Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book Review : Scion of Ikshvaku

Title : Scion of Ikshvaku (Ram Chandra Series I)
Author : Amish
Publisher : Westland Ltd.

I remember the time when I had finished reading 'The Immortals of Meluha', the first of the Shiva Trilogy by Amish. It was a marathon reading as the book was truly unputdownable. I marveled at the creativity of the author and his brilliance of connecting dots beyond one's imagination. I had a lot to write while compiling its review.

Another first of another series, this time it is Ram Chandra Series. Again a fast paced, engaging and readable book. While putting down the review I have again a lot to write about the story and the writing style.

In India, growing up with stories form mythology is a very natural thing and stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata form a major part of that experience. There is no point writing about the story but then even the author has not told the same story. He has just picked the characters from the saga and the major events from it but the situations leading to those events and the portrayal of the same characters are completely different. In fact it is so different that one doesn’t see any connection with the great epic that we identify with. Actually he has taken creative liberties with the story to such an extent that barely the skeleton resembles the age old saga now, nothing else. 

Author's great level of imagination and creativity are undoubtedly applaud worthy. The way he pieces things together talks highly about his intelligence and with the mention of a prospective land - Meluha, he just nailed it completely.

Rama considered a bad-omen by Dashrath, Manthra's character as a power wielding entity, her daughter as a benevolent healer, Sita and Urmila as ministers of their state, Swayamvar setting, fun-filled relationship between Ram and Sita, weakening  empire Mithila - are just a few things which completely deviate from our impressions and understanding of the story. 

There are some high points and sections which rise meritoriously making the readers fall in love with the proceedings. However, there are parts where the narrative falters in terms of expected excitement and interest. Amish has tried to give some contemporary touches to the mythological story, like - gender equality, Roshni's case (on the lines of Nirbhaya's tragedy), juvenile justice -to name a few. However, some of these attempts seem superimposed and do not gel well with the natural flow.

So my verdict, if anybody cares, one can read it as just a fictional story having no connection with Ramayana that we know.  Would I look forward to the next in the series? - I doubt.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

सीख लिया है मैंने भी अब खाना बनाना

सीख लिया है मैंने भी अब खाना बनाना
पहचानने लगी हूँ हर मसाले की खुशबू को मैं भी
सब्ज़ी का ताजापन भी अपना एहसास कराने लगा है I
कुछ ऐसी चीज़ें जो पहले महत्त्वहीन सी लगतीं,
अब पता चल गया है उनका स्वभाव मुझे भी I
लुप्त रह कर किसी की जान कैसे बना जाता है
बोध कराया हैं इन्हीं छोटी छोटी चीज़ों ने मुझे I

धनिया पुदीना जो पहले एक से जान पड़ते थे
आज पता है कितने स्वाद के भण्डार समेटे हैं ये I
खाना बनाना और फिर उसे अपनों के लिए परोसना
सच में एक अनुपम सुख देता है यह एहसास
इस भावना को जीना भी तो तुमसे ही सीखा है
जाने अनजाने आ जाती हो मेरी आँखों के सम्मुख
सम्बोधित करके मुझे दिखा जाती हो राह सही सी

सीख लिया है मैंने भी अब खाना बनाना
पर मन में कसक सी होती है उस महक की
जो आती थी तुम्हारी बनाई रसोई से सदा
वही सब चीज़ें तो हैं अब भी, यहां भी
मसाले भी दो ज़्यादा ही होंगे,  कम नहीं
पर क्यों एक कमी सी रह जाती है सब में फिर भी
क्यों नहीं मिलता वह स्वाद वही रस

शायद हाथों का ही जादू होगा उस स्वाद में कहीं
प्यार का ही रूप होगा उस महक में रचा-बसा
स्नेह से बना कर बिठा कर खिलाती थीं तुम
तब समझ नहीं पायी कैसा संतोष पाती थीं तुम
आज भी वह चेहरा आँखों में समाया रहता है
काश एक बूँद और मिल जाए उस ममता के सागर से
काश उस महक में बिता सकूँ दो पल फिर से कभी I

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Book Review : The Seeker

Title : The Seeker
Author : Karan Bajaj
Publisher : Penguin India

It so turned out that the books that I picked up for reading this summer kept leading me to the logical next and further on in my pursuit to know and understand things better, as if it was all pre-planned and ordained to happen. Although  I am far removed from understanding the meaning of life and getting even a glimpse of the elusive peaceful state of mind but the dots that are joining through these books are bringing in some form of solace and respite. Just wondering if it is Alchemist's message getting validated in real life - nature conspiring in some way to satisfy the urge from within.

