Boi Toi Khabar Dabar: An Initiative by Gulmohar Resources

Early November, Gulmohar Resources embarked on a unique initiative called: Boi Toi Khabar Dabar (BTKD) . Preparations for the event had begun sometime back. From conceptualizing the event by Paroma Sengupta, founder of Gulmohar Resources; to designing an interesting invitation graphic by Manasij Dutta all added to the flavour of hosting this unique event which culminated on the 5th of November.

About Gulmohar Resources:

Gulmohar is an initiative that works on creating locale specific educational material through the use of stories, poems, games and theatre.It also takes keen interest in trying to save the already dying environment by adopting eco-friendly methods in going about its resource developments. You can know more about Gulmohar through its blog  and Instagram Page .

About Boi Toi Khabar Dabar:

Books assembled for exchanging

BTKD was a one-of-its kind event curated by Gulmohar. It was an event where book lovers gathered together to exchange old books that they would no longer require, wrapped in newspapers; to maintain the level of surprise among the audience. The guests talked about books, literature, poetry, environment, social causes and anything that they wanted to talk about. Then there was a book exchange session where one could pick up a book or two. . .three. . .four and ultimately  the gathering concluded with lovely home-made vanilla cakes, pasta and the ever-present Bangali Cha! Participants who attended the event came from all walks of life- college-goers, IT professionals, bankers and social workers. The discussions began with an introduction of the participants and then moved straight onto books, poetry, favourite authors, poets, contemporary and classical literature and much more. Many present were associated with social causes and they spoke about their initiatives as well. The participants were given postcards, Gulmohar Resources Illustrated Books and bookmarks in brilliantly made paper bags by Anushka. A donation box was also conceptualized where the guests contributed and the proceeds of which would be used to purchase books for the children of All Bengal Women’s Union.

Stills from the event I *(From Left: Paroma Di, Altaf , Monishita)

The key takeaway from the event was to meet like-minded people and talk about the joy of reading. Every individual has a different reading habit or a different genre that they favour. It was wonderful to hear such people talk so passionately about their preferences in books and why were they so. In fact, apart from books, I am sure most left the venue making a mental note a long list of books that would add to their list of To-Be-Read soon.

Who Participated?

Being a small event and the first of its kind, we had around 15 participants- Paroma Di and her mother; Anushka (researcher at JU and a fellow Volunteer at Share Stories Open Minds); Prosenjit Da and Altaf; Monishita, Ravi, Priya (fellow Xavierians); Smita Di;  Nayani Aunty ; Debjani Ma’am; Neha; Sayan and Suman Da. (Not counting Yours Truly in the list)

The Feedback:

Gulmohar was overwhelmed with the responses and feedback it garnered through the event. Prosenjit Da commented, “It was wonderful to meet so many people who are passionate about books as well as social causes! Thanks to all who organised it. The Pasta was to die for, by the way!’’ Many who could not attend the event for various reasons had also extended their warm wishes and good luck for the event.

The organisers hope to be able to bring out a Second edition of BTKD soon. If you would like to know more about this initiative, you can stay connected to them through their blog and Instagram accounts. Here is a report of the event on their blog. Alternately, you can also stay connected to regular updates through my Instagram and Twitter Profiles.  Do leave a comment if you liked this initiative and would like to be invited for the next edition (NOTE: This is open to residents of Kolkata only)

Victoria and Abdul by Shrabani Basu : A Review

Victoria and Abdul sheds light on a forgotten historical Indian figure who rose on his own merits in the Court of the British Queen ; and was wiped out from the blackboard of history; only to be dug out decades later by Shrabani Basu.

The Queen was experiencing the flavours of the East like never before. She was, after all, Empress of India, Kaiser-e-Hind or Mallika -e- Hindustan. . . . . Her passage to India was only just beginning.

This historical novel describes the relationship between the Queen and Abdul Karim, her Indian confidante. Interestingly, the text books have always shown the British invasion in a negative light; while never once trying to discover the Queen’s strange relationship with her Indian servant, who later became her Munshi or teacher- a position of high repute and regard given to any Indian , in the Victorian era.

Victoria and Abdul is a story of friendship, respect, honour, defence, envy, humiliation and suspicion. Every shade of human emotions can be seen in this never-before-heard-of relationship of the Munshi with the Queen and other members of the Queen’s Household. When Abdul Karim, a young man of 23 was sent to England to be the Queen’s attendant, little did anyone know that he was destined to be her closest confidante instead.

