Friday, December 9, 2011

Book Review : City of Djinns

Title : City of Djinns

Author : William Dalrymple

Publisher : Penguin Books India

ISBN : 978-0-143-03106-2

William Dalrymple is an accomplished historian and a great narrator. City of Djinns traces back the history of a fascinating city- Dilli or Delhi, which has innumerable stories buried deep in the folds of centuries that it stood witness to. The bygone eras are beautifully brought to light in this book taking the readers to a retro journey to find the roots of the city which was believed to be first established as Indraprastha (the original name) by the Pandava borthers, post Kurukshetra battle. Since that time, the city has been through a lot, has witnessed a lot, has endured a lot, has lost a lot and has transformed a lot. This is one city which has displayed unmatched resilience as beautifully worded by the author here , "Though it had been burned by the invaders time and time again, millennium after millennium, still the city was rebuilt, each time it rose like a phoenix from the fire. "

During his one year stay in Delhi, William actually travelled centuries back trying to delve deep in the past of the city which makes it what it is today. He introduces the readers to the two worlds of the same city as they now exist - Old Delhi and New Delhi. Old Delhi which was once an epitome of prosperity, sophistication, culture and magnificence is nothing more than a graveyard of Mughal era now. What is visible now is just the sad reminder of the past, and the ugly face of poverty and ruin at every nook and crevice of the place. This is the same place which bore testimony to the zenith and nadir of great dynasties.

In contrast, New Delhi is what urban India represents - which initially became the shelter for people who poured in from the partitioned Pakistan during 1947 and later from Punjab during 1984 riots. These people, predominantly Punjabis are the business class elite and there is mutual despise between the citizens belonging to these two different worlds. Dalrymple points out that these two diverse worlds meet briefly at the traffic lights as outstretched palms are thrust through the open car windows. The plight of Old Delhi is evident from this excerpt - "Today Old Delhi is a dustbin. Those who can afford have houses outside the walled city. Only the poor man who has no shelter comes to live here. Today there are no longer any educated men in the old city. All the learning, all the manners have gone. Everything is crude now."

Not many places can claim to have been a witness to such extremes as - the affluence and prosperity of Mughal reign versus Persian Massacres in 1739, aestheticism at its best during the reign of emperors like Shah Jahan versus the plunder by British post 1857 mutiny, magnificent architectural genius which have withstood the harshest tests of times versus the indifference towards the same and letting these monuments crumble with time, safe haven for physically and emotionally bleeding people who migrated from Pakistan during partition versus new wounds that were opened in 1984 riots, and much more.

Where does the city stand today? Is there no one left to even remember the likes of Mir, Zauk, Ghalib, Dagh? Is there no patron of chaste Urdu any more? Has the city become a carcass without its soul?

City of Djinnns is a very well researched piece of writing and the mention of dates, eras and the sources of information bring in the authenticity of the same.

Dalrymple takes the readers along to various places, sights and experiences in his venture to dig deeper into the enigmatic city that is Delhi. He joins in the celebration of various Indian religious festivals and vividly presents the experiences. He spends time in the society of eunuchs who earlier were entrusted the task of guarding the Mughal harems but are now literally shunned by the society to fend for themselves by performing at weddings and births. He visits Sufi enclaves which have a huge following by people of all religions and beliefs. He also interviews many Anglo Indians who are completely disowned by both - the country of their birth (India) and the country with which they have blood ties. He meets those who are trying to defy change of times by taking pleasure in continuing the tradition of partridge fights and pigeon collection.

However, I found two irritants in the narration - on a couple of occasions the author delves deep into too many intricate details about a particular person or incident which takes the focus off the mainline narrative. Such places in the book prove to be big diversions in the otherwise well connected and understandable commentary on history.

Secondly, the mention of same old (ab)normal Indian stuff that has been poked fun at by many other Western authors. I guess my expectations run much higher from an author of William Dalrymple's stature and sensibilities, who has experienced Indian slice of life very closely for many years.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review : The Magic Raindrop

Title : The Magic Raindrop

Author : Geeta Dharmarajan

Illustrator : Bindia Thapar

Publisher : Katha

The Magic Raindrop by Geeta Dharmarajan takes the wee readers into adventurous little world of Kittu and his didi Seetu. It so happens that the raindrop which accidentally falls on Seetu's orange and green kite is no ordinary raindrop. This particular raindrop is possessed with some magical powers and soon enough Seetu watches her kite growing bigger and bigger as it soars higher and higher in the wide expanse of sky. But amazingly the kite still follows Seetu's commands obediently with Seetu holding just a make believe thread to maneuver the kite. The whole day it happily displays various tricks in front of all the village folks and cuts almost all the other kites.

