A Home for Urvashi by Sanchali Bhattacharya

A Home for Urvashi is a delicately woven novel which revolves around various relationships in a lifetime and the afterlife. Sanchali Bhattacharya has come up with strong protagonists and passionate antagonists who are ready to take the extra leap to satisfy their emotions and live up to their relations. Ujjwala, the protagonist is an ambitious lady with a bugging past trying to balance motherhood and climb up the corporate ladder. Her husband Yash is a chef at a cruise liner and stays away most of the time. Trouble begins when Rituraj, a haunting from Ujjwala’s mysterious past takes over as her boss. Unrequited love in the heart of a new recruit Sooraj also creates enough trouble for the two. To top it all, is Dulari, Ujjwala’s twin sister who is a silent observer of her life for the past twenty-nine years, as a not-so-earthly being.

Bhattacharya, in A Home for Urvashi, deals with numerous valuable themes. Ujjwala’s undying love towards her husband broke all barriers of societal norms and led to an unusual union. Sooraj being well aware of her marital status falls for her knowing that these are dangerous paths he was treading on. Dulari’s love for her sister is seen as the sacred bond of sisterhood which remains intact even in the afterworld while Rituraj could never distinguish between true love and lust for his beloved.

The author has hinted on loneliness being a major reason for driving people in taking questionable actions. Yash due to his job lived on the seas for months and years, and this made Ujjwala lonely. For a long time, the readers would be speculating whether her loneliness would drive her to start off an extramarital affair due to her unfulfilled desires; or her love for Yash would defeat all negative feelings. With love, hatred, sarcasm, and jealousy are bound to follow. These are traits that are expressed without hesitation by Rituraj. His kind of love can be best described as a stage of lust driven madness which portrays itself through the most horrific acts of all times.

A Home for Urvashi has a social cause to the story. Ujjwala, apart from work and home front also cared a lot for social causes. She makes donations towards children homes and centers. This shows that she has a very pure soul who could feel ones emptiness and needs without one having to narrate it to her. Her own traumatic childhood had led her to become a compassionate young woman.

Bhattacharya deeply deals in relationship throughout the book. The bonds between a mother and a daughter, or between two sisters, or between a husband and a wife have been beautifully portrayed through practical situations and effective imagery. Nothing has been exaggerated and real life incidents and relations have been reflected in the novel. In fact, the life of many women who work in the corporate field would find resemblance with Ujjwala’s lifestyle. It becomes very difficult for a mother to balance both her child’s upbringing and the work front. This, at times leads a woman to choose one over the other or arrange for alternatives. Ujjwala, hires a trusted nanny for her son but she could still feel the desire that a son would have for a mother, given that his father too was absent for long intervals of time.

If the description of my city from this book had to be presented in the form of a documentary film, it would have scored really high on my mark scale. The vivid descriptions of Kolkata, Darjeeling and Puri , with the right choice of words and imageries appeal to the readers senses. From tourist spots, to market places; from flyovers to traffic congestions; from serene sunrises to the romantic seaside’s, the author is bound to unleash the traveller in you when you read about the places.

Dulari, the friendly ghost and Ujjwala’s twin sister lives on in the ghost world with one unfulfilled desire- to be reborn again and stay close to Ujjwala. But this is not an easy decision. Keeping in mind the advances in Ujjwala’s life, Dulari must make a decision that would reflect her relation towards her sister to the audience. One just need to wait and read on to find out what would be her ultimate decision- Giving up her dream forever to save her sister or to proceed with her dreams of being reborn.

And last but not the least, the name of the novel itself. It is a symbolic summation of Urvashi’s story. Urvashi was one of the most beautiful apsara’s in the court of Lord Indra. But her desire was to live among the mortals and to find a home for herself on Earth. Urvashi’s desires can be reflected through both Ujjwala and Dulari. Dulari because she wanted  to break free from the ghost world and reside beside her sister in the mortal world. Ujjwala, because she wanted to find herself a home in the mortal world where no one would chase her and question her of her past decisions. She wanted to be left at peace with her husband and family for the rest of her life.

A thorough read of the book took me around four days and it is a book that I would recommend all my friends to read. However, I would point out that the last hundred or so pages were very quick. A lot of actions took place too quickly in those pages which could have been evenly spaced out throughout the book .Apart from one or two editing glitches, the book is written with complete simplicity and is very easy to comprehend. The concept of it being narrated by a ghost is very unique. But on second thoughts, it might also be a little creepy if I had a ghost spy around me all the time. Nevertheless, it is a brilliant read and reflects how complicated human relations and life can be and how emotions, at the end, make or mar a person.

A Home for Urvashi is available in your nearest bookstores or can be purchased from Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal.

Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy by @WritersMelon in exchange for an honest review.

Three Thousand Stitches by Sudha Murty

Sudha Murty, through her latest, Three Thousand Stitches has put forward beautiful short stories which revolve around human nature, ambitions, wishes, desires, and a lot more. An anthology of eleven stories, Three Thousand Stitches tells its readers about the ordinary people with extraordinary lives. Here are mini reviews for six of my favorite stories from the book.

As usual Murty’s stories have a hint of social issues. a narration of her academic days, in an engineering institute; where the subject was said to be a ‘man’s domain’ reveals how she fought the stereotypical gender dichotomy to become a successful engineer. ‘How to Beat the Boys‘ reminds every girl or woman that nothing is impossible for them. If any provision does not exist in the society for women; they can always be the one to start a new trend.

