Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Review : Hunt for the Horseman

Title : Hunt for the Horseman
Author : Gita Reddy

Amrita Mahal is a dream palace which got constructed more than a century ago under the supervision of the then queen. Surrounded by lush green hills, overlooking a scenic lake, the vista made for a perfect location for the royalty to set their abode at. Though the family was no longer a royalty, post India's status as a republic, yet the palace remained the family home for the extended branches of the lineage.

The queen wanted the palace to be unparalleled and to achieve that, she got many secret compartments made in the palace for sheer delight and fascination. The secretly hidden compartments were at all imaginable or unimaginable places, and the same continued to mesmerize generations after generations. No one generation could claim to have explored the whole palace. This belief got accentuated by the fact that some hundred and twenty five years ago, prince Surya Bhanu had hidden a toy - a horseman, from his brother, somewhere in one of these compartments in the palace. Since then no one had succeeded in finding it. Over the years, this search had turned into the elusive treasure hunt game which had been played by every generation of the royal family.

This year it is a special royal family gathering at the palace, with more than hundred and fifty family members gathered in the Amrita Mahal. Twelve year old Sandy, who lives in US is a little apprehensive about meeting such an extended family and being in a palace, she would rather be in US where she belongs. But all her misgivings just frizzled out the moment she got a warm and loving welcome from the inmates of the palace. They all are made aware of the fact that this could be the last family gathering at the palace as the palace was soon to go from the holds of the family to the land mafia. The family is trying hard to fight the battle in court but they are missing one document which is supposedly the main document that could prove the ownership of the palace.

Though the clouds of uncertainty and sadness loom large on the palace and the family, yet the members are not ready to give in to the gloominess. They want to make this last stay in the palace a memorable one and to continue the tradition of the treasure hunt, the children want to hunt for the horseman. This time their search is much more organised, thanks to a computer pro kid who has designed a software to implement the search in the most systematic and methodical manner. The search has all elements of entertainment - thrill, mystery, adventure, mishaps, euphoric moments and much more. Are the children able to find the horseman? What happens to Amrita Mahal? Is everyone safe there when mafia has put the palace in their radar list?

Found this book a great read for pre-teens and young adults. When the bookshelves are getting deluged with books with more and more adult topics creeping in this genre, such books come as a whiff of fresh air. With engaging narrative and tight editing, the adventurous plot takes the readers on the roller coaster ride. The plot grows beautifully right from the first page. Number of characters do make the narrative a little overwhelming but then one gets more interested in the proceedings of the story. Though the end is a little predictable but the whole build-up which leads to that end is pretty enjoyable.

Personally I have kept this as a special treat for my own children for the last day of their term exams. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review : A Search in Secret India

Title : A Search in Secret India
Author : Paul Brunton
Publisher : Ebury Pr
ISBN : 9781844130436

Paul Brunton is one of the greatest explorers of the nineteenth century. Many of his writings address spiritual beliefs and traditions of the Eastern world. A Search in Secret India, his first book, is chronicling of his journey in the enigmatic land of India where he spent time with mystics,  yogis and holy men trying to unravel the mysteries of faith and spirituality.  Though he is open minded, he approaches things with scepticism and with a mindset of an intellect. He tries to evaluate things on his scientific and philosophical scale. He embarks on a quest to find the real Yogi but wants to proceed logically. In 'A Search in Secret India', Paul Brunton gives detailed accounts of meetings with various Yogis walking the path of spiritual growth, he also meets many who practise the art of magic and egotism. But then his sojourn eventually leads him to his destination when he finally meets the great sage Sri Ramana Maharishi. The last quarter of the book is dedicated to the time he spent in Ramana Maharishi's ashram in Tamil Nadu. Author feels that his experience at the ashram changed him completely.

As it is, tracking the origin of faith and spirituality in India is nothing less than an enigma. This book offers a great approach to begin to learn about the true changing facets of spirituality in India - critical and logical. With inumerable spiritual  branches and sub-branches sprouting from every possible corner, and materialism making the path to self realisation even harder, it is important to understand and experience spirituality in its truest form.

Paul Brunton's writings are very readable and easy to connect to. The pace of the narrative is a little slow in the first half but then one starts enjoying the tranquil and relaxed pace of the same. The book is set in 1930s and the narrative gives an idea of the supremacy that Britishers enjoyed in India at that time. It is wonderful to read how his journey culminates and that chapter is the highlight of the book. After reading it, one is at least able to get a small glimpse of the higher spirituality which stirs the inner yearning to seek the same.