The novel’s flow is based on research and facts. Never have I ever seen such beautiful writing emerging out of the re-arrangement and compilation of facts. Throughout the 266 pages, Basu, has made sure to appeal to the human emotions through her words and vivid imagery while portraying a true situation.

It is often said that the mighty and powerful positions are the most lonely ones. Such seems true for the elderly Queen who lost her beloved almost four decades ago and was disturbed by the nuances of her children and extended family. Thus she finds solace in befriending Abdul and consulting him in most matters and decisions. The Queen was also at a loss due to her inability to visit India and thus made Abdul, her doorway to the Orient. Bound by determination she even started learning Hindustaani/ Urdu and completed thirteen journals . she considered Abdul a.k.a. Munshi, almost like her son and her constant persistence gave him important positions in her Court, theatre tableaux, among the elites of the World, land grants in Agra and other prominent positions to his family back home; at times going against the wishes of her Household and family.

Original photographs of the Queen and her Munshi Courtesy: http://bit.ly/2ythV8l

However, a vast proportion of the novel also consists of the conspiracy theories the Queen’s Court and Household plotted against Abdul, so that he can be lowered in the eyes of the Queen.  In fact the whole Munshi business had become stressful and tiring to such an extent that people called it the ‘Munshimania’. Was it racism at play? Was it discrimination? Was it the inferiority complex regarding individual status in the Household via-a-vis the Munshi; that drove the Household to hate and conspire against him? Most members had their own opinion and from their point of view was not wholly incorrect.

What touched me the most was the disgraceful behaviour the Munshi was subjected to, after the Queen’s death and his family after his own demise. The Queens’s Household on orders from Prince Edward raided all the cottages and houses – in the UK and in India- and burnt all forms of correspondence that existed between the Queen and her beloved Munshi. In fact, with time, all evidences of this individual were buried deep and the man himself who strode among royalty lay in a five feet grave in an isolated and forgotten graveyard since the 1909- his popularity lost in the gravels of time only to be uncovered by Shrabani Basu years later.

A fact that struck me the most , was that the narration was majorly from the point of view of the Queen and her household. Compared to it, the Munshi’s own thoughts did not find a prominent space in the narration. But again, since the novel is based on facts a benefit of doubt can be given to the author for focusing on a point of view based on research and evidences. Though it seems very clear from the journal entries by the  Munshi regarding his relationship towards the Queen, but a little more opinion on the Household and his relations with the other Indian servants , through his eyes would have been great.

Nevertheless, I would recommend all to read this beautiful novel to discover a lost Indian pride and live  this wonderful relationship between the Queen and Abdul through its pages.

Victoria and Abdul : The Movie

Photo Courtesy: flickeringmyth.com

Today, Victoria and Abdul has been adopted into a major motion picture starring Judie Dench and Ali Fazal in the lead roles and directed by Stephen Frears. It was released on the 15th of September, 2017. Personally, the movie was good but it failed to establish the essence of the relationship between Victoria and Abdul. Due to time constraints, only incidents of the book could be adapted ; but that lead to an epidermal establishment of the relationship. The seriousness of the storyline was beautifully laced with comic situations providing the audience the much-needed respite. Both Dench and Fazal delivered remarkable performances. Though I do not rate movies but I would like to give Victoria and Abdul a 6.5-7/10 and would recommend you to watch it.

Image Courtesy: Google

*Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of Victoria and Abdul from BloomsburyIndia in exchange of an honest review.

The Colours of Passion by Sourabh Mukherjee

Sourabh Mukherjee, in his book, The Colours of Passion has sported quite a unputdownable read with numerous plots and sub-plots taking you on a roller coaster ride. A high-profile rape and murder in Kolkata turns the eye-balls of the who’s who of the elite society to the headlines and also under suspicion. The City’s young and rich entrepreneur, Manav Chauhan, gets married to the diva of the film industry, Hiya Sen; and within days of this much awaited marriage Hiya is brutally raped and murdered. The question is WHY and WHO?

It is a known fact that the more famous one becomes, the more enemies one builds. But it is also difficult to gauge the intentions of the closest friends, who leave no stones unturned to hide in their snake skins and fake genuine concerns. An important and inevitable aspect of the celebrities is the deep and dark secrets which are often masked by evergreen smiles and hidden from the lime lights.