But now the hues on the sky begin to change colours, pinkish sky is fast getting transformed into a grey blanket, the parrots and crows are heading home and the fruit bats are coming out flapping their wings. What would Kittu and Seetu do about the kite now? They need to bring it down but where would they keep this huge kite? Would the kite return to its original size ? Would the kite be as happy as it was when it soared freely in the sky? Would the kite want to stay big forever?

You will get answers to all these questions as you read along this interesting story. Lovely artwork by Bindia Thapar brilliantly brings the story to life. The extra information on Kites about - the origin of kites, kite festivals, beliefs and rituals of different cultures using kites, some facts around kites - is a lovely treat.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Review : The Gijjigadus and the Fireflies

Title : The Gijjigadus and the Fireflies

Author : Gopini Karunakar

Illustrator : Atanu Roy

Publisher : Katha

After reading this book I had great appreciation for the lovely imagination of the author. The story begins with Gijjigudas , the golden sparrows, flying to the Kingdom of Gods with a very genuine request. Their nests are dark, they do not have light and in the absence of anything lit in their nests, their children are scared at night. They also need light, which is so easily available to so many living creatures and they support their argument by showing the Gods - the light in the homes of humans, the light emitting gems of cobras and the shining eyes of owls, all of which are adequate to ward off darkness from their respective lives. The God- Devuda and the gijjigudas brainstorm together to find the solution to this unique problem.

Are they able to find any solution? Will gijjigudas ever get any light in their dark nests? Who will help them to light their nests ?

A beautiful subtle lesson on - how friendly and symbiotic this whole nature is - so self sustaining and so selfless.

An interesting activity on helpful bugs at the end is an added bonus. It is a huge book, each page brings a treat for the eyes in the form of detailed art work by Atanu Roy. The beautiful and liberal usage of almost all sections of the colour palette make this whole book a visual treat and a delightful reading experience which you would not want to miss.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Book Review : Bioscope

Title : Bioscope

Author : Mamta Nainy

Illustrator : Shanti Devi

Publisher : Katha

This is the story of a little girl Champa, also called Guddu, who is very excited to give a tour of her native place to the readers. But sadly, the sun is very bright and it is hard to step out of the house at this time. But Guddu is never short of ideas, she invites the readers to peep into her village through her drawings. Mithila, the birthplace of Sita is just a few miles away from where Guddu lives. Guddu likes to narrate the story of her life through her paintings, she has everybody and everything in those paintings.

Through her paintings, she shares her day to day activities and hobbies with us, she introduces her little animal friends who are an integral part of her life and she also talks about different places in the village and some of the festivals they celebrate in their unique style by decorating their walls or sometimes offering milk to Kaliya, the snake.

Her mother draws beautiful pictures on the walls of the house and for these paintings, she prepares the colours much in advance. Guddu and Titli didi learn to draw these paintings from her mother.

Guddu comes across as a very warm-hearted little girl who invites people to come over to her village to eat the best sweets in the world and to see the beautiful places and paintings.

This endearing little story is brought to life by the enchanting paintings of Shanti Devi who is a skilled painter in the Madhubani style of Bihar. She brilliantly captures the essence of rustic life in Mithila region through the painted myths and religious symbols. She also conducts workshops for children on the Madhubani style of paintings. A wonderful attempt by Katha to bring such folk art in prominence and to give the proficient artists the respect and fame that they so rightly deserve.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Review : Leaves

Title : Leaves

Illustrator : Enrique Lara and Luis Garcia

Publisher : Katha

Looking outside from the window, different vistas of nature await us every single day. The big and small creatures busy in their mundane routine, the beautiful hues that appear from time to time in the expanse of sky, gorgeous starry blanket stretched over us during the night time, fluttering bugs in the mighty wind and life getting transformed every single moment - all bringing the magical wonders created by the supreme creator. But one thing that mesmerizes the narrator the most is the colourful array of leaves of the trees.

All these things fill the heart of the narrator with medley of feelings, emotions and some desires which mirror the scenes that he/she watches from the window of his/her room.

