), lead by Krishna Athawale, a widower and a staunch believer of the need to bring about some drastic changes in India’s political scene. He, along with his team embark on a mission to eliminate corruption and force the government to cede to the demands of the common man, in this case,  represented in the form of a certain Mr.Hazarika (Anna Hazare anyone?).

The CBI Director, Vinod Bedi is assigned the task of identifying and eliminating the RIP. It is a daunting task, because though the K-Team leave clues to determine the identity of their next victim, the sheer number of corrupt politicians/officials/judges who fit the bill, make it difficult to identify that one single target. Also, Vinod does not want to give in to the Home Minister’s subtle hints to ‘eliminate’ the RIP instead of just capturing them.

Raghav Bhagat, a rogue ex-para trooper is on the roll of the Home Minister, who is assigned the actual task of killing the RIP, once they are identified by Vinod and his team. Vinod and his team are unaware of the Home Minister’s back-up plan to hunt for RIP. With three different teams working on one target (one to carry out the killing and two to prevent it) , the first assassination after the RIP go public, is so fraught with confusion, it is difficult to put the book down!

There is a love triangle in here too, but I will not give away much about it.

This is no doubt a gutsy book. It is bold, blatant and doesn’t mince words. I confess I had a tough time putting it down after the first three victims were eliminated in quick succession. The book is fast-paced, even though the rampage of the K-Team, their meticulous planning, the different methods they employ to carry out their killings are described in detail. Honest confession, it tickled my funny bone to read about how a particular victim meets his/her end and then I would super-impose that image with the real politician who is referenced.  I’m sure there are thousands of people in this country who would want those people to suffer the exact same fate 😐

The portions that deal with the love story do tend to slow down the pace of the book but I feel this could be because of a probable movie script for the future. It does not take anything away from the story though. Like I said before, the book is fast-paced and gripping.  The language is very simple and not fancy (the language used to describe Raghav’s character was a little showy). My only gripe, like all the books I have reviewed till date, is with the proof-reading. That, and spell-check. But there aren’t too many of these errors to distract from the actual content, so no loss here 🙂

For the record, I had never heard of Mukul Deva before. I’ve also never read any books on the military, espionage, etc. Yet, I picked up this book for reviewing because I really wanted to give this genre a chance. I’m glad I did, because I enjoyed reading “RIP”. I think I might be tempted enough to read more of his other books soon.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com . Participate now to get free books!

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TheBankster

Author : Ravi Subramanian

Publisher : Rupa Publications

Price : Rs.250

To be truthful, I haven’t read any other book by Ravi Subramanian. But a quick Google search indicated that he has quite a few books behind him along with a good fan following. Frankly, I chose this book because I liked the cover 🙂 . There was something dark, broody and mysterious about a man standing with his back to us against (what I presume) the Mumbai skyline.

Anyhow,  about the book.

“The Bankster” deals with three different storylines which are brought together by a fourth. The narratives run in parallel before they are beautifully merged towards the end.

The first thread is about the life in a private sector bank of international repute. The second story deals with a father’s vow to keep the memory of his son alive. The third story is about the illegal deals of armaments and diamonds as blood money.

The bank is faced with the sudden demise of four important employees,  who supposedly committed ‘suicide’. All is not what it appears to be, everyone is suspicious and it is difficult to keep tongues from wagging.

The father in Kerala wants to do all he can to prevent the set up of a nuclear power plant in his neighboring town. Little does he know what he was getting into when he actively takes help (and money) from a local MLA and a NGO.

A CIA agent, who has infiltrated the arms and diamonds market must do all to keep his identity a secret.

Surprisingly, the main protagonist who brings these different narratives to a closure arrives much later in the book (almost half-way). Till then, along with the regular suspense of these three threads, we also have the suspense of how exactly are these three very different tales connected?!! The character of Karan Punjabi is a mix of Sherlock Holmes and Poirot. I was a little miffed that the character took so little time to figure out the links. It was the only thing that struck a false note in this otherwise gripping book. Minor quibbles aside, “The Bankster” is a book that is difficult to put down after halftime. I’ll confess that there were some sections in the first half which dragged a little. But once you reach halfway, the book simply runs on full throttle 🙂

It is nice to see how beautifully Ravi has taken the current events in India and abroad to string together this book. I admire the thought process and research that must have gone behind bringing this book together.  The current anti-nuclear plant protest in Kundankulam becomes the backdrop for the second thread in the book ( the nuclear plant protest in Kerala).