ACP Agni Mitra, known for his accurate abilities to deduce conclusions in high-profile cases, has been assigned to investigate the murder. A chain of events following Hiya’s murder and a string of suspects make him travel through slums and shanties to the posh city malls, talking and interrogating a long list of suspects, each of whom had a genuine reason and motive to remove Hiya out-of-the-way. Agni Mitra sure does stands out as the super cop of the novel. His eagle eyes pay great attention to details as minute as mannerisms and behavioural changes. His stern, to-the-point demeanour helps him solve his cases through intellectual deduction based on acquired evidences.

Mukherjee weaves in some very relatable characters into the novel. An actress engulfed by the horrors of her losing fame and age, an entrepreneur coming from a conservative family that relies on human bonding for expansion of business, a cop tormented by memories of his own horrors, a struggling alcoholic model trying to rise up the ladder of fame- each of these characters and their personalities are well perceived and described in the novel. It is interesting to see how the varying personalities meet and react to each other in the heated situation.

The Colours of Passion makes one realise that beyond the blinding flash lights, deafening fan screams and a façade of enthusiasm and smiles; every soul is lonely and fights an internal turmoil every day to find solace away from the demons of fame. Celebrities often work for days without breaks and try to run away from the crowd to find their ‘me-time’. It also makes us wonder if immense stardom makes the celebrities take on more burden on themselves than they can actually cope up with. This burden of expectations fills up their hearts and swells up their eyes – often resulting into drastic actions taken by them. The question that arises in this context is ‘How much is too much? ‘ .

Last but not the least; I would commend the author for drawing the attention of the readers to a very serious social issue. It is an issue which is  prevalent in contemporary times. Unfortunately, no matter how liberal we proclaim the world to be; at some point the mind-set is still that of an overtly conservative individual. Such restricted liberalism often chokes certain individuals who are seen as ‘unconventional’ in the society. But then my question is, what is conventional and who decides it?

If you like this review, then do let me know in the comments below or give a shout out on Twitter and Instagram .

*Disclaimer: I was given a review copy of the book by @Writersmelon in exchange of an honest review.

Blowfish by Siddharth Tripathi

Blowfish in the literal meaning of the term has two connotations -one from the technological field and the other from the Animalia kingdom. It is a symmetric key block cipher designed in 1993. It is used to provide a good encryption rate in software’s by keeping in mind various parameters involved. Similarly, the protagonist Mukund in Siddharth Tripathi’s Blowfish is a complex encryption of various parameters. Some parameters are in his hands while others are hopelessly out of his control. A re-arrangement of these factors would have pushed him towards attaining a peaceful and enlightened life; but his life is far from being so. Blowfish also refers to a fish, commonly eaten as an exotic delicacy in Japan. A blowfish usually bloats itself by inhaling excess air or gulping down excess water, when it feels threatened. Mukund can be visualised as a blowfish but instead of bloating himself as a defence mechanism his adventures tend to bloat his problems as an offence mechanism to the people surrounding him.

Tripathi’s characters are very relatable in contemporary society. Mukund , though a calm and composed fellow finds himself in the middle of not-s0-calm-and-composed situations ever so often. Having come from a broken family his relationship is strained vis-à-vis his father. He takes a courageous decision in order to pursue his dream of making a mark in the world. Chaddha, Mukund’s flatmate, is an overtly happy-go-lucky guy. One cannot expect a moment’s peace with him being around. He is an erratic decision maker, moody; and suffers from a strange condition of being desperate-to-fall-in-love-with –women-with-big-boobs. Mukund’s friend Sampu whose wife is expecting is an undecided, unprepared yet helpfully loyal fellow who is stuck in between his wife’s mood swings during pregnancy and his friends turmoil filled adventurous lives.

Blowfish also has a parallel track of BumBum, the trusted house help of Mukund and Chaddha. He falls in love with a married woman whose husband had deserted her. This love-struck, honest, caring and liberal lovebirds finds himself in various unwanted situations for he had dared to love beyond the set societal norms. Suman , a bright girl working in Hong Kong is equally confused with the way her life is proceeding and in the heat of the moment comes back to her parents in Gurgaon. She befriends Mukund and they become ‘good friends’. Harpal, the society secretary where Mukund and Chaddha reside, is in a constant tug of war with the boys. However, it is only after realising the layers of sadness underneath the stern-faced man, that one can decipher his actions and justify them.