Happened to pick 'The Seeker', seeing it on the stands of a book store, along with J.P. Vaswani's book - Thoughts Life has Taught Me. Written by Karan Bajaj, this book is again a person's journey to know the purpose of life. In more cases than one this kind of desperation gets kindled when one goes through extreme emotions like - near death experience, loss of a loved one or similar such situation. During such life changing experiences, many questions cloud a mind and one keeps wondering and questioning about what is beyond what is visible to the eye. The urge to know more and know better keeps one unsettled till one begins on some path to everlasting peace.

In 'The Seeker', Maximus Pzoras, a Harvard economist and Wall Street Banker calls it quits soon after his mother's demise. In order to find reason for human suffering, despair and pain, he sets out on a journey from New York to the snow capped Himalayas first, then to an ashram in South India and finally to the Himalayas again. He realises that it is the mind that needs to be conditioned to stay silent. 'Mind is always on fire. It violates every yogic percept, claiming it wants enlightenment when it craves pleasure, coveting the comfort of chatter, committing violence when it thinks negatively. Mind knows no contentment, no peace, no maturity.'

In order to find the truth behind the statement, “So if there is birth, age, suffering, sorrow and death, then there must be something that is un-born, un-aging, un-ailing, sorrow-less and deathless, immortals as it were" Max progresses from one stage to another and experiences an inner transformation.The bondages, attachments, worldly pleasures that earlier enticed and seduced him, slowly settle down and so do the bodily discomforts. The book actually walks the readers through an adventurous journey where the protagonist is equally unsure and unsettled to begin with but gradually the clouds of confusion start diffusing giving way to clarity and assuredness.

After reading this book, the learning gets reconfirmed that there is a right time for everything when the mind, soul and body actually get ready to receive it. The receptiveness of these three faculties conjoin to convey the message to the nature which then conspires to make it happen in its own discreet way.

Karan Bajaj has done a great job in bringing out the inner feelings and emotions of a person on the journey to self realization. The detail and depth in his writing validates how keenly he must have experienced the emotions and how deeply he must have observed the progressive changes. He talks highly about the significance of selfless service and silence while mentioning various means and mediums in order to stabilize the mind. He touches upon the concepts of - power of yoga and meditation, good and bad karma and the outcomes of the same, rebirth theory and much more and the way they are pieced together, make it all very logical. While reading through the book, one may not even realise but one eventually gets a glimpse of how 'Tattvam asi'  - the enlightened state - would be.
Tattvam asi means - You are That (That is God), which means aligning oneself with that supreme power as one is actually a part of that complete whole.

This book has already gone in the list of 'Literary Sojourn Recommends' for this year.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Review : Man's Search for Meaning

Title : Man's Search for Meaning
Author : Viktor E. Frankl
Publisher : Rider Books
ISBN : 978-1-84-604124-2

If one can  remember only one thing from this book it should be this - 'He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.'
There are plenty of self-help books that one can choose from if one so wants but there are just a few which can really be called 'life changing'. Viktor Frankl's - Man's Search for Meaning is one of those few books which have the potential of influencing a reader's perspective towards life for good. It is in fact a memoir of the author while he spent the years from 1942 to 1945 in four different camps, including Auschwitz.

In the first section of the book he recounts his time spent in the camp and how he managed to stay alive in the midst of hopelessness, desperation and death. What makes his account of the concentration camp stand apart is his evaluation of the situation through psychological perspective. He studies the impact of extremely adverse conditions on different individuals which gives him enough fodder to think about how personalities and characters are formed. Living under dehumanized circumstances, losing one's identity including one's name, working as living corpse, no contact with any loved one, no visibility of the end to that ordeal - were not ordinary conditions;  yet finding meaning in life became the only important thing in order to survive the camp. He realised that there must be some bigger purpose for living than succumbing to the situation and giving up. He believes, 'you cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you feel and do about what happens to you.' 