For people like me who have no finance background, it was nice to know what happens within the walls of private banks. How customers are fleeced and how cover-up are made. It all came as an eye-opener, actually. I had some problem getting through those pages initially, but the language of the book is really simple and clear and it made for easy reading. One grouse that I have is that usually in English novels, when local language is used, the words are printed in Italics. Not so here. I’m sure if any non-Indians read the book,  they will look for the words in a dictionary and not find them there K. Also, proofreading and spell-check is needed in a couple of places.

But these are very minor quibbles . The book is fantastic and a definite page turner.  I wouldn’t like to compare Ravi with any other international author because I believe his style is unique and his own. It fills me with pride to read Indian authors who can produce such quality work of truly international standards.

Do pick up your copy of “The Bankster”. A definite must-read.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com . Participate now to get free books

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Barnabas

Title : Barnabas

Author : Sangeeta Nambiar

Publisher : Westland

Price : 250/-

is particular

The book has a lot going for it, but the simmering undertones of resentment towards the British was what caught my attention the most. A pity that this particular angle wasn’t explored much.

The story is about Barnabas C. Mehta, named thus because his father was always ready with the necessary ‘bandobast’ for his white master. The white master, Curtis, treats Barnabas like his own son, the one who will inherit Curtis’ vast knowledge and his love for the spirits! It is Curtis who encourages Barnabas to pursue his deduction skills and also prints formal visiting cards for Barnabas, if only to open the doors for the son of a servant cook, which otherwise would have been impossible in a British dominated Mumbai.

Barnabas takes up the investigation of the missing wife of a wealthy dockyard owner, Stanton.  What initially appeared like a well-planned escape plan by the wife, takes a more gruesome turn when dead bodies turn up unexpectedly. The investigating office declares it an open and shut case, but Barnabas believes otherwise. Following his instincts and clues gleaned through painstaking ways, he leads the case to ‘closure’.

Most of the book, as expected, is dedicated to Barnabas’ efforts in piecing the clues together. There is a simplicity in his approach which is in sync with his surroundings. His dilemma regarding the British is also understandable. Like he says, who in living memory remembers how it feels to be truly ‘independent’? Would Indians be able to manage on their own, when neither the current generation nor their ancestors had any experience in running a country? These questions reflect the conflicts that I’m sure many youth in those days must have faced.

The characters are well etched, except maybe the detective’s father, whose loyalty to Curtis clashes with his loyalty to the nation. I wish we had a clearer view of what Chetan (the father) truly felt about his years of service and the life that Barnanas led, thanks to Curtis.

Being  a die-hard Agatha Christie fan, I kept a sharp lookout for red-herrings, which the Dame was famous for. Surprisingly, there weren’t any. I don’t mean to say that the story was predictable, but the fact is, halfway through the book, I knew who had done it. I even deduced why it was done. The only thing that kept me glued was the ‘how’!! And it was rather gripping to read through it.  What truly made the book stand out was the innate Indian-ness of the detective and the blockers in his search for truth. That he meekly gives in to silence when he would in fact like to rip the other person apart, speaks volumes of the subjugation of Indians, in their own land.

“Barnabas” is a very well-written book. Like I mentioned before, it is a simple book, barely giving in to anything fancy. Read it while going on a trip or during a meal break. It will keep you adequately occupied. You won’t be disappointed.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

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This review has been more than delayed in coming. My sincere apologies to Yashodhara. After all the trouble she took to get the book across to me, I kept her waiting for the review 😐

My fault 😦

Truthfully speaking, I started reading her blog only after I entered her contest . But more than winning the book, I think my real reward was her blog itself. It was so full of daily humour, like the kinds found in Erma Bombeck books (another favourite)  that I became an instant addict !

But coming to the good part, the book ROCKS!!

Firstly, I had a terrible time getting through the book. No, no, don’t take me wrong. Its all the book’s fault!! Its not that I have a terrible reading speed, but seriously, if I have a twin soul somewhere out there, then it must be Yash.

No kidding, seriously.