Certain relevant themes have been brought out by Tripathi through the book. Today, the life of a corporate employee has become very programmed. It seems that they have a set time –table without any respite from their daily chores. In fact, it can often be visualized as a claustrophobic environment from where employees like Mukund are dying to break free and invest their time in something new. An underlying theme which recurs quite a few times, but its repercussions are prominently felt many times in the novel is that of desertion during old age. Harpal the secretary of Mukund’s society behaves rather rashly with him because he sees in him a reflection of his only son who had settled in another country and hardly ever had time for his father. Mukund’s narration of his strained relationship with his father worries Harpal and he decides to teach the young lad a lesson. In fact, today with most of the youth moving out of their hometown, their old parents are actually leading a secluded and lonely life all by themselves.

Thus Tripathi’s contemporary storytelling methods used in Blowfish is definitely a treat to read. Especially with his witty and comical use of the language which almost makes the reader visualise the scenes in front of them. The best part of the novel is that the characters are very relatable and so are their decisions, well maybe Chaddha can be unpredictable sometimes, but that is the essence of his character!

The book would be soon available at your nearest bookstores or can be purchased online through Bloomsbury. Happy Reading!

 

Bhilar: The Centre for India’s First Book Tourism

Much has been written about travel and tourism in India and abroad. But how much are Indian citizens aware of the phenomenon of Book Tourism? The Pustakanch Gaav in the village of Bhilar, near Mahabaleshwar , has turned itself into a unique destination for Book Tourism. The concept of the village is very interesting and it’s an epitome of our cultural philosophy, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. There isn’t any central library in the village. These books are placed in 25 houses and the local temple, where residents have opened doors to total strangers for their common love of books.

There are about 15,000 titles which are organized in 25 distinct genres. A few genres are very unique; for instance, the Diwali Ank (this is a collection of Diwali edition of magazines in Marathi language) and The History of Shivaji Era (this is a collection of books on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj). Genres such as Humor, History, Poetry, Science, Feminism, Culture, Hagiography, Children Literature, Travel, Biography, Short Stories, Novels, Award Winning Literature, Exhibitions and Newspapers are also present. While the book village houses a few books in English language, the vast majority are in Marathi language. The walls of the houses are adorned by colourful paintings. It is interesting to know that the paintings outside a house reflect on the genre of books that are available inside. According to the Education Minister Vinod Tawde, “Seventy-Five artists have creatively designed the 25 locations with support from Asian Paints Ltd.” The tourists are given a catalogue to browse through upon their arrival in the village. This helps them to understand where different genres of books are housed. The readers are given access to a vast treasure trove of book free of cost, although a minimum amount might be asked for contribution towards the maintenance of these mini-libraries.

Paintings outside houses which have opened mini-libraries

The Origin of India’s First Book Village:

The idea of a book village is the brainchild of the Maharashtra Education Minister, Mr Vinod Tawde. Inspired from Britain’s Book Village situated in Hay-on-Wye near Wales, he set on to build a similar book village in Maharashtra, India.  This project was inaugurated in May 2017 by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The Times of India reports that according to Mr Tawde, “Around 15,000 books (in Marathi) would be made available in the village premises.  Also, the state has provided several facilities such as chairs, tables, decorated umbrellas, and glass cupboards to local villagers to help them enhance the reading experience of literary connoisseurs visiting there.

Resident Involvement:

The volunteers have expressed that the project and the resident’s involvement in it are completely not-for-profit in nature. Residents are simply supporting the Government initiative and there aren’t any monetary gains in return. The key driving forces of this project are passion for literature, appetite for knowledge consumption and enthusiasm for promotion of culture. The total population of around 3000 people has collectively turned Bhilar into a Sanctuary of Knowledge promoting not only dissemination of knowledge but also a unique concept of book tourism. In contemporary times, given the rising level of security concerns, it is not easy to open one’s doors for complete strangers. But the passion and enthusiasm the people of this village feel towards this project and towards sharing the habit of reading, has made them forget security concerns and welcome guests like one of their own; connected to them by the invisible thread of love towards books.  The residents have also started contributing towards the infrastructure which would sustain this project. Some have built additional staircases to separate the library from the main house; many also provide meals upon prior request.

Bhilar itself is undergoing a change. With the residents being aware of the large volumes of tourists coming to visit the village, they have started keeping a vigilant eye on the beautification and cleanliness of the village. The residents have become more responsible and disciplined in their approach towards life.

