Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book Review : Tuki's Grand Salon Chase

Title : Tuki's Grand Salon Chase
Author : Parul Sharma
Publisher : Westland
ISBN : 978-93-83260-59-1

Parul Sharma, impressed many and made many followers (including me) with her first two books - 'Bringing Up Vasu' and 'By the Water Cooler'. So I was waiting for her next piece of writing all this while. Finally her 'Tuki's Grand Salon Chase' reached  me and I did not lose any time starting to read it.

After having read the book, I can safely say that Parul has managed to continue her winning streak this time as well. As the name suggests this is a story of a young ambitious girl Tulika (Tuki) who dedicatedly works towards achieving the goal, carefully following her well thought out plan A. She successfully graduates from a murky looking Lovely Beauty Parlour to the elite Nancy's Factory graced by Bollywood beauties. But she is neither complacent nor contented with what she has achieved. She has a clear vision of owning a state-of-the-art salon in front of her.

The readers are thrown into the daily humdrum of a typical high-class salon right from page one and as the scene unfolds so are the characters of the story - the clients and the employees. Tuki, with - a sparkle in her eyes, her perseverant efforts and a heart of gold assumes the role of a perfect heroine of the story. With this, from first chapter itself, the stage is beautifully set for an adventure full story.

As Tuki precariously carves her road to reach her dream, her desire takes her to various diverse places including Mumbai, Goa and  London. Love and career seem to play hide and seek with her all through the narrative. One moment she sees everything all clear in front of her and the next moment, the whole thing disappears in thin air. Though all sorted out in her own mind regarding her future and career, she ends up getting entangled in a lot of cobwebs - sometimes of others and sometimes of her own making.  As she tries to make sense of her life where  she had not accounted for any plan B, she finds herself never erring on being there for others. 'She was her Baba's daughter, through and through. She would always find it easier to say yes than no.'

Many other supporting characters nicely complement and complete the story - her endearing always-experimenting Baba, besotted tattooist Faraaz, always-there Arvind, bizarre yet brilliant writer Bijoy Dutta, Nancy and her twins and of course Kaloo - a pig in a dog's hide.

When one picks up Parul's book to read, one expects a fast paced, fun-filled, light-read  book just as she had delivered in her previous books. But this time something lacked on all the above mentioned fronts. There is witticism, there is humour, there is fun, but not sufficient to keep the readers happily engaged and not tempted to skip some parts here and there. While reading her earlier two books, it was hard to find places in the story to keep the book down. However, this time the narrative suffered from some lows at various places.

She is one of those Indian authors who write good and interesting language, however, there is one thing which needs a mention here in this department too. In the first couple of chapters, it feels as if the author is rather in love with the word 'rather'. The word makes its appearance a little sparingly after that but then it surfaces again towards the end with much more enthusiasm. To make long story short, a tighter editing would have done the needful.  

Place an order :

Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review : Brahma Dreaming

Title : Brahma Dreaming
Author : John Jackson
Illustrator : Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini
Publisher : JJ Books
ISBN : 978-0-9569212-8-4

"Through the ages of this world the minds of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer think and dream. And from their dreams come all the things that are, and all the things that happen, in the heavens and in the world and in the underworld. From these dreams come all these stories and all the stories that have ever been, and all the stories that are not yet told. "

Brahma Dreaming is an anthology of tales taken from Hindu Mythology categorized under three broad sections - 'Tales of Creation', 'Tales of Destruction' and 'Tales of Preservation'. It is believed that Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh(Shiva) form the holy trinity and hence are the forces to create, nurture and demolish. It is marvelous how the author has done the arduous task of picking up some tales from grand Indian mythological ocean. The stories that are under Destruction and Preservation sections are primarily stories of Shiva ad Vishnu respectively but those in Creation part are not all Brahma stories. The beginning is beautiful which sets the stage for more interesting and adventurous stories full of flying demons, battles, kings and warriors and much more.

Though every religion has its own set of mythological stories, there is an underlying common thread that connects all of them together. All such legends have high amount of melodramatic content and comprise of ingredients of immortal themes like - love, affection, respect, hatred, deceit, revenge, sorrow and greed. As one reads the story, it becomes clear that even Gods experience similar sensitivities, vulnerabilities and challenges like any human does. This subtle reassurance makes the tales relatable and a great medium to learn life lessons.

