Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Review : The City of Ember

Title : The City of Ember
Author : Jeanne Duprau
Publisher : Random House

Another gem of a book introduced to us by my sister and her children. 

There is something strange about the city of Ember. It is night everywhere but no twinkling stars and no moon in the sky. There are no plants and animals except for bugs and insects. It is dark all the time except for the yellow lights that flicker from the lamps in the houses and on the streets. Since there is no notion of day or night, the activities happen as per the specific timings. The lights are put out at certain hour every day indicating bed time and the lights are turned on after specific passage of time every day. Everywhere everything seems to be bathed in an ominous yellow glow but still the brightness is missing. Beyond the area that is lit by these floodlamps there is a black scary world that no one has dared venture into. In fact, some people did try exploring that part of the city but were not successful in finding anything after just a few steps in the pitch dark unknown world. The life has been going on in the city as a rhythm, or is it so? Though people have been living here for more than 240 years, it is becoming more and more noticeable that the storerooms are running out of supplies, things are getting scarcer by every day and the city is plunging into blackouts more often now, bringing everything to standstill. In short, uncertainty is looming large over the future of the city and its inhabitants. This underlying fear is getting reflected in the gloominess that is writ large on the faces of citizens of Ember.

One more school term is over and twelve-year-old Doon Harrow and Lina Mayfleet have been assigned their life jobs - Lina as a messenger, and Doon as Pipeworker. The lifeline of the city - the pipeworks are underground where a river roars and a generator works untiringly, illuminating the whole city. Doon believes that he would find something there among the pipes which could possibly change the doomed future of the city. Lina happens to find an old document titled - 'Instructions for Egress', (Egress means exit) in a torn state and along with Doon she decides to solve the puzzle to find the new world. These happen to be the instructions that were written by the builders of the city some 241 years ago to lead the people out at the right time. But clearly something went wrong in the way it was supposed to get passed on from one generation to another.

While on their mission to find directions out of the city, they stumble upon some unflattering secrets about the mayor of the city and his guards. Doon and Lina now face a prison sentence for spreading false rumours. Time is ticking, the guards are looking for them, Doon and Lina have to decide fast and act fast. They have to decipher the mysterious instructions and the task becomes even more difficult when they do not even know what do things like matchsticks, candle and boat mean. Will they every see any light at the other end of the tunnel?

'The City of Ember' is full of fear, mystery, adventure, and desire and determination of two pre-teens to save the people of their city. The narration is engaging and it is interesting how the strangeness of the city is unraveled slowly chapter after chapter. While smoothly weaving the flow of the story, the author very subtly talks about the 'want' in a person which often plagues any logic or reason that comes in its way. Lina experiences this feeling once when on seeing the colour pencils in the store which she so desperately desired, she finds the 'need' of a coat for her grandmother fading away. It was perhaps the same 'want' which had cast its spell on the mayor and his trusted people too, including one of Lina's friends. 

If you want to know what happened to the people of Ember, you need to read the sequel of this book - The People of Sparks. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Some Quilling and Warli art

and here are a couple of book themed bookmarks...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

India Decoded Through Foreign Writings

If there is one place on the face of earth where all dreams of living men have found home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India – Romain Rolland

India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay – Shashi Tharoor

Reviewed five books which capture the diversity and chaos that is inherent to India here at Spark

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review : Our Moon Has Blood Clots

Title : Our Moon Has Blood Clots
Author : Rahul Pandita
Publisher : Random House India
ISBN : 978-8-18400-087-0

Rahul Pandita brings the ugly yet true story of Kashmiri Pandits who endured the torture from time to time since 1947 because of their faith in one way of reaching the almighty. In an ideal world, this reason for such brutal behaviour sounds so senseless and shallow but oft man has managed to put even animals to shame by his lowly actions.

Rahul was 14 years old in 1990 when his family was forced to exit their home in Srinagar during ethnic cleaning by Islamic militant. This was the time when the threatening calls for 'Azadi' from India by Kashmiri Muslims were getting louder, aggressive and violent against the minority population of Kashmiri Pandits. People were tortured and killed and were forced to leave their homes and spend the rest of their lives in exile in their own country.

As the author reminisces his personal story full of incidents of torture, violence, looting, exodus and unhealed scars, many policies and politicians stand disrobed in front of truth and revelation. While narrating his personal experience as well as those of others in the similar situation, he talks about the fictional mask that has conveniently been given to the facts to suit the needs. The narrative reflects the pain and suffering of the author - who witnessed everything first hand at a very tender age, who saw his parents mourning the loss of their loved ones, who saw a big part of their being dying when they became refugees in their own country, who still yearns to go back to his roots someday. This heart wrenching tale brings in front the ignored plight of a big section of Kashmiri land.

'For me, exile is permanent. Homelessness is permanent. I am uprooted in my mind. There is nothing I can do about it. My idea of home is too perfect. And home and love are two intertwined.  I am like my grandfather, who never left his village his whole life. It was deeply embedded in his matrix, too perfect to be replicated elsewhere.' There is yearning, there is hope and there is pain when Rahul says, 'We will return permanently'.

'Our Moon has Blood Clots'  is a sad yet compelling story about the open wounds of numerous families which became homeless and refugees in a matter of hours and days because of some mad fundamentalist  fervor. Rahul Pandita has taken it upon himself to bring the names and numbers of every person who bore the brunt of this brutality. "I have made it my mission to talk about the 'other story' of Kashmir. I have reduced my life to names and numbers, I have memorised the names of every Pandit killed during those dark days, and the circumstances in which he or she was killed. I have memorised the number of people killed in each district. I have memorised how many of us were registered as refugees in Jammu and elsewhere." This is his way of making people aware of the forgotten chapter in the history of Kashmir.

It is heartening to read that in spite of such extremely harsh circumstances, the humane traits can thrive if one so desires and Rahul Pandita owes his thinking to his upbringing when he could confront an army chief by saying, "I have lost my home, not my humanity".
A great book to understand the real blood-stained history of the 'Paradise on Earth'.
A brief timeline at the end summarises the events in chronological order for reference.
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