In the second section Frankl shares how he used the lessons that he learnt during his years 'from death-camps to existentialism' to formulate the doctrine of Logotherapy. 'It focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man's search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, the striving to find a meaning in one's life is the primary motivational force in man.' Frankl actually beckons the readers to invoke the abundant power that each individual possesses to mould the way any situation is approached and is responded to. Moreover the turbulent and testing times are the ones which build strength of character and make a person triumphant personally and spiritually.

One can go over this book time and again in case accepting adverse circumstances becomes an issue. This is the reason many people who confront situations like - personal sickness, suffering, loss of a loved one, often turn to this book and find the much needed succour and perspective. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

मेरी वसीयत तुम्हारे नाम -

उन गेंदे के फ़ूलों में मिल जायेगी झलक मेरी
सूखे फ़ूलों को मंदिर से उठा कर डाला था जहां
तब तो मुरझा कर धरती में समां गए थे वे फ़ूल
यकीं है नयी ज़िन्दगी का संचार करते होंगे अब वहाँ

हाथों से रोम्पी थी कुछ आँगन की मिट्टी
अभी भी मेरी उँगलियों के निशाँ पाओगे वहाँ कहीं
नयी तुलसी फ़ूट पड़ी होगी उसी कोने में फ़िर
मौसम के साथ बूढी हो दे जायेगी बीज अपना

चमेली के झाड़ पर लगी होंगी कलियाँ फ़िर से
अपनी हलकी खुशबू से महकाती होंगी घर भर को
तुलसी के पत्तों के साथ जोड़ कर माला बुन देना कभी
हो जाएगा श्रृंगार छोटे बाल गोपाल का मेरे उस से

सहेज कर कुछ यादें रखी थीं उस अलमारी में
कुछ पैगाम जो मेरे नाम मिल जाएँगे वहीँ कहीं
गीली न करना आँखें अपनी, उन यादों में खो कर
सुकून दिया था उन लिखी पंक्तियों ने मुझे बहुत कभी

रखा था एक संदूक भी उसी अलमारी में ऊपर
छोटी बड़ी चीज़ें रखती थी तुम्हारे लिए जिसमें
जैसा भी है दे देना उसे जगह अपने पास में ही
कभी खाली न पाओगे उस संदूक को तुम अब भी कभी

लिखा था कुछ थोड़ा बहुत मनन करने के लिए अपने
वास्तव में जीवन दर्शन छुपा है उनमें ही कहीं
ले जा सकते हो तो ले जाओ, साथ मेरे आशीर्वाद के
जब भी पढोगे, पाओगे मेरा प्रतिबिम्ब उन सब में भी

वह कोना जहाँ बीत गए ज़िन्दगी के कई सावन
हो सके तो सूना न होने देना उस कोने को तुम कभी
मेरी भक्ति की शक्ति है उस जगह पर समायी
जो तुम्हारे लिए बरसेगी सदा आशीष बन कर

मेरे जीवन का मकसद था तुम से, पूरा हुआ है जो अब
आशा है लगे हो तुम अपने जीवन के मकसद की राह पर
जी जान लगा देना जो निर्धारित है तुम्हें कर्म
और समर्पित कर देना उस ईश्वर के चरणों में सब

माँ थी तुम्हारी, माँ रहूँगी सदा
वह जगह कभी रिक्त न होगी रहा यह वादा
मेरा अंश है तुम में कैसे बदल सकता है यह
जब भी मन से पुकारोगे पाओगे अपने पास तुम

Godrej Expert

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review : Being Mortal

Title : Being Mortal
Author : Atul Rawande
Publisher : Penguin Books Ltd.

'Doctors are trained to keep their patients alive as long as possible. But they are never taught how to prepare people to die. And yet for many patients, particularly the old and terminally ill, death is a question of when, not it.'

While one cannot underestimate the boons of medical science in a human's life, the other side of it cannot be ignored altogether. Thanks to research and advancements, we are able to witness a polio free world, reduced rates of child mortality, lesser complications in child birth, cures of diseases which were earlier fatal - to just name a few. However, we cannot completely overlook the fact that medicine has made dying really complicated and difficult.

And this is what Dr. Atul Rawande talks about in his book - Being Mortal.