All the stories are exciting and thrilling God stories, perfect - to be read to small children, for young readers as well as for grown ups. However, the stories are exciting as they are, there is not much of a value addition by the author in narrating the same. They are just re-told and that too in a very simplistic style, not attempting to go beyond what has already been told in so many ways by multitude of story tellers already.

'Brahma Dreaming' is a large book with gorgeous page-length illustrations. Daniela Terrazzini's black and white illustrations with a hint of red here and there, work as perfect accompaniment to the allegorical text. Having said that, illustrations are quite misleading in the sense that they do not bring in the essence of the culture to which these stories belong. The pictures do not have signatory Indian soul in them which is sorely missed while one proceeds through the book.
The paper and production quality of the book is supreme. It is pleasure to read such an exquisitely created book.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Time Fun on Zealot Readers

 Come Join For a Little Fun this Christmas!!!

Make Christmas More Starry and Bright

Details here..

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Book Review : Sita

Title : Sita
Author : Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher : Penguin India
ISBN : 978-0-143-06432-9

"You judge him but I love him Lakshman. You see your brother as an ideal and are angry because he has not lived up to your expectations. I see my husband for what he is, and understand his motivations; at every moment he strives to be what he thinks is best. I will not burden him with expectations. That is how I make him feel loved. And he sees me, knows that I will support him no matter what, even when he resorts to such devious route like an errant child."

Sita watched Lakshman's nostrils flare. She felt his embarrassment and his rage. She wanted to reach out and reassure him, but she restrained herself.
'You feel your Ram has abandoned his Sita, don't you?', she asked gently.
'But he has not. He cannot.
He is God - he abandons no one.
And I am Goddess - I cannot be abandoned by anyone.'
A mystified Lakshman returned to Ayodhya, while Sita smiled in the forest and unbound her hair.

Ramayana is an age old saga that has been passed on from generation to generation through two primary means of communication - maukhik (orally) and likhit (written). Another medium got added to the list much later - that of moving pictures, and this has been utilized multitude of times in narrating the epic tale. But perhaps Devdutt Pattanaik's Sita, is the one, which has touched me in a way no other could. Unlike Mahabharata, Ramayana is considered to be a much simpler tale with lesser diversions and sub-tales, but here in Sita, you get all that there is to read and understand about the story of Ram - the seventh incarnate of Lord Vishnu. The supporting tales mentioned here, do not hinder the flow of the narrative, rather they are brought out at the most logical junctures where they actually belong. Quite like what was done in Jaya, the author tries to bring many sub-stories, regional twists and beliefs into the fold of the main legend. The action of Ravana is compared and contrasted with some Greek and Roman mythological figures as well.  Furthermore, there is perfect dose of analysis and commentary part in the narrative which makes 'Sita' an introspective piece of writing.

In order to stay true to the title 'Sita', the author has attempted to bring a woman's perspective in the proceedings, which has otherwise been left unregistered by the earlier story tellers. It begins with Sita's early years in her maternal house. We have been generously introduced to the childhood period of Rama and his three bothers, however, there is not much that has been written about Sita as a child. The things that interested her, her pastimes, her relationship with her parents, sisters and others in the kingdom - do not find much of a mention in many writings. Here, she is portrayed as a well-read, wise, strong and confident character. It is amazing how filling colours in a pencil sketch takes the whole creation to a completely different level and that is what happens to the character of Sita. Pattanaik also highlights the relationship that Sita shared with other women characters - the queens of Ayodhya, Anusuya, Mandodari and Trijata. Their conversations make it easy for the readers to understand the personalities and thought process of various actors. 
The unmentioned and unacknowledged trivia may seem insignificant from the perspective of moving the story forward, nevertheless, they do wonders in giving a substantial identity to each character.