Tourist Accommodation:

Coming to travel, accommodation and food; Pustakanch Gaav is very strategically located in Bhilar. Good connectivity by road makes travel easy.  There are hotels and home stays. A few home stays charge just about Rs. 500/- per night if the sole purpose of the visit is reading. Other accommodation options range from Rs. 1,200/- to Rs. 1,800/-. Authentic Maharashtrian cuisine is something that you’ll cherish. Although, the weather in Bhilar is pleasant, it can get a bit chilly in the winters and monsoons.

Responses from the Tourists:

Pustakanch Gaav is getting positive responses from the travellers and guests. Being situated close to Mahabaleshwar, which is a tourist hotspot, many have started including a visit to Bhilar on their holiday itinerary promoting the concept of book tourism. Most tourist come with their families or alone to spend some quiet time browsing through books. They are in awe of the concept, as it is very new in the state and India as a whole.  This has benefited the youth population in a larger way. Instead of going out of the boundaries of their village in search for books on competitive examinations, they are now made available to them in the comforts and precincts of their own village through this project. The elders of the village are now quite relaxed seeing their children slowly imbibing in the habit of reading while staying away from electronic distractions for at least a few hours a day.

Tourists enjoying the books from the vast collection housed in Bhilar

The Future of Pustakanch Gaav

According to Mr Fadnavis,“With this concept, the residents of Bhilar have carved a niche for themselves in the country’s social scene. Henceforth, Bhilar will be the definitive destination for bibliophiles and I urge litterateurs and publishers to freely host events here for the promotion and preservation of literature and literary ideas.” Currently the mini-libraries of Bhilar houses only Marathi and a few English titles. But there are plans of expanding the project in the future by adding volumes by Munshi Premchand, Barsanelal Chaturvedi, Harishankar Parsai. There are plans of stocking up the libraries with books of other languages like Gujarati and Tamil. Apart from this, events like book meets, poetry readings and the like would also be organised in the near future.

The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho

The Fifth Mountain is one of Paulo Coelho’s finest works that I have read so far. It traces the journey of a young prophet who is forced to flee from his homeland and take refuge in another country. Coelho has dealt with several philosophical themes throughout the novel. Further, if you find an uncanny resemblance with the life and times of Ben Hur and Mozes; then you would probably be absorbing the book the same way as I have.

Conflict is recurring theme. It is seen how conflict plays a major part in deciding on the destiny of Elijah- the protagonist. It was a conflict that drove him away from his homeland. It was a conflict that forbade people to listen to him, ultimately ushering in a disaster. It was his inner conflict that made him choose between people and the Lord whom he served. Coelho, through his choice of words and creation of situations explains the various types of conflicts man faces and how he deals with them.

The Fifth Mountain also portrays how pure love can be- Beautiful, Serene, Selfless, Rational and most importantly Pure. It is not through physical proximity that love can be attained. It is also through the sharing of similar intellects that one can redefine love. It need not be the union of bodies, instead it may well be the union of the mind, soul and heart; which leaves a greater impact on the minds of the readers and those of the characters involved.

A very important facet of life is depicted through the story- that destruction is always followed by the zeal of constructing something mightier and re-establishing equilibrium. Destruction and Re-construction is a continuous vicious cycle which has to go on in this world. Both are like the two sides of the same coin.

Fear plays a tragic role in our lives. Fear has somehow become the basis of making decisions for humans in contemporary times. In fact, this has also carved ways for parents to exert pressure on their children, based on their fear values. Elijah, as a young boy faces a similar situation in his life when is parents in fear of societal ostracization pushes him towards a career in carpentry which engulfs him in a curtain of self-doubt.

The Fifth Mountain due to its contemplative nature can often be misinterpreted as a slow, boring or non-relatable novel. However, I believe it just takes the correct frame of mind and a correct age and wisdom to understand the depth and complexity of the situation. The density of inner conflicts and its actionable consequences have been dealt with very maturely in the two hundred and fifty pages of this novel, by master storyteller Coelho. Otherwise, the theme being such, it could have well become a well-researched history book instead of a well-researched fictional novel. Hence, The Fifth Mountain definitely needs a certain level of maturity from the readers to understand the crux of the matter. I would suggest if you had read it earlier and did not like it, you might want to try reading it once more after one or two years. Maybe you would find a fresh perspective to the storyline- one which you had missed out on earlier.