Modern healthcare has increased the life span of average human beings from 60s and 70s to 80s and 90s. While medical science has done wonders in prolonging the life of the physical body but ageing of the body is beyond any science and as a result more and more elderly people end up in a phase where their frail bodies and other faculties need assistance.

Atul Gawande has rightly pointed out, 'In the past few decades, medical science has rendered obsolete centuries of experience, tradition and language about our mortality and created a new difficulty for mankind : how to die.'

It makes the readers introspect and many questions start clouding the mind - what is the right time to let go, when should medicinal intervention back off and let the person exit gracefully, respectfully and peacefully; what percentage of quality of life can be compromised for the quality or vice versa; where should one go when a patient is beyond any medicine or doctor; how does one wait for the final time knowing that it is approaching fast; where is the support for the affected and the family and many more. There is a high probability that each one of us will have to confront these questions in one's lifetime either for oneself or for some loved one.

Atul Gawande talks about nursing homes and other facilities in US which help an individual continue to have normal life as far as possible. Later he also talks about how one can die peacefully and gracefully and the organisations that are working to make it happen. People are recongnising the need of setups like Hospice care and other residential facilities which can spare a person from piercing needles and confined-to-bed state.

Towards the end he shares his own father's last stage of life from a tumour of the spine. He shares his emotions as a shocked and concerned son and as an informed surgeon but eventually her knows, he needs to pose the right question to his father in order to choose the right course moving forward. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review : A Book of Simple Living

Title : A Book of Simple Living
Author : Ruskin Bond
Publisher : Speaking Tiger

'The cosmos has all the genius of simplicity.'

Start reading first paragraph and one embarks on a journey into a world where time is no longer a constraining factor and where nature guides everything. Ruskin Bond offers a small peak into his routine and one gets to see the beauty in the simplicity of life. The way he describes his room and the window which opens into three different worlds - the mountains, the sky and the road - is fascinating. At least for the time when one is reading his words, one  gets transported to the same room amidst the same surroundings  - the never changing hills, the full of movement road and the author's preferred view, the sky. He feels the sky is never the same, it is always filled with beautiful hues from the divine palette.

As the much acclaimed author pays befitting tribute to nature, he subtly conjures the readers to acknowledge the presence of co-inhabitants of our mother earth, admiring their uniqueness and paying obeisance to the natural scheme of things. He shows us the side of the world and life which in the fast time-bound schedules, we are fast losing touch with. He talks about various flora and fauna that fill his life with colour, fragrance, music and liveliness. He has ample time - to listen to every natural sound, to drink in the scent of wild flowers and leaves and to observe tiny creatures minding their business.

'Live close to nature and your spirit will not be easily broken, for you learn something of patience and resilience. You will not grow restless and you will never feel lonely.'

He then talks about various other things, vicissitudes of life, his love and longing, his writings, how a new topic comes knocking at his door or through his window, the reassurance that one looks for at certain times and many memorable moments spent in the lap of nature. The narrative is abound with characters like cicadas, magpies, field mice, spiders, swallows, maidenhair fern, geraniums, marigolds, chrysanthemums, pines, oaks, walnut trees, tall deodars, maple, chestnut and many more names. There is a background score in the narrative which is sometimes bubbling mountain river, orchestra of crickets or rustling of leaves. The landscape keeps changing colours from pristine snow white, verdant green to riot of fall colours.

The simplicity of his life, his writing is just fascinating and one needs to read it to feel it, because he writes to connect. In his words, 'I want my readers to feel what I feel, to see what I see, and big words and big sentences come in the way of this sharing. It is clarity and honesty that I am striving to attain; there can be no lasting connection with my readers without these. And to be clear and open is to be simple.'

The reason why I cannot stop admiring the book is because it somehow aligns with my own feelings when I am close to nature. In the written words, I could actually read some of my own feelings that nature sparks
in me. While I get immersed in my daily routine, I often dream and long for - being in a wide open expanse of land adorned with verdure  or walking on a narrow pathway guarded by thick trees with huge canopies or driving on a thin serpentine road merging into the folds of mighty mountains or gazing at the endlessly stretched firmament to my heart's content or watching raindrops fall on the ground willingly accepting their new identity in unison with other companions. Just the thought of these bring in a deep sense of peace, perspective and a connection with someone supreme in every single entity.