A tiny book with each page resplendent with generous spray of colours all around. The written text is just the minimal but in the presence of such lovely riot of colours nothing seems to be amiss. Pick this book up and you will realize how much we miss in our day to day lives by taking the magic of nature for granted and by not being aware of its wonders around us.

Enrique Lara Robayo and Luis Fernando Garcia Guayara are the Columbia illustrators who are the winners of the Encouragement Prize in the 12th Norma Concurs for Picture Book illustrations.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review : TransGanization

Title : TransGanization

Author : Rohit Arora

Publisher : Times Group Books

ISBN : 978-93-80942-35-3

Blurb says : Rohit Arora presents his thoughts on how organizations face growth trajectory problems operationally. The content also gives explanation on the strategic approach to moulding organizational dynamics when the organization is moving from the free energy of entrepreneur set-up to a more structured way of working.

Rohit begins presenting his case by illustrating the point through some statistics on why and how organizations fail when efforts to change are attempted despite huge monetary investments backing those efforts. So how should organizations go about the inevitable change process in order to make it a successful transition? The first and foremost step towards this goal is to identify the three most crucial elements of change - the "What, When and How", of the change.

The author very neatly draws parallels between a life cycle of a human vs that of a growing organization. The company which is newly formed is primarily under the influence of entrepreneur's ideas and thoughts, which moves on to second level when promoters and management take over and lead it to next stage, professionals step into the equation at this stage and funds are pumped into the company to let it grow at an accelerated pace and then the final stage comes when the company assumes the role of a leader in its core area and diversifies into new sectors. Through this book, the author addresses the stage when an organization is all geared up to enter phase 2 and the problems associated with the same.

There are many significant aspects which have been discussed as we go along the book - the finances required at this stage, the significance of standardized documented processes, importance of creativity of thoughts and conversion of thoughts into tangible actions, and the courage supported by perseverance to step into unknown territories

In this whole process what does a 'change leader' do in order to make this whole process a smooth transition and a pleasurable experience for all.

A very well written, precise guide on some of the very significant elements of change and how best to tackle


Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Review : Charliezz...

Title : Charliezz…

Author : Trupthi Guttal and Zeeshan Farooqui

Publisher : Frog Books

ISBN : 978-93-81576-55-7

The story begins in an engineering firm where its two employees - Zahir Pathan and Khushi Patil, who happen to be the main characters of the story too, are immersed in their day to day struggles to keep themselves afloat in spite of the high pressures and demands of their respective jobs. The corporate scene is brought to life through the conversation among the colleagues as well as between CEO (who is addressed as 'Blast Furnace') and the employees. The friendly banter between the colleagues works well in creating a believable picture of the work place.

It so happens that Zahir reminisces about his college days when he was one among a group of five friends and gives a sneak peek to Khushi into his carefree days of college life. He narrates some hilarious incidents and the antics they got engaged in during that time.

The accidental meeting with one of Zahir's old friends opens the gates to those memories which Zahir had not shared yet and one particular gate led to the memories of his first true love for a certain girl Rashmi. But this love story had a sad ending. What was the reason - was it the difference of religions which forced them to part ways? Was it the treachery of one of them ? And where does Khushi come in this whole scene, does she have anything to do with this love story ? These are some interesting questions which get answered as you read along the story.

A typical cross -religion love story but with a small twist in the end which perks up the interest of the readers but sadly it makes just 50-60 pages out of total of 190 odd pages.

Almost till 3/4th of the book, it felt like the story was going nowhere because Zahir was simply narrating his old memories to the friends in the office, which were bordering on the side of repetitive and a little drab. However, the story picks up remarkably after that and concludes beautifully.

The book is written primarily in conversational format (though it is not a play), which disrupts the flow of the story. Quoting a few short instances in this format is fine but having written almost complete story in this fashion makes it a cumbersome exercise for the readers to follow.

A few typos that have crept in the book should have been done away with.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review : Silent Voices by Rohit Shetty

Title : Silent Voices

Author : Rohit Shetty

Publisher : Frog Books

ISBN : 978-93-81115-24-4

The Blurb of the book says:

"How does it feel when you want to say something, express your feelings, but are unable to put them into words? Each one of us needs to express our emotions. While some people can do so with ease, voicing what they feel without any qualms, there are so many others who are hesitant, who cannot express their emotions vocally. For them, one form of expression is poetry. The poet prefers using this medium to express himself. Here is a collection of the unsaid feelings and thoughts of a person penned down in the form of poetry. Silent Voices will bring tears to your eyes, smiles on your face and gladness in you heart. Verses that will make you relate to these emotions and give you an outlet for emotional fulfilment... "

Rohit Shetty expresses himself through some beautiful verses on varied emotions that each human is uniquely blessed with. I would say, he has done it pretty neatly and some of the poems are able to stir some chords deep inside the heart, however, there are a few which just pass on without creating even a tiny ripple on the heart's pond.

