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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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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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• Title : The Devotion of Suspect X
• Author : Keigo Higashino
• Publisher : Hachette India
• Cost : 499/-

Ishigami is a middle-aged mathematics genius who works as a school teacher. He has a secret crush on Yasuko, his neighbor who is a single mother with an exploitive and abusive husband whom she avoids at all costs. When Yasuko lands in trouble, Ishigami steps in to help her out, using his simple mathematical mind to calculate his moves and those of the police. How he goes about the entire set-up forms the core of this story.
Also playing an integral part are Yukawa, Ishigami’s ex-classmate and a physics genius, the only man who can come close to deciphering Ishigami’s plan though he cannot will himself to hand over his friend to the police. The narration crackles with intensity whenever these two characters meet.
But the story is more about “Devotion”.
How aptly has this book been named. Surprisingly, what we see in the book isn’t an act of just devotion, but of pure, unadulterated , selfless love. A love so deep that it cannot be named. And when the suspect screams out in the end, we feel his frustration. Feel his love.
I never had a chance to read up on Japan or Japanese culture before, save that one book called “The Rising sun” by Michael Crichton and the Oshin series that played on DD a long time back. Where one was indicative of Japanese culture as perceived in Western settings, the other harked back to the Japan of yore.
Reading the “Devotion Of Suspect X”, I realized that Keigo Higashino has presented Japan in a manner that makes it very simple for us to understand the characters and the reasons behind their behavior. If not for the small details like sliding doors or lunch boxes, the story could have been set anywhere in the world. Some locations, like the slum dwellings under the bridge on a river can be found anywhere.
And that is what is special about this book. We can relate to the story because it could have taken place right in our neighborhood. Yasuko could be that single mother who lives across the road and Ishigami would be the school teacher we see with unseeing eyes.
It is very difficult to review this book without giving out any spoilers. I’ll try though.
The characters are very well etched. We get a definite look into what goes on in their minds but thankfully, none of the characters get into preachy monologues on the human psyche a la Agatha Christie or Ayn Rand (for the record, I LOVE these two women. No objections to the monologues in their books 😐 )
The author delves into the inner fears of the suspects, never once letting go of reality. So when Yakuso, the main suspect wonders where her love-life will lead her, she also wonders how her daughter will cope up with the new developments. Or if she will. When she has the attention of two men, she cannot decide between the one for whom she feels an inkling of love and the other for whom she feels the deepest gratitude. Who will win?
I make it sound like a love story but the book is actually a very gripping murder mystery. It isn’t as much of a whodunnit than it is a howdunnit or a whydunnit!!
The book reminded me of Agatha Christie’s “Curtain”, Poirot’s last case . There, Poirot himself commits a murder which comes out much after his death. In TDOSX a similar genius takes it upon himself to act as an accomplice to murder and lay the path that the police would follow later. He leads them on in a manner which is truly mind-boggling, until another genius figures out the motive and the plan. The mind-games that follow is what forms the chunk of the narration. There aren’t many twists and turns, but enough intrigue to keep you glued to the book.
I have just one gripe with the story. The police were depicted as hardworking men who did their best to pin the crime on the primary suspects. But not much coverage was given to their attempts to broaden their investigation. We are given no inkling as to whether the police have found any other possible suspects, except the ones who are the central characters. The subsequent investigations appear very one-sided and forced. Or maybe, as the end clarifies, that is exactly what Ishigami had predicted and planned. Whatever the case, while reading the book, I couldn’t help but wonder about the level of harassment the Police officers inflicted in the name of investigations . Also, there was content that appeared to have been ‘lost in translation’. I’m sure the Japanese version would have been even more gripping. Technically, the English version was up to the mark. No complaints there.
On another tangent, it was kind of awe-inspiring to see the way a common person reacts to the police force in Japan. No derogatory comments, no pulling down of the ‘system’. In fact, one instance that stood out for me was when one character beats up another man, the culprit’s wife makes him visit the victim and apologize. Knowing fully well that one report from the victim could land him in the banger, the character meekly follows his wife and offers his apology. The crux is that the common man respects the police force.
Wow!! I can never think of that happening here 
Do grab a copy of “The Devotion Of Suspect X”. It is truly a captivating read!! Now that I have, looking forward to watching the movie.

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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow. (Yippeee 😀 )

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 323 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 460 posts. There were 415 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 110mb. That’s about 1 pictures per day.

The busiest day of the year was November 3rd with 718 views. The most popular post that day was By The Water Cooler !!.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were orangeicecandy.blogspot.com, blogger.com, google.co.in, Google Reader, and mysoul.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for jeet, bitter gourd, new moon poster, momofrs, and bittergourd.

( I KNEW that silly Karela would be the end of me !!)

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

By The Water Cooler !! October 2010 (Thanks Parul )
34 comments

2

Loving every bitter moment of it !! January 2010 (Leaves a bitter taste each time I read this title 😦 )
2 comments

3

I’m Addicted to…. October 2009 (And also thankful They are my inspiration for blogging 🙂 )
12 comments

4

Of Twilight and New Moon November 2009 (You gotta be kidding :|)
1 comment

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At the end of it all, I can’t help but think how vapid my blog really is!!

I mean, other blogs attract people with subjects which are funny, intelligent, thought-provoking, full-of-awareness and what not! And what do I offer?? A highly searched post on the karela and a flighty review of a not-so-captivating teen romance!!

Maybe, I need a makeover.

Except…..maybe I shouldn’t. Because then I might shift the focus away from the twins. And frankly, this blog is a diary of sorts ….to capture the days and lives of my little tykes. I may meander into other different topics at times, but I then get back to the twins 🙂

I’m not the one to spout wisdom on how to bring up children (Heck, I rely on YOU guys to help me out 😀 ) . So as long as you aren’t bored of the twins, I think I’m doing good 🙂

What say people? Does this blog interest you enough for me to keep it as it is??



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