The Fifth Mountain is available in all leading bookstores and can also be ordered online through Amazon and Snapdeal. If you like my reviews then please do subscribe. You can also catch me on  Twitter and Instagram. If you liked this review or opine otherwise, I would love to hear about it, so please leave your valuable comments below. Happy Diwali and Happy Reading!

6 Reasons to Read: Letters from a Father To His Daughter

Before reading Letters from a Father to His Daughter you need to realise the fact that it was written for a ten-year old Indira Gandhi by her father Jawaharlal Nehru. Hence, it should be read adhering to the time, age and purpose, for which it was originally written for. Nevertheless, Letter from a Father to his daughter is still relevant in contemporary times. There are a few instances which made me love this compilation, although the content is known, since I am no longer ten-years old. (I won’t tell you how old I am though!)

#1 The Idea of Letter Writing

Today we have almost forgotten the idea of writing a letter. We have adapted to typing SMS’es , WhatsApp messages and e-mails. But letter writing was an art and it was personal as well. The emotion that can be attached on receiving a hand-written letter from your loved ones is surely missing on receiving an email or SMS, however well-written it might be. It is rather difficult to express your exact thoughts with minimalistic words through a letter. It is often said that an individual who has mastered the art of letter writing can write just about anything. I remember how elated I was when I received hand-written letters from my grand-mother and aunt while studying abroad. I still have them preserved somewhere in my cupboard.

#2 Educative

Would you not have wanted to complete your science, social science and history syllabus through beautiful illustrative letters? The content of the letters are far more progressive for a child of ten-years. It not only outlines the evolution of mankind but also highlights virtues and values that need to be taught to a child. In fact, it gets difficult to make children understand the point without stating perfect examples. The same formula was applied by Nehru ages ago to tell the truth and instil good virtues in his daughter through these letters.

#3 Adheres to the then societal standards

Nehru brilliantly interspersed the evolution of society and man with societal norms and inconsistencies of a newly independent India. Comments like, “people do not realise even now, that fighting and killing each other are about the most stupid things that people can do. It does good to nobody”; or “If two men fight in the streets the policemen separate them. . . . But how much sillier and more foolish it is for great countries to fight each other and kill thousands and millions. “; tell us that Nehru was making Indira aware of the situation. Were the seeds of becoming a great leader being sown through these simple letters?

#4 Ignites Curiosity in Children

Letters from a Father to his Daughter ignites curiosity in the minds of a child through its narrations. Each letter can generate numerous questions and at times it might be difficult to satiate the minds of the children with your answers. While reading I realised that this can be a great contemporary children’s resource to tell them about the history of mankind. Given the fact that they are letters with word restrictions, you can always add onto the material with relevant facts, stories and illustrations. Should you think of using this as a resource for your child, be prepared for a bombardment of questions.

#5 Reflects a father’s love for his daughter

This is not a mere compilation of letters; it is a compilation of words and pages that reciprocate a father’s love. Nehru had been a political leader but he had never forgotten his duties as a father. Known to the world as ‘Chacha Nehru’ his birthday is celebrated as Children’s Day. Each letter can be seen as conversations that a father wanted to have with his child. But due to physical distances between them, these conversations have been spelt out on paper.

#6 Cover Different Topics

The letters cover interesting topics. From the origins of life to the early civilizations; from Chinese and Egyptian customs to the great Indian Epics- there is a vast reservoir of knowledge that ca be imparted to a child who is merely a decade old.

Letters from a Father to his daughter had for a long time been kept under wraps by the Gandhi family, till they decided to compile it and publish it for the children of the world. I personally liked the compilation and the simple and clear language of the letters. It is easy enough to make a child understand. In fact, this can be a good choice for a bed time read and to unleash the imaginative power of your child.

I picked up my copy from Booktique, Kolkata, but it is available in all leading bookstores near you. Alternately, you might even want to order it online through Flipkart, Snapdeal or Amazon.

For more book related trivia and news do have a look at my Instagram Page and Facebook Page. Or you can subscribe to my blog to get posts right in your mailbox.

Can a Girl and a Boy Be Just Friends?

Can a Girl and a Boy Be Just Friends? By Sumrit Shahi is set in a modern background highlighting the truths and troubles existing in the life of two best friends, who are from the opposite sex. It is said that destiny is the biggest teacher in one’s life. That is probably why Tanie and Aaryan met in a foreign land , exchanged their stories and found out about the valuable bond that they had each scraped out of their lives not so long ago.