Poems address emotions covering a wide spectrum from - love and happiness to despair and sorrow of lost love or of unreciprocated sentiments, from love at first sight to the whole journey of love. A few of the poems which really drew me into his thoughts are the ones dedicated to - stirring longing of a caged spirit, hope and positivity, magic key of love which can open hardest of locks and can surmount even the most difficult hurdles, virtues of smiling face and what miracles this simple gesture can bring in and many such other verses.

Overall an interesting potpourri of assorted feelings, thoughts and emotions.

For a poet who has been writing since the age of 12 years, this is a great milestone and the readers must not skip the 'Acknowledgements' part at the end where he has summarised his journey of being a poet so far. It is encouraging to see how undying determination backed with consistent efforts lead an individual to success.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review : The Manga Guide To The Universe

Title : The Manga Guide To The Universe

Author : Kenji Ishikawa

Publisher : Ohmsha and No Starch Press

ISBN : 978-1-59327-267-8

Manga is the Japanese word for 'comics' and this format has been used for imparting information about various science concepts to the students. Ohmsha Press is instrumental in coming up with some really fascinating books under this series. The same task has been taken over by No Starch Press in USA to create similar kind of impact in English too. 'The Manga Guide to The Universe' is an entertaining and an informative guide on how far we have come in deciphering the mysteries of our universe. It provides an easily readable and understandable introduction to astronomy.

The five chapters take the readers through the step-by-step unraveling of the enigmatic mysteries of the universe. It begins with 'Is Earth The Center of The Universe?' where different earlier beliefs are discussed and how eventually it was established that Earth is one of the planets rotating around the Sun in our Solar System. The subsequent chapters are - 'From the Solar System to The Milky Way', 'The Universe Was Born With A Big Bang', 'What Is It Like At The Edge Of The Universe' and 'Our Expanding Universe'. Interesting and intriguing topics are dealt with in these chapters ranging from - the origin of the universe, its shape and size, extent of the universe to possibility of life in outer space. The information is packed in tandem with an interesting Manga which children will enjoy reading. So there is a perfect balance of fun part and the interesting knowledge enhancing part in this book.

The manga part brings to life the scenes from Kouki High School whose Drama Club is working towards putting up a show for the school's art festival. If they are not able to accomplish this task, the only option left with the school would be do close down the Drama Club so the senior Yamane, junior Kanna and new American exchange student Gloria take upon themselves to enact the adaptation of an ancient Japanese tale - 'The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter'. Through this story they try to present an outer space romance of a princess from the moon. To starighten out the sci-fi elements of their play they take the help of Kanna's older brother Kente and his professors. This leads them to understanding many interesting concepts of Universe and space. The professors lessons are presented in the form of comic which are followed by sections of scientific facts with relevant diagrams and pictures to elaborate upon the understanding of the characters of the comic part.

There are Manga Guides on many other topics like electricity, physics, calculus and statistics.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Literary Sojourn Recommends...

Perfectly befitting the mood of festivity in the air, Spark decided to celebrate the "Festivals" in its own unique way in the Nov issue. They focused on the F of the word Festivals by celebrating 5 Fs - Food, Fun, Fiction, Friendship and Fashion and the editorial team approached me to list and review 10 must read Fiction novels.

I am glad to be a part of this wonderful gesture of Spark and my compliments to the whole team of the Spark for this fabulous idea.

Wondering what to read, check my picks here...

Book Review : Hathi Chiti's Tales of India Collection

Title : In The Indian Night Sky

Author : Reshma Sapre

Illustrator : Jayme Robinson

All the heavenly bodies in our night sky are preparing to go to a grand feast organized by Thunder and Lightening. Sun, Wind and the Moon - the children of North Star are super excited too but the mother decides to stay back and light the way of her children back. But she sends each of them with only one request that each should bring for her something special from the grand feast.

Do her children remember this small request of their mother in all the merriment of the party? Are they responsible enough to take care of themselves? What does mother have to say to their behaviour and what verdict does she announce after having seen them behaving (ir)responsibly? Finding answers to these questions makes it an interesting read.