"But it is not till the second hour of the uncommon scene that I become aware of a silent, resistless change which is taking place within my mind.  One by one, the questions which I have prepared in the train with such meticulous accuracy drop away.  For it does not now seem to matter whether they are asked or not, and it does not seem to matter whether I solve the problems which have hitherto troubled me.  I know only that a steady river of quietness seems to be flowing near me, that a great peace is penetrating the inner reaches of my being, and that my thought-tortured brain is beginning to arrive at some rest.  I surrender myself to the steadily deepening sense of restfulness until two hours have passed... I begin to wonder whether, by some radioactivity of the soul, some unknown telepathic process, the stillness which invades the troubled waters of my own soul really comes from him."

This book was sent to me by MySmartPrice for review. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review : मशहूर मुस्कान

शीर्षक - मशहूर मुस्कान
लेखिका - गीता धर्मराजन
चित्रकार - राशिन खैरियेह
प्रकाशक - कथा

'मशहूर मुस्कान', 'कथा' द्वारा प्रकाशित किताब है जिसमें एक महत्त्वपूर्ण सन्देश बहुत ही सहज रूप में व्यक्त किया गया है. यह एक प्रमाणित सत्य है कि बच्चों के कोमल ह्रदय को जानवरों की कहानियाँ बहुत लुभाती हैं. अगर कोई भी बात समझाने का माध्यम कोई चार पैरों वाला प्राणी बन जाए तो नन्हे बच्चे उसे खूब चाव से सुनते और समझते हैं. पशुओं के प्रति इस प्राकृतिक आकर्षण को अनेक कहानीकारों ने बखूभी इस्तेमाल किया है. मशहूर मुस्कान कहानी भी इसी का एक उदाहरण है. इस कहानी के माध्यम से दन्त सुरक्षा और दन्त शोभा का सन्देश बच्चों तक पहुंचाया गया है.

इस कहानी में अगर मगर एक ऐसा मगरमच्छ है जो अपने दाँतो के प्रति ख़ास सजग है. वह मेहनत  से और पूरी लगन से नीम की पतली शाखाओं से रोज़ अपने दाँतो को साफ़ करता है. फिर एक मधुर मुस्कान अपने चेहरे पर सजा कर वह नदी किनारे इस उम्मीद में बैठ जाता है कि जो भी उस तरफ से गुज़रेगा, वह उसके दाँतो की चमक से प्रभावित हुए बिना न रह पायेगा. उसके दांत हैं ही इतने खूबसूरत और दूध की तरह सफ़ेद कि अगर-मगर का उन पर गर्व करना बहुत ही स्वाभाविक है.

वह कुछ छोटी मछलियों से मिलता है और उन्हें हंस कर अपने पास बुलाने कि कोशिश करता है. पर मछलियों को अपनी जान प्यारी है. कौन तेज़ धार दांतों वाले मगरमच्छ के पास जा कर उस से दोस्ती करना चाहेगा? वे सब जान बचा कर वहाँ से भाग निकलती हैं . इसके बाद अगर मगर जंगल के अन्य जानवरों से भी मिलता है  - पर बन्दर हों चाहे बाघ, कोई भी अगर मगर के दांतों पर ध्यान नहीं देता. थोड़ी सी प्रशंसा के लोभ में अगर मगर यहां से वहाँ घूमता रहता है. कहाँ मिलेगा उसे उसके दांतों का सही प्रशंसक जो यह समझ पाये कि उसके पास दांतों के रूप में कितनी बड़ी निधि है? बस उन कुछ तारीफ़ भरे शब्दों की तलाश में है अगर मगर. क्या उसकी यह तलाश कभी पूरी हो पाएगी? क्या उसके दांतों को वह सम्मान मिल पायेगा जिसके वे हक़दार हैं? पढ़िए और पता लगाइये कि अगर मगर अपने चमकीले दाँतो के साथ मशहूर हो पाया या नहीं.

यह कहानी एक उच्च स्तरीय ख़ूबसूरत कल्पना को दर्शाती है. यह कथाकार की कल्पना ही तो है कि  कठोर चमड़ी वाले मगरमच्छ को इतने प्यारे अवतार में प्रस्तुत किया गया है. एक छोटे बच्चे की तरह अगर मगर सबका ध्यान आकर्षित करने में अपना पूरा समय व शक्ति लगा देता है. उसे इंतज़ार है तो बस इस बात का कि कोई उसके दांतों को देखे और उन से प्रभावित हो. वह अपनी मेहनत को मान्यता प्राप्त करवाना चाहता है. उसकी इस लगन को छोटे पाठक बहुत चाव से पढ़ेंगे व समझेंगे.

कथाकार गीता धर्मराजन एक ऐसी लेखिका हैं जो कोमल हृदयी पाठकों को खूब पहचानती हैं और उनकी कलम से निकली यह कहानी इसीका प्रमाण है. रशिनं के द्वारा बनाये चित्र कहानी में जान डाल  रहे हैं और चित्रों के साथ कहानी को पढ़ने का मज़ा चौगुना हो जाता है. 
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