Aaryan, the casual flirt falls in love with a girl during a MUN. What follows is a hilarious and not-so-hilarious ‘ walk to remember’ in trying to woo the lady of his life. But somewhere down the line, this virtual and one-sided relationship takes a toll on the bond he shared with his best friend, Boza. Tanie, on the other hand shares everything with his best friend, Sumer. They lived next door, knew each other’s friends, covered up each other’s faults and lived a happy life until Tanie had to choose between the love for her boyfriend Rehan and her loyalty and friendship for Sumer.

Can a Girl and a Boy Be Just Friends is very relevantly titled. It is a general misconception that girls and boys cannot be ‘only’ friends. It is taken for granted that they share special bonds. However, the society does not understand the beauty of a bond created by friendship between a girl and boy. Remember Rahul and Anjali from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai? Was that not a bond of purity, friendship, companionship and most importantly trust? Keeping the Cannot-Be-Just-Friends attitude in mind, society often mistakes infatuation as love. In fact, in most cases, the best friends are unaware of this deep, pious bond between them which actually qualifies as love as opposed to the general predicament of love being the jaw dropping mesmerising beauty and handsomeness in front. This is often due to their opinions being shaped by the society around them.

Sumrit Shahi has picked up two different stories from the lives of teenagers and presented it to the youth. Girls and boys today find themselves tangled between the webs of insecurities that they face vis a vis their best friends and their girlfriends or boyfriends. Every individual reacts differently to these situations. But often it is found that friendship is the most compromised relationship of the two. Although, in reality it is the most beautiful, secure, independent and lively relationship. There is no holding back, no careful selection of words being spoken, fights end up just as fast as they had erupted and above all both sides of the coin are utmost comfortable with each other to make this friendship last- things which are often not found in a relationship termed as love.

Sumrit has written the book in a very informal way which often reflects as if the protagonists are conversing with the reader. This makes the reader feel almost like a silent character in the book. It was a great read and is definitely one of those books which can be read on a lazy day or a rainy relaxing day sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee. However, a crisper editing would have done wonders to the book. What I liked best was that Shahi, brilliantly makes an open ended conclusion for the readers to make their own decisions about the fact that Can a Girl and a Boy Be Just Friends?

This book is available on Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal. You can also read my Goodreads review on this book.

Cover Image Courtesy: Google Images

Disclaimer: I received a copy from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Write India Campaign S2: Live your Writing Dreams

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”  ― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Do you love characters like Draupadi from the Palace of Illusions or Anupama from Mahashweta, who fight against all odds and earn their status in the society?  Does your descriptive narration flow like river waters and take you on mesmerising travels to the hills, valleys and forests? Or do you have a pen of wits that would make your readers compliment your writing with laughable accolades? If you do, gear up your thoughts, open your laptops, start typing and submit your stories for the next Write India Campaign.

There are stories inside each one of us. Some find apt ways to express it. Others can express it naturally, but do not get suitable guidance to put it forward to the whole world. The online platform of The Times of India , which is, www.timesofindia.com has undertaken a unique campaign in order to give thousands of budding writers a voice , a guide, a platform and most importantly suitable mentorship under ten leading authors of contemporary times.

India, as a country , has always been full of stories and legends. However, in modern times , the art of storytelling keeps evolving with fresh ideas waiting to be explored and expressed to the world in the form of stories. There are thousands out there, who have a knack for churning out great fictional pieces. But due to lack of opportunities, their voices are often restricted to the boundaries of their homes, schools or colleges.

The Times of India has always served the Nation as a Social sentinel, delivering news depending on its appropriate urgency. But with the Write India Campaign, it has also taken up the role of a facilitator, which provides a well-known stage to the budding and amateur writers to come forward and express their passion for writing in front of a wider audience.

Write India Campaign Poster Photo Courtesy: Times of India

The Write India Campaign would continue for a good ten months until 2018. Each month would put forward, an Author of the Month who would provide a passage to the writers around which they would have to weave their original short fictions. The ten authors for this season are: Anand Neelakantan, Sir Jeffrey Archer, Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murty, Twinkle Khanna, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Shobhaa De, Manu Joseph, Namita Gokhale and Nikita Singh.

The team from Write India would shortlist some of the best entries for each of the authors and present it to them. They would further select the winners amongst them. Each of the winners would get an opportunity to fulfil their dreams by getting their work published in the form of a book. What more, they would also be invited for a workshop conducted by these eminent authors where they can nurture their skills further.