All the pages are filled up with beautiful night sky pictures and the teasing text scattered here and there blends nicely with the illustrations.

Title : The Unfortunate Tale of Kachuva the Tortoise

Author : Reshma Sapre

Illustrator : Jayme Robinson

The old Chukwa Sulcata narrates this story to the children of the old tortoise village in the foothills of Himalayas. Like all little tortoises, we all have grown listening to the story of that unfortunate kachuva who fell down while he was flying with his two duck friends holding a stick in his mouth. But not many of us know what happened after that, how it changed the lives of the following generations of tortoises and what life lesson we all learnt from that incident. This story brings to us precisely that and the cute little extension of the age old classic makes it an engaging read.

Title : Patnaxi Crezy Long Journey Home

Author : Reshma Sapre

Illustrator : Jayme Robinson

Patnaxi is the story of a single grain of rice written in interesting prose. The little grain who is not ready to take things lying down, who dares to change his destiny and who displays exemplary courage in putting all efforts to make that change happen. Patnaxi does not want to leave his homeland for the new strange world. But unfortunately he finds himself stuck to the shoe of the sailor. Is there any chance of his survival and can a small grain of rice fight against huge hurdles on his path ? The situation does look very hopeless but then the indefatigable grit and determination do manage to surmount all impediments.

Title : The Traveller The Tiger and The Very Clever Jackal

Author : Reshma Sapre

Illustrated : Jessica Lian

An interesting tale of a traveller who is itching to embark on a new adventure. Soon after commencing his journey, he finds himself in front of a caged tiger who pleads him for his freedom. But once the tiger is set free, the famished man-eater tiger is ready to feast on the traveller himself. Now the traveller has to pay the price for being so sympathetic to the tiger who was caged and desperate just a few moments back. Is this foolishness or generosity of the traveller? Should he be punished for setting the tiger free? The story makes the young readers think a little about the silent companions, helpers and providers who make things available to us humans and what do we do in return? We cut the trees, we torture birds and animals after having taken their services, perhaps punishing them for their generosity and foolishness of serving us. A thought provoking story and very well narrated.

Overall a great way to introduce some interesting concepts, issues and life lessons through the folktales. All four books are quite unique in their style, illustrations and presentations.

Hathi and Chiti are Hindi Indian names for elephant and ant respectively and there are many folktales based on their friendship and kinship. The new brand of children's books by the name 'Hathi and Chiti' brings the age old classics in new avatars for the children once again.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Book Review : Revolution 2020

Title : Revolution 2020

Author : Chetan Bhagat

Publisher : Rupa

Revolution 2020 is a story of two boys(Raghav and Gopal) and a girl(Aarti), of love and hatred, of treachery and vengeance, of richness and poverty, of success and failure, of ambition and corruption, and of inner drive to bring revolution and succumbing to the lure of lucre. Three individuals whose lives begin from the same primary school in a small town of Varanasi, experience various life's vicissitudes and handle them in their own unique ways attempting to find success and love.

The story wraps many issues in its folds - the corruption in education, mad rush for the coveted seats in esteemed engineering and medical colleges, the extent to which people are ready to endure to ensure a safe future through the lofty degrees and the pressure of performing and proving oneself which many times gets out of hands. But the story is basically a love triangle and the previously mentioned issues become the tributaries of the love saga between three friends.

Ambition part of the story is dealt well bringing a slice of life in alluring Kota city and the students vying to join the training institutes like swarming bees. However, the love story becomes a little drab. The way the heroine showers attention on one boy and ignores the other till half of the story and repeats the same with the boys switching positions, becomes annoyingly repetitive.

This is the fifth novel that Chetan Bhagat has come out with. The very beginning reminded me of his another book - 3 Mistakes of My Life - both take the readers on the past journey as the protagonist reminisces from a hospital bed. After having read all the writing endeavours of Bhagat, I maintain that he is one of the authors who do not offer any new idea or unconventional thinking through their books, however what became the selling point of his books (especially the first - Five Point Someone and the fourth - 2 States) was the witty and engaging narration. Unfortunately, the author falters big time in Revolution 2020. The story lacks substance and the presentation part also falls short of what is expected from Chetan Bhagat. Overall, it fails to create much impact.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Book Review : Into The Unknown : How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea and Air