Though a religious epic, Ramayana is a story which leaves many wondering and questioning about the fairness and rightfulness of the decision taken by Ram in banishing his pregnant wife. In Sita, Devdutt Pattanaik has tried to address this sensitive issue by highlighting the divine connection that Sita had with Ram, and vice-versa. Sita tried to pacify the embarrassment of Lakshman thus - 'Ram is dependable, hence God. I am independent, hence Goddess. He needs to do his duty, follow rules, and safeguard reputation. I am under no such obligation. I am free to do as I please: love him when I am separated from him, love him when I am rescued by  him, love him when he clings to me, love him even when he lets me go.' This makes Sita a highly magnanimous person and one worthy of everyone's admiration and adulation.

Devdutt Pattanaik has the acumen to bring out the untapped wisdom that is lying deep in the mythological stories of yore. After having read Jaya and Sita, one wonders, how much there is to learn from such epic tales, if one could just acquire perception like that of Pattanaik.

I cannot put a final full stop to this review before I quote a few nuggets of intellect that would make one introspect and contemplate over and over again. 

  • Kanyaa-daan - I give you Lakshmi - wealth, who will bring you pleasure and prosperity. Grant me Saraswati, wisdom. Let me learn the joy of letting go. In daan only wisdom is asked in exchange, unlike dakshina - where wealth is asked in exchange and bhiksha, where power is asked in exchange.

  • Before your wife came into your life, you were a student, with no claim on property. After your wife leaves your life, you must become a hermit, with no claim over property. Only as long as she is by your side do you have claims over wealth. Without her, you cannot perform yagna, you must  only perform tapasya.

  • From desire come all problems and all desires come from fear.

  • What we possess is temporary but what we become is permanent.

  • Most people seek to be the sun around which the world revolves. Very few are willing to be the moon, allowing others to be the sun, despite having full knowledge that they can outshine everyone else. Ram's brothers served him to upholds the integrity of the royal clan. Sita was bound by wifely obligations but only Hanuman did so out of pure love. That is why Ram held him closest.

Here is an interview with him, that was done for the newspaper - The Tribune

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Reviving Mystique of the Mughals

We now see a spate of fiction on the Mughal period, one of the most fascinating eras in medieval history. What is it that makes this era click with both readers & writers.

Read the complete article on fresh writings devoted to Mughal period here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Review : Only One Life to Give

Title : Only One Life to Give
Author : Arun Kaul
Publisher : Frog Books
ISBN : 978-93-82473-76-3

I picked up this book to read just before turning in at night after an activity-full day. I was sure I would not be able to keep my eyes open beyond a couple of pages. But I was so wrong. Once you start a story, it is hard to leave it in the middle.

Arun Kaul opens a window and invites readers to peak into the life that he lived, through a set of short stories. The stories are wisely categorized under four sections. While 'Touching the Sky' has anecdotes from his professional life, some personal experiences are being shared in 'Within the Family'. The other two sections : 'Strangers in the Fold' and 'Women - What it Takes' bring to us some memoirs from the lives of other individuals. Same strings hold all these tales together - the strings of life values, inspiration, dedication, emotion, compassion, sincerity and empathy. Readers get an interesting opportunity to meet - philanthropy personified, a free spirit defying every shackle thrown her way, an individual embracing extreme atonement for his sin, a great administrator-facilitator-patriot, enormity of a mother's sacrifice, uprightness of a villager; and many more. 

We all create and become a part of many stories as we live our lives and when we look back these accounts appear prominently on the screen of our memories. Arun Kaul has collected these images from his memory screen and weaved them beautifully into a series of tales in 'Only One Life to Give'. 

Personally I liked the first section of the book the most. Although the personal section 'Within the Family' should have touched the heart strings the most, it falls short of doing so. Chronology of some events are described repetitively at various places which pushes the narrative to the drab side. Moreover, the abruptness of the personal story of mistrust and betrayal is sure to leave readers with bad taste
in the mouth.  Barring these two downers, the rest of the stories are a delight to read.

A post-graduate in Literature and Management, Arun Kaul made a career in Indian Air Force, followed by working in private sector in various capacities. More on him here.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Tribune : Influence of Mediamorphosis (Book Review - Interactive Communication through News-sites)

Sheetal Thapar, an Associate Professor of Journalism in Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, writes about the term "mediamorphosis," which has been greatly influential in bringing about metamorphosis in economy, society, governance and technology at a much larger scale.

Read the complete review here.
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