The Campaign has already garnered momentum among the budding writers. Many have submitted their pieces for Anand Neelakantan, Ruskin Bond and Sir Jeffrey Archer. While the winners for Neelakantan can be viewed here ; there is much anticipation for the winners of the other two writers to release soon. Moreover, do not miss keeping an eye out for the Author of the Month of October and his/her passage to the writers.  I would further add that this is the Second Campaign run by the Write India Team. Their first campaign held earlier had seen thirty-six successful authors being published in November 2016. If you are a budding writer, then this is an opportunity that must not be missed. For more details and to register yourself as a contributor do visit www.toi.in/writeindia .

Image Courtesy: The Times of India

Darkness There But Something More

What had I just experienced? Was it a mere hallucination? An illusion or just a figment of my fertile imagination? – Page 133, Darkness There But Something More. . . An individual is groomed to be self-sufficient and confident from a very young age. But there are times, when the bridges of confidence rustle under the burden of the unknown and an individual is surrounded by the clouds of self-doubt.  The esoteric is a mysterious realm, that is ever researched on and always spoken about; but only those who have felt it closely can be one step closer to the truth of this omnipresent enigma.

Darkness There But Something More, is an anthology of thirty stories written by thirty different authors and co-edited by Lopamudra Banerjee and Dr Santosh Bakaya. It deals with the territory of the unknown and the unseen through thirty short stories. Being a collection of stories, I would of course have my favourites to choose from. Hence, I would list down my favourite stories.

#books #coffee #biscuits #bookstagramindia #bookstagram #books

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The White Man’s Bungalow by Dr Sunil Sharma

The undead often make old houses and garden their home. This in turn earns the place the commonly used epithet, haunted house. This story speaks about one such house engulfed in stories and rumours from every perspective possible. It is only when a Journalist enters the house in the pretext of researching it for a story, do the readers find out the ultimate truth.

Two things attracted me the most towards this story- the description of the ‘haunted house’ and the fact that a Journalist uncovers the truth. Being a trained journalist myself, I do wonder at times, if some story somewhere would give me an opportunity for an otherworldly encounter, as well. Sadly, I don’t see that happening too soon!

The Last Trick by Shabir Ahmed Mir

A magician wants to practice a newly configured trick. However, he faces one issue. Thus, he wakes up his next room neighbour in the hotel and rehearses for his latest show. Looks pretty normal right? It is only the story that you have to read to find out what went wrong and where.

The story begins with a beautiful quotation by Christopher Priest from The Prestige. Apart from the story itself, that quote won my heart. Also, this short story had been awarded the First Prize at the Ghost Story Contest hosted by Learning and Creativity E-zine.

The Peepal Tree by Ramendra Kumar

A group of young girls are celebrating a friend’s birthday party. Things go wrong when animosities between girls are expressed through dire consequences.

The Peepal Tree deals with an important social subject- bullying. No one can fathom when and how can pent-up anger within the victim, transform into such deadly vengeance. Supernatural or not supernatural, bullying is definitely a subject that one needs to pay attention to and seek professional help if need be. I would also mention that this story had earned a Special Mention in the Ghost Story Contest by the Learning and Creativity E-zine.

#newbook #bookstagramindia #bookstagram #bookishfeatures #bookdefotos New review coming up on www.subhadrikasen.com

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All Out and Over by Cathy Sydlo Wilkes

All Out and Over is a story which is narrated by a marmoset depicting the plight of many circus animals and their afterlife.

What I liked the most was that, not every ghost story needs to be scary with visions of blood dripping fanged vampires and crooked nosed witches. Some can be heart-warming as well. This is one such story, where trapped creatures narrate their story and cross over to their ultimate destination.

The Reunion by Sarmita Dey (Ghosh)  

A tale of love lost so suddenly; and yet patiently awaiting a chance to meet the lost love in some other realm, in some other life, is rarely written by an author.

Not all love stories end well. But the most important lesson of life is to let go. There are things beyond our control, and in those times, one should submit to His will.

But for a crisper editing, the book would have been devoid of flaws. Nevertheless, Darkness There But Something More is a read that I would recommend if you like to read about the esoteric. It is definitely the kind of light reads that you would want to carry with yourself to your vacations. It is available for online purchase through Flipkart and Amazon.