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!

 

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell has been described as the remains of “our great satire of the darker face of modern history” by Malcolm Bradbury. True to the name, the novel is about an animal farm run by humans. But before long, the animals, especially the pigs rebel against the former owner and managers and drive them away claiming all the land to themselves. They even erect the Seven Commandments or principles that all animals were to follow in a newfound ‘liberal’ farm. However, a note must be taken of the fact that a peaceful Animal Farm is a Utopian imagery. A Rebellion is always followed by counter-attacks. Hence, the defeated men tried to launch a counter-attack and reclaim their farm; but alas they were defeated once again! The belonging and emotion that the animals expressed towards their home even lead some of them to become martyrs while seriously injuring many others.

For a while, things are at peace and all animals are equal. They are noted to call each other as ‘Comrades’. However, it is soon seen that the animals started requiring a leader to lead them and give them their daily or weekly tasks because the management and control of the farm were beginning to go haywire. But what happens when the leaders fall prey to greed and changing values that manipulate the very principle of freedom and equality that once formed the foundations of the Animal Farm? At the beginning ribbons adorning a pony, human beds, tools, clothes etc. are seen as symbols of animal slavery and are boycotted as part of the Rebellion. Nevertheless, as the days passed, it appeared that the pigs, especially Napoleon, were appearing to be the new leaders of the group. A lot of facilities were being reserved only for the pigs. This included a healthy part of their weekly rations. Moreover, the leaders slowly started changing their perception in adaptation to the situation at hand. They started re-introducing man-made facilities in the Animal Farm as per their comfort, and all who tried to raise a voice were successfully brainwashed.

Napoleon started changing and that too drastically. From building a windmill to equivocally interpreting the founding principles of Animal Farm and even pronouncing radical measures for the supposed betrayers, makes the readers question the ideologies that formed Animal Farm. In fact, earlier where all traces of human beings were removed; now a human was the mode of communication between the farm and the world outside. Napoleon also started building trade relations with the owners of the neighboring farms. Orwell truly climaxed the novel with the Quote, “The creatures looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.” It would not be wrong to wonder if Napoleon took on the shoes of a Dictator with his powerful oratory and intelligence, and his faithful stooges by his side.

Animal Farm is a brilliant satire on the revolt of the working class against the ruling class; their internal struggles, brainwashing, crumbling philosophy and corrupt leaders are all beautifully portrayed through the animal characters of the novel. With the simple, yet elegant and powerful storyline, Orwell has indeed given birth to an iconic piece of work which would continue to earn appreciation for many generations to come. His tagline, “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.” fits perfectly in the socio-political scenario of many countries. His metaphoric criticism of the society reveals his deep understanding and sheer justice of an issue which would remain relevant time –immemorial.

Animal Farm is a must read from my end. The book is available in multiple editions in all major bookstores and can also be ordered online through Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Amazon.

The Last Song of Dusk: A Review

The Last Song of Dusk by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi is an exuberant tale of life and love. What might seem as a personification of the word melancholy through the novel; actually teaches us the harshest truth of life- that it is not always like the cherry on the cake.  The novel is an amalgamation of the various shades of human personalities- from the grey shades of mankind to those of love, lust, bold, innocence, loss and grief- everything finds a space in this novel.

Each character in The Last Song of Dusk is as important as the other. From Anuradha who is the ideal wife, daughter-in-law and mother ; to Vardhamaan who is the best example of a devoted husband. Nandini on the other hand is the mirror that reflects the horrific side of the society- a reality which many consciously choose to ignore, many include in their daily gossips and some find it to be outright loathsome. Even strange as it may sound, Dariya Mahal, the beautiful House by the Sea too has a character and feelings of its own. This made me wonder if my house too has feelings, understands everything but can do nothing apart from silently gazing at my plight.

As you go deeper in the pages of the novel, you would realize how the superficial faces of the people start peeling away. It reveals their lonely, melancholic, broken -yet-living souls. In fact, for me it draws parallel to a time I spent on foreign lands. True to the world, I was smiling but by the evening twilight I had discovered the silence reigning deep down in the hearts of every person.

The Last Song of Dusk is also a beautiful painting, painted on a lonely canvas. It depicts the loss of a dear one; the estranged relationship between a once loving couple; the beautiful friendship between the living and the withering souls. It defines beyond boundaries, a mother’s love for her child. It brings to us the struggles of a vagabond, rejected by the society and yet claiming to fight back until she is remembered by all. It strongly portrays the societal pressures faced by those who go against the norms of the society. But, above all the novel redefines the word ‘love’ for its readers through the eyes of its characters. Love is not only an emotion which draws people closer. At times, it escalates distances between couples; it touches one’s heart for a brief moment only to part again. Love is eternal, glorious, painful, persistent but it does touch everyone in this lifetime; no matter for how brief a period. The language used by the author creates a  vivid artistic imagery in the minds of the readers, one that would be etched on for a long time.

The Last Song of Dusk is available in all major bookstores or you can purchase it from Flipkart, Amazon or Snapdeal. I would highly recommend this book to all my readers. To end this post, I will leave you all with a quote.

Although I know little about art, my instincts suggest that perhaps all art is love in some avatar. It longing and rejection. Its first flower and its finale. – The Last Song of Dusk, Chapter 37,  Page 236.

 

 

Amba: The Question of Red – Laksmi Pamuntjak

Amba : The Question of Red written by Laksmi Pamuntjak revolves around the modern-day retelling of the stories of the early Mahabharata. This Indonesian novel set against the backdrop of the political turbulence of the 1960’s explores the love and romance shared between the protagonists. Even though a modern-day retelling, Pamuntjak has tried to keep the story line as realistic and close to the original story line, as possible.

