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!

 

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.

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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.

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.

One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan

Set against the rural background of the South, One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan,  describes the societal stigma attached to couples who fail to produce a child after years of marriage. Having a child, in the Indian tradition is the primordial aim of marriage. From the Vedas and Upanishads to other religious scriptures, all stress on the significance of a child, for pleasing one’s ancestor and to take the lineage forward. But unfortunately, many are not easily blessed with this boon.

Society often attach ridiculous humiliations to these couples, especially to the woman, resulting into a strained husband wife relationship. Many a times, the man even considers settling for a second marriage due to the doomed infertility of the first. Also, one must not forget the numerous notes that leave one’s pockets in order to please a little less than the supposedly thirty three crore Gods and Goddesses of the Indian mythology. One Part Woman highlights how society , especially the gossip girls of the society treat a barren woman. They usually compete against one another trying to pull down the morale of a woman who has been unsuccessful in bearing a child. The continuous bullying, insults, tantrums and being the centre of attention in public gathering and social events, change the personalities of such women making them impatient, outspoken, restless and even rude at times.

#booktime #booklover #bookandtea #onepartwoman #bookishdreams #bookishfeatures #bookdefotos

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The storyline of One Part Woman follows the relationship of Kali and Ponna, a couple married for over twelve years. A couple deeply in love with each other. A couple unable to conceive for the last decade despite trying all measures. Nevertheless, they have stood by each other and fought against all odds, never doubting or leaving one another. But things take an impactful turn when news reaches them of a last possible way to conceive.

If you are to read the blurb for the book, you would be thoroughly excited to read between the pages as it implies of a relationship test the couple must go through to produce an heir. However, once you start reading the book, you would find about three-fourths of it consumed by the social stigma imposed on the couple and the little intricacies of their relationship which are narrated through flashback episodes. The most anticipated part of the tale begins and ends within the last few chapters, giving less space for the readers to ponder on it. In fact, for those who would want to read the book solely based on this reason are bound to feel somewhat disappointed as the most anticipated portion of the story comes and goes at lightning speed. Further, though many writers prefer open-ended conclusions to their stories, somehow the readers would have anticipated a concrete conclusion to One Part Woman. The million dollar question of whether the couple is blessed with a child or not, gets lost in the maze of incidents that take place towards the end of this novel.

Nevertheless, the portrayal of a social cause is well highlighted by the author. The peer pressure thrust upon a childless couple often pushes them to make severe decisions. Thus, it is food for thought for the society, as it reflects the repercussions of societal pressure on the physical and mental strength of two otherwise perfect human beings.

One Part Woman is available at your nearest bookstores. Further, you can also purchase it online through Flipkart, Amazon or Snapdeal.

Cantilevered Tales: A Review

A power -hungry politico; and a quest to save a home with several unique people and their adventures. This is the best way I could sum up Cantilevered Tales by Jayant Kripalani.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a cantilever bridge is defined as a ‘bridge made of two cantilevers projecting from piers and joined by girders.’ Had I not come across the book and seen the beautiful cover, at a city bookstore, I would not have bothered myself about the Howrah Bridge and its make. For me, it has always remained and will remain as an ideal symbol for the City of Joy. It is the humongous and majestic structure which has been a silent witness to everything that Calcutta and Kolkata has been through, since its inception. Just like the ebb and flow of the Ganges which flows beneath it, it has seen the change of power and authority, liberalism slowly making its way in to the minds of the people, the natural destruction to the city and the beautiful celebrations of every festival. It is the epitome of romance for lovebirds who manage to steal a few intimate moments away from the eyes of the self -proclaimed sentinels of  society.

Just as the bridge is witness to numerous stories daily; similarly, the protagonist of Cantilevered Tales, Khokhon Lahiri, stands witness to numerous tales of people surrounding him- people whose intentions, motives, interests and love are joined by the ever charming cantilever bridge. The book consists of twenty-six chapters that are unique narrations on their own and are yet connected to each other through a broader storyline.

The characters written about in the Cantilevered Tales make sure that they are relatable to someone who has been a child of this city for long. The protagonist is surrounded by lovable, witty and strong characters; each having an exceptional upbringing or background story. As the story progresses their life, habits, relation with the narrator and personalities are unveiled to the readers.

The story has some interesting themes. Two such themes which really caught my attention are the importance of upbringing and the need to fight for one’s right. Upbringing is an important part of every person’s life. Being deprived of a proper upbringing can lead to various psychological issues in a human being which can later turn against the individual making him/her a social outcast. Often in such situations you do not understand whether to pity them or hate them. Further, the need to fight for one’s rights is very important. One should never leave the path of justice and truth. There are times when the future might look bleak and the road might seem to have come to a dead end; but that is when your faith on justice and truth needs to be strengthened even further to guide you through the darkest days. The characters also display a certain comic sense. This often reminds us that we are usually always surrounded by one or two such ‘specimens’. But, most of the time, they are the ones we turn to in times of need and they always stay by our side.

So, if you are in for some light reading this season, with comic moments, and an want to venture on to an unthinkable path to save what is yours; then grab your coffee/tea , get a comfy setting and dig deep into Cantilevered Tales. It is available in most bookstores near you and can be ordered online through Amazon. Happy Reading!

Before We Visit The Goddess

Before We Visit The Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni  spans through the lives of three generations depicting their personalities, actions, decisions and mistakes. The narrative shifts from the naive yet determined village girl Sabitri; to her daughter Bela who takes impulsive decisions blinded by the love of her life; to her daughter Tara, who after witnessing strained relationships between her parents sets out to discover the world on her own. Set across a timeline of around ten decades across continents and three generations, Divakaruni highlights how with changing time, every relationship changes in an individual’s life. Simple emotions and societal acceptance grows by accepting newer terms and making the society liberal in its own way.

Sabitri comes to Kolkata from a small village in order to pursue her education. She was funded by one of the wealthiest ladies of the town. However, she enters the scope of forbidden love for which she is vanquished and left all alone to settle down in a new life. Bela, on the other hand had bigger dreams. But in the process of achieving them, dreams became bigger than relationships to her. Thus, Bela reflects on the compromises that an individual makes in order to put their foot forward for an imagined utopian destiny. Tara is brought up in the United States, thus instilling in her an unwavering ability to carve out her own life; learning from her mistakes and moving forward with it.

Before We Visit The Goddess explore three very different relationships that exist between a mother and a daughter. While a mother dies awaiting the return of her daughter; another regrets decisions taken years ago and laments the strained relationship with her daughter.  The three leading ladies have an immense sense of loss of relationships in their lives. However, each one tries to cope up with it in their own way. Thus, Divakaruni tries to fit in the idea of changing relationships with time and a sense of loneliness through her beautifully worded novel, Before We Visit the Goddess.

Personally, I would like to add that though this is a good novel on its own; considering her past works like ‘The Palace of Illusions’ or even ‘One Amazing Thing’, this is not her best novel. The abrupt jumps between years and a shift between the first person narratives through each chapter at times confuse the reader. There are instances when, as a reader I would have liked to know a little more about a character but no further details are provided about him or her. Few lines now and then talk of hidden truths, but they are not expressed very clearly for the reader. Lastly, the novel ends on an open-ended note. As a reader, probably I would expect a definite end. Open ended sequences do work well for some novels, but however for this one I found it as a mismatch.

Nevertheless, I would recommend you all to read the book once as a stand-alone book and to not compare it with any of her previous literary works. Before We Visit The Goddess is available on Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon and at your nearest bookstores.

If you have not read it yet, grab your copy now!