Title : Into The Unknown

Author : Stewart Ross

Illustrator : Stephen Biesty

Publisher : Walker Books

Age : 8+ years

Air, Water, Land - The three most fundamental requisites of life. With evolution and the development of complex brain cells, the human beings continued climbing the hierarchy of needs step by step. Once the faculties to satisfy the basic needs were developed and honed, the eagerness to know the environment arose and this led many inquisitive minds to think, imagine and question beyond what they could see. Their undying curiosity led them to take the never travelled paths, their determination equipped them to surpass mighty hurdles on their ways and their indomitable spirits eventually made them pioneers. The names of these individuals qualified to be engraved in the annals of history among the mortals who became immortals. As the author puts it - "The courage and determination of the individual men and women in this book are why we know so much about the beauty, majesty and mystery of our world."

Besides being the most essential life creating and sustaining elements - Land, Air and Water also provide the conduits to the explorers in their quest to know the unknown.

The book begins with the adventure of Pytheas the Greek - who sailed to the Arctic Circle in 340 BC in a very primitive boat without even having the very basic compass for assistance, to the year 1969 when history was made by the crew of Apollo 11 which landed on moon. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay do not need any introduction, their names have almost become synonymous to the mighty Mt. Everest. Through the stories behind each adventure and the vivid details presented with the illustrations, the readers actually feel like - sailing with Christopher Columbus to the Caribbean, circumnavigating the world with Ferdinand Magellan, crossing the Indian Ocean with Admiral Zheng, experiencing putting the first foot on moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and many more such exhilarating highs.

The commendable of this book is how the content is arranged and depicted through illustrations. Each adventure comes with the zoomed in map of the specific region from where the journey began, the detailed route that the explorer took, the various navigation tools used on the way, the different gears used and the kind of boats/ships/airships/gondolas/rockets that took them closer to their dreams.

The cover page of the book is a complete delight. It is actually a folded world map and on opening it, you get a full view of all the significant explorations with exact paths charted out. A great book that gives detailed information about how the efforts of some of the adventurous minds help put the puzzle pieces of our world together for us to understand and savor.

Image Source : GoodReads

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Review : Water Dance

Title : Water Dance

Author and Illustrator : Thomas Locker

Publisher : Harcourt

Is it a picture book or a book full of text? Is it a children's book or otherwise? Is it a prose or verse? Is it a science or an art book?

The answer to all these questions is very simple - this book belongs to a category selectively reserved for the ones which satisfy all definitions yet defy any one description, which impart so much but do the same so very subtly, which work wonders but it is difficult to replicate the experience every time, which reiterate the known facts but offer the unmatched freshness in doing so.

So if you have picked this book up, you are in for a wonderful adventure and a pleasant surprise.

The life blood of our planet, of each and every breathing creature - WATER takes us along on a journey of its life. It falls from sky as rain, it cascades as mountain stream, it spirals down a mountain cliff making a waterfall, it stays still in a lake, it winds through valleys as river, it rushes to meet the big expanse of ocean, it rises in the air forming mist, it floats in the sky as clouds, or it thunders furiously. The various dance forms and the moves of the water create an endless cycle that it keeps following incessantly.

Displaying its unparalleled virtues - the wisdom of adapting, the acumen of transforming, the poise of getting transformed, the vulnerability in surrendering - water assumes the role of a great mentor of all times.

Water, in its varied avatars, influences so many and gets impacted by so many. On its journey through the world, it experiences and expresses different emotions - from fury of storm, calmness of lake to free-spiritedness of ocean waves.

An exquisite book which has poetic text and mesmerizing oil paintings, each one worth getting picture framed. A really beautiful way to introduce water cycle while subtly highlighting the profound philosophy of life and how much we all need to learn from this silent but powerful element of life.

Image Courtesy : Barnes&Noble

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Celebration Time on Saffron Tree

Saffron Tree turns 5 today and to mark this milestone, the celebrations will span from 23rd Oct to 30th Oct.

This annual festival is known by the name : CROCUS Celebrate Reading Of Culturally Unique Stories

The theme for this year is - 5 Essential Elements - Earth, Air, Water, Fire and Space

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Review : Sikandar

Title : Sikandar

Author : Binayak Banerjee (Translated By Soma Ghosh)

Pubisher : Westland

The one feeling which will remain with the readers after having read the complete book, is that of utter confusion. The book begins by introducing the ten characters who are part of the reality show on the format of Big Boss or Big Brother. I was paying extra attention to the part where the characters were introduced but despite all eyes, other senses and mind into the book, I lost track of the characters soon after the fourth one entered the scene.