Don’t let the beauty of the nature pass by unnoticed, unacknowledged and unregistered because it is the simplest and purest form of beauty. Let it tickle every sensory nerve of one's being. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Review : She Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Title : She Loves Me,
He Loves Me Not
Author : Zeenat Mahal
Publisher : Indireads

Zoella has grown nurturing a silent crush for Fardeen Malik for many years. She happens to be the best friend of Fardeen's sister but she knows her feelings would never get reciprocated as Fardeen is already engaged to a  stunning socialite. Moreover, the two engaged families belong to the same section of the society. But destiny has something else in store for all of the characters when Fardeen gets badly disfigured in an accident. The accident takes away a lot from Fardeen besides his handsome looks and his fiancée is one of those. From a prince charming he transitions into an annoying, hurtful and hateful person. Twist of circumstances brings Zoella closer to Fardeen but was she wishing for such a fate for herself and for his beloved?

'She Loves Me, He Loves Me Not' is a love story set in modern day Pakistan while keeping the soul of a classic fairy tale intact. Hopeless circumstances, sudden twists, fate playing a big role, some baseless notions, tempers and much more are beautifully dealt with in the narrative.

The author has painstakingly carved the characters Zoella and Fardeen. Zoella, a silent admirer of her friend's brother, sincere in her duties and a family person does all for her family without expecting anything in return. Fardeen has always been away from any troubles or imperfections of life till he confronts a situation where he comes face to face with his own not so pleasing new reflection. Riding different waves of emotions and feelings, they end up tying their lives together and what follows is a bumpy ride.

The way different perspectives are dealt with and are allowed to develop gradually is a commendable job done by the author. Readers would surely appreciate how Zoella matures into a confident and strong individual from a shy and timid girl. Moreover, the window that Zeenat has opened into Pakistan through her writing is quite alluring. Her description of that world's traditions and  customs is fascinating and keeps the readers glued to the story till the last page. However, a tighter editing could have cut down a few pages from the book that keep highlighting their mutual conflicts. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Article : Materchef in Every Kitchen (The Tribune : Feb 22, 2015)

Move over daily soaps, cookery shows have taken the nation by storm, as housewives from Kashmir to Kanyakumari are plating and presenting their dishes

Read the full story here...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Interview : Kavita Kane

Kavita Kane, the author of Karna's Wife and Sita's Sister shares her views and opinions through this short e-interview here. 

Your first book was Karna's Wife and the second Sita's Sister. There is a pattern in the characters that you pick for your books. Who will be the  next?

There is no conscious pattern as such. I select characters which fascinate me in all their ambiguity whose story can be retold in a book. Am working on my third book but cannot say much about it right now. Just that it would be unlike the previous two.

We see a lot of books on retelling of mythology these  days, with contemporary touch. Why do you think mythology has become the flavour of the season?

Mythology has always been popular, be it part of our folk tales, theatre, art, literature, music and dance. In contemporary times the popularity has been translated to a new medium - teleserials, novels, video games etc. The interest in mythology especially the epics is witnessing a resurgence due to our close connect with it and its fascinating multi layers can be unravelled from time to time.

How has been the response to your books? Are you satisfied with the same?

Both have received excellent reports but I honestly was overwhelmed at the huge response!

What is your dream story, have you started working on that already?

Each story I write is a dream story. I dream about it often and the nightmare is if I get stuck! But seriously, every story is written with the same passion and creativity -but how well it does depends on the readers!

Which kind of books do you enjoy reading yourself? Who are your favourite authors?

I am still hooked onto PG Wodehouse and the thriller genre for light reading. I have no favourite authors - I have loved each author whose works I have read. Those I don't like I never manage to finish their book! Like reading, your choice of authors depend largely on your mood, age and maturity. Once upon a time I never read non-fiction!

How has been the journey of being an authoress so far? What is the biggest joy of being one?

It's been a big pleasant surprise! And what really touched me was the huge help I received from other authors especially the famous established ones who took out time to encourage me. What I love about being a writer is that I get to do what I love!

Any tips that you'd want to pass on to the new authors?

Write a good story and tell it well. 
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