Right from the very beginning, from the uncertainties of getting married, to the married-in-Bangalore-honeymooned-in-Goa, to having a baby…it all seemed so much as though I was reading a slightly altered  biography about myself 🙂

After every few pages, I would be lost in memories, evoked by some text in the book and I would find myself traveling along memory lanes I’d forgotten. It would take me time to come back and finish what I was reading. Sometimes, I would forget where I was and would need to start reading the last few pages again 😐

Clearly, the book is written from the heart. The beauty of its content lies in its simplicity, in its recollection of everyday instances, in its honesty about the little idiosyncrasies we all have. So the way Vijay confuses ‘contraction’ with ‘contraption’ when pacing nervously at his wife’s labor is something that even the BF does. Not pace, bungle up words when hyper 🙂 .

The day-to-day life of a newly married couple is so charmingly captured,  I doubt anyone would shake their head in wonder. Its all so believable because we’ve been there!

Yashodhara’s writing is simple. But the humor isn’t. It lurks right there, between the lines. Through the little tales of struggling through the first year, you can’t help but smile at the funny anecdotes and similes strewn throughout 🙂 . Some parts even had me laughing out loud. like the one where Y is learning to drive and she almost drives off, with Vijay hanging on to the open door, one leg still outside 😀 . This incident is close to me, because the BF cited the very same reason when he refused to accompany me in my training sessions . He was sure I would leave him hanging out 😀

The birth of Baby Peanut and the resulting mood swings, incompetent handling of a newborn, the worries about career and home,  are all very well captured. They are as relate-able as looking at a mirror of our own lives.

Here’s a BIG thumbs up to Yash. For a debut, she makes a rather solid start!

My only gripe would be with the proof-reading. But the errors are few and far between and don’t rankle enough to divert from the book . So no harm done 🙂

Do lay your hands on the book. It really is a rollicking ride 🙂

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Apologies for the layout. My formatting’s off and the preview button isn’t working. I have no idea how this post will look like. Kindly excuse 🙂

 

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Title : The Krishna Key
Author : Ashwin Sanghi
Publisher : Westland
Cost : 250/-

A Killer on the loose.
An unsuspecting historian and symbologist accused of murdering his best friend.
A smart, no-nonsense lady-cop. An equally smart student of the symbologist.
Lots of twists and dollops of history.
Who knew Indian history could presented in such a captivating and interesting manner?! Not me, for sure 😐 (History were the periods where we fought with each other for the last benches in the classroom ;)).
The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi is a curious amalgamation of the present and the past. Of history and mythology. Of views and perceptions. The tale of Krishna runs in parallel to the current proceedings and at each turn, we see how much the past effects what happens today. Though the book carries a disclaimer that the views expressed in the book are solely the author’s, you are compelled to believe in each word that you read. How powerful is that?!
Indian history has its fair share of mysteries. We’ve had invaders running amok on this land since time immemorial (I doubt any other country in this world has been sought as much!).
With the kind of cultural influences converging on this landscape, it is but natural that one loses track of the secrets passed down from generations before. Ashwin takes the efforts to study the fragments of available material and then fills in the gaps. It is these filled in gaps which provide the maximum food for thought. Right from the early pages where the nuclear reactor at BARC is compared to a Shivling to the pages in the end where the mystery of the Taj Mahal is explored, we are fed varied tidbits of information which are right before us, but we never had the right perspective to understand them. It is amazing to see the kind of research that must have gone in the effort to write this book. Commendable 🙂 .
The only false note (in my opinion) would be with the plot line. Borrowing heavily from The Da Vinci Codes to The Lost Symbol, it almost feels as if we are reading a desi Dan Brown (nothing wrong with that , really). We have a mysterious killer who is led along by a secret hand (Da Vinci Code). We have a antagonist who believes he is on the path of God but is actually quite in the opposite direction (The Lost Symbol). Combine it all with a protagonist who is a professor of Indian history and symbology to boot and one can’t help but wonder if the book was just translated from one of Dan Brown’s.
Ashwin Sanghi lays to rest all these doubts as he slowly and surely builds up a book and a narration which is truly Indian at heart (with an international audience in mind. No wonder a cop reads out the rights from an Amendment of the law before performing an arrest. I’m yet to see/hear of a single cop actually doing that in India  ).
But these are minor quibbles in an otherwise terrific book. In fact, I’m rather proud that we have authors in India who can compete with the best in the Western world—in their language  (Check if Dan B can write a thriller in Hindi !! )
Do pick up a copy of The Krishna Key. The book is well paced and never once did I feel bored. Rather, it was tough to put down between reads. I believe this is the third of his books (the earlier two being “The Rozabel Line” and “Chanakya’s Chant”) . I think I’m going after the earlier two books now. They must be damn good too 

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

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