In the times when a whole deluge of reality shows are dished out to the viewers through multitude of channels, it is not difficult to understand the background of the story. 10 contestants have to spend 68 days together in a house - Jatugriha. The motto of the reality show is 'Jo Jita Wohi Sikandar'( the person who wins will be the Sikandar). The winner has to survive all eliminations which are executed by public voting system. No doubt, the story demanded the character sketches of the ten participants but one thing is sure, unveiling them back to back did not help. With each passing chapter, the confusion keeps building up to such an extent that at one point I felt, the words mouthed by one character could easily have been uttered by another. The characters got all mixed up barring 2-3. Desperate attempts have been made to reach under the skin of the characters who hail from very diverse backgrounds and different walks of life - a teacher, an actor, a hermit, a prostitute, an industrialist, a politician and some more.

The author has tried to put all participants on the driver seat one by one to take the journey forward, but Kanishka Sengupta, the actor and Lovely, the prostitute - hog maximum spotlight. As the show progresses, some old skeletons leave the closets and come out in the public, some hidden secrets are bared while true love kindles in the hearts of two inmates. Another major put off was overdose of philosophical conversations happening in the house.

I am sure the story could have been salvaged somewhere but it leaves the readers completely cheated and me questioning, why would I not watch a Big Boss episode instead of taking the burden to read through this book?

In my opinion, the good books are not the ones which make the readers wreck their brains in trying to make sense out of the story. Unfortunately the story of Sikandar does not go anywhere and the readers keep waiting and wondering - what is the point behind writing this book. Are such books written to just test the patience of readers - whether they can finish reading it from cover to cover? Cannot seem to find a single reason why any one should read it even once. As a book reviewer, I do feel happy that I am actually doing a service to people in my own humble way - dissuading them from some not so readable literature.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book Review : Faces In The Water

Title : Faces In The Water

Author : Ranjit Lal

Publisher : Puffin

ISBN : 978-0-143-33106-3

I came to know about this book when it was among the shortlisted books in the Children's section, for the Vodafone Crossword Book Awards 2010 and then this book was adjudged the best in that category. The other competitors in the same category being :

Mr. Oliver's Diary by Ruskin Bond (reviewed here)

At Least A Fish by Anushka Ravishankar (reviewed here)

The Fang of Summoning by Giti Chandra

Koni - The Story of a Champion by Moti Nandy (reviewed here)

Sahyadri Adventure : Anirudh Dream by Deepak Dalal

Sahyadri Adventure : Koleshwar's Secret by Deepak Dalal

Needless to say, I really wanted to read it and the excerpts were very promising too.

The book addresses one of the shameful ills that is crippling our Indian society - the preference for male child and the fanaticism carried forward to extremely inhumane acts like female infanticide.

The very prosperous and affluent Diwanchand family is proud of having only sons in their lineage and they owe this special honour to the magical water from the well which is located near their ancestral house. The 15-year old son of this family Gurmeet once gets to spend a few days in the that house and wants to explore the area on his own especially the very famous well. But what does he see in the well water, his own reflection, no. There are three faces staring back at him from the well water - and those three faces belong to three girls. Then begins the journey of unraveling the mystery behind those faces and what do they have to do with the water being magical which blesses the family with only sons progeny. Are Gurmi and the girls together able to reach the depth of the mystery and do they get to influence the attitude of their male child obsessed parents?

Overall a fast paced, fun filled book which manages to address a serious topic in a lighter tone. Though an adult topic, it is handled in a manner which makes it appropriate for young adults too and actually this is a good strategy because the young adults of today are potential responsible citizens of tomorrow. So by educating them now, there is high probability that such diseases could eventually be eradicated from our society for good. The author has tried to spice the story up by including sufficient funny incidents and moments in the narrative and the magic of cyber world and connectivity are used as aids to bring home the point to the new tech savy generation. There is novelty in the way the inexistent world becomes alive with just connecting a few wires but slowly the same becomes repetitive and loses its charm. I found myself skipping those portions on a couple of occasions because they were hardly moving the story forward, rather they were mere diversions on the otherwise smoothly flowing narrative. These are the portions where the book tends to lose its objective. But otherwise a well written piece, with right amount of sensitivity and emotions that such a topic deserves.

I just hope the attempts of such books start showing some results so that we get to live in a free society which has no shameful acts to hide and no guilt to overcome.

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