Three Handfuls of Water‘ revolves around the Holy City of Kashi or Varanasi. This is the story with which I could relate to the most. Kashi is not a city- it is an emotion, a sentiment which cannot be expressed in words. It needs to be felt through your heart and soul. Only the people who Kashi wants to embrace gets the golden opportunity to visit this Holy Land. At times, several lifetimes pass and one cannot make a trip to this city.  Earlier, when transport was not so well-organized, even if one person made a trip to the city, the entire neighborhood or village used to gather around and hear stories about the trip. The traveler used to host a grand celebration upon arriving back home from Kashi and distributed the Holy Water of the Ganges to the neighborhood. Today, this journey can be completed within a matter of a day or a few hours.

A Life Unwritten‘ depicts the story of a good deed done by a doctor which is repaid to him years later. When a young doctor is made to forcefully deliver a baby girl; he gives the most valuable advice that anyone can give to a young mother who delivered a child out-of-wedlock. The biggest lesson learned from this story is that the world does not end when one commits a mistake. One should not be too disheartened to see the numerous opportunities in front of them. Of course, the struggle comes as a part of life, but the opportunities do give good returns in the long run.

No Place Like Home‘ is a heart-wrenching story of young girls and middle-aged women who were cheated and brought away from home to work like slaves.They were often forced to marry, raped, abused; and yet continued to serve their masters for they were made to believe that their service yielded good monetary returns for their family back home.  further, they could not even run away from the situation as they had no means of going back home. Most of them were illegal immigrants and avoided the legal procedures.

A Powerful Ambassador‘ is a unique story in Three Thousand Stitches. It depicts how in foreign lands, the Indian Film Industry has made an indelible mark. Even though one is not familiar with the local language; one can be comfortable in striking a conversation with the locals regarding Shah Rukh Khan or Amitabh Bachchan or a certain peppy musical. The fact that the film industry was seen as an ambassador of Indian culture and traditions, was a fresh perspective for me.

Rasleela and the Swimming Pool‘ is the funniest modern dramatization of an episode from an Indian epic that I have ever read. The modification brought about by children who re-narrated the story had modern improvisations which are bound to leave the reader amazed.

Three Thousand Stitches is an absolute recommendation from my end. The simplicity of the language and the uncomplicated depiction of emotions and situations are the unique qualities that make this book stand apart. I read it as a part of a mini-December Readathon and I am sure this is a book that would be a great travel companion or your best friend on a lazy winter afternoon.

It is available in all major bookstores or can be purchased via Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal. If you have read the book, I would love to hear your opinion on it. Happy Reading!

 

A Night with a Black Spider by Ambai

Dr. C.S. Lakshmi, who writes under the pseudonym Ambai, in Tamil has woven magic through her stories. Translated from Tamil to English by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, A Night with a Black Spider is an anthology of short stories covering a wide range of topics. The stories steal a contemplative moment in time or depict a mythological sequence. They are realistic, relatable, practical, and philosophical. Her writings take you across the length and breadth of India as well as abroad. Though all seventeen stories written in A Night with a Black Spider are commendable; a few have a left an indelible mark on my memory. I would go on to discuss those in further details.

What seems like a simple trip made by a father and a daughter to the tailor in Journey 11, ends up reminiscing about one’s peers. As old age strikes many of the contemporaries are lost or taken away from us. The only respite then is living with their fond memories. Further, as one is bombarded with the news of their loved ones passing away, they are also drawn into a contemplative mood regarding their own time on this planet.

The titular story- A Night with a Black Spider- in this collection recounts the life of a middle-aged lady. Her life is full of struggles – a broken home, a lonely life and even lonelier nights. In the absence of having anyone to share her thoughts with, the protagonist starts narrating her life’s tale to a black spider. Loneliness is as exhausting as it sometimes is to have a number of people around. But it is for the readers to opine on which one surpasses the other.

Burdensome Days reflects how seemingly perfect made-in-heaven matches can ultimately meet claustrophobic and disastrous ends. The protagonist, for twenty-five years of her marriage, went on compromising her desires and ambitions. She was looked down upon by her in-laws and later her children; and was restricted within the confines of her home, politics, and office. This continued until she freed herself from the burdened cage and took a flight to lead her life her way. The message of women empowerment comes across very strongly through this story.

“Sankar, these are not things. These are what we are.” These lines from When Things Die perfectly sum up the story. Every little object in our possession is a reflection of our tastes, habits, personalities, and memories.  The stories attached to these objects are often too many to let go of, in this lifetime. The attachment to objects can be seen as an individual’s reluctance to let go of worldly ties. Thus it can practically be interpreted as objects survive only as long as their owner does with their memories and experiences. The moment the owner is claimed by death, the significance of these objects withers away.

A Moon to Devour shows the story of many young girls who are betrayed and abandoned by their lovers after having been taken into confidence by them. But what sets this story apart is the single letter written to the protagonist be her lover’s mother which is in favor of a woman. The old adage that a woman is a woman’s worst enemy is shattered by this story.

A Night with a Black Spider also has social-centric stories. While Journey 17 deals in eve- teasing and how difficult is freedom for young girls in Delhi; Journey 14 talks about the prevailing caste system which forbids a staunch believer to even accept water from an individual from a lower class. Though Ambai has beautifully penned down these stories, however at times, the narration is confusing. At times, the protagonist is only referred to as ‘him’ or ‘her’ without a definite identity. Further, the opening story of the collection is a mythological chapter between Mahisasur and Durga. This story, however good it is, is a misfit with the rest of the stories of this collection, in my opinion. Having said that, A Night with a Black Spider is a delightful read, which I completed in a single sitting. The title attracted me most due to its uniqueness.

Here, I would mention Vishal especially, who gifted me this book for Christmas. A Night with a Black Spider is available in your nearest bookstores or can be purchased online through Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal.

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.

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!