Salwa, who was chosen by Amba’s parents for her as the best suitor depicted an epitome of gentleness, calmness, satisfaction and care; and yet lacked to touch the chords of Amba’s heart. Amba , on the other hand , often considered herself to be lesser than her ever beautiful sisters- Ambika and Ambalika. She often thought to herself that she was not fit for being loved and should follow her parent’s instructions and be the good girl that they wanted her to be. Bhishma, a highly educated doctor who gives up his family inheritance and lavishness to serve the people enters the life of Amba , only to turn it upside down forever.

If you are to draw parallel with the original Mahabharata, then true to his character Salwa plays a restricted part in the story. Amba, whose life’s major intention was revenge is shown as a more toned down woman with the sole aim of finding his lost lover throughout the novel. Bhishma on the other hand resembles his character to quite an extent. Despite being handsome and talented, he was forced to live the life of a celibate almost all his life. Though he did love Amba, he was also destined to not have her forever. It is said that the original Princess Amba had cursed Bhisma that each of the sins that he would commit in his lifetime would turn to sharp arrows that would pierce his body when he would die. It is interesting to note how Bhisma would meet his end in Amba: the Question of Red.

Further, for those of you who are well versed with the Mahabharata would wonder about the existence of Shikhandi/Shikhandini the re-incarnation of Amba as Drupad’s daughter/son ; who was destined to exact revenge from Bhisma. The presence of Shikhandi is a question that arouses curiosity in the minds of the readers till the very last page and I would leave it at that for you to find out.

What is interesting in the novel is the theme of lost love. Every character – Salwa, Amba and Bhisma had loved in their lifetime and lost the person whom they loved dearly. Whether it be a conscious decision to leave a person due to incompatibility ; or a game of fate which makes two lovers separate; the recurring theme of lost love is a highlight in the entire novel. Another interesting theme is in the name of the novel itself- The Question of Red. Red is a symbol of love, danger, fate and happiness. When you progress deep into the novel, you would realise how Red is the colour of Fate- the fate which decided the destiny of two young lovers- Amba and Bhishma.

Amba : The Question of Red is a must read for those who love to read romance or would like to explore another take on this ancient epic; where amidst many other themes love is also a crucial one. Pamuntjak has beautifully sealed the fate of the two lovers across decades in this novel. I would certainly recommend my friends to read it. It is available in all leading bookstores near you or can be purchased through Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal.






The Mother I Never Knew: Sudha Murthy

What started off with an unlikely event of finding Venkatesh’s lookalike; lead to the revelation of a life time for two brothers distanced from each other by birth and fate under a harsh society. “My mother says that everyone in this world has six lookalikes. I believe that mine are in other countries, because I haven’t met anybody here who looks like me. Maybe your lookalike is right here in this district.- Page 37” .Similarly, after losing his father, Mukesh stumbles upon a photograph which opened a whole new world for him; and he embarks on a quest to find his true identity. The Mother I Never Knew by Sudha Murthy encompasses two novellas spread across different states, class, caste, situations and yet bound together by an invisible thread of social taboos, social evils and social consciousness inflicted upon the characters.

Murthy beautifully captures the essence of motherhood – the love of a mother for her son amidst the limitations of the social conflicts. Motherhood is an experience that needs to be felt and understood. The chord between a mother and a son is a very special one which cannot be seen and understood by anyone save them. Often, a mother might be misunderstood for her actions, but the steps taken are always for the betterment of the child. The Mother I Never Knew  portrays an important lesson- to never judge the actions of the mother. Onlookers never really know the situation that the mother had to go through and hence take harsh steps.

A frequently asked question under the circumstances outlined in the book is that of loyalty. Does it lie with the mother who gives birth; or the mother who raises the child; often drawing parallels towards the eternal relationship savoured between Devki, Krishna and Yashoda in the Mahabharat. There is no fixed answer to this question as both mothers are part of the same scale to balance the life of the child. Neither is greater than the other. Nevertheless, the scale maybe slightly bent towards the mother who raises the child. Murthy too hints towards this in the following lines, “Giving birth is simply a biological event but parents must move mountains to raise a child to be a good human being. I salute the mother who made you what you are. – Page 202”

Thus, The Mother I Never Knew is an extremely emotional novella which portrays how the search of two men for their identity uncovers the truth from the clutches of the stereotypical patriarchal society. I would highly recommend this book to everyone. It is available in your nearest bookstores or can be ordered online through Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal.

The Teak Almirah : Jael Silliman

Empty and waiting The Teak Almirah stood witness to lonliness, longing, and pain. Secrets, fears and hopes for the future were stuffed inside its locked doors. We all make space for those we love and too often keep our dreams locked away until we find whatever it is we have been seeking.“

What does Calcutta / Kolkata mean to you- friends, family, community, lifestyle, nostalgia, happiness and many more. Kolkata is not a place regarding which feelings can be described. It is an emotion in itself which needs to be experienced. The Teak Almirah beautifully paints a picture of the various feelings regarding this place through the eyes of four Jews.

The Jews of Calcutta had come down from Baghdad. They were a prosperous community having built mane estates, bakeries, restaurants and synagogues throughout their stay in the city. In fact, Nahoums still remains as one of the best bakeries in the city. The story line narrates the life and personalities of four modern day Jews who have a strong bond with the city, their lost community and nostalgia of a time when the community flourished in Calcutta.

While most Jews decided to migrate to different countries especially to Australia, Seema decided to stay back in the city. She had emptied her Teak Almirah for the special person in her life. “He’s the only man I’ve ever loved.” Seema said, “Shall I betray him now? “. Seema , through her years of happiness and sorrows had seen the city change drastically. Tamara, on the other hand is a dancer from London. Her father was one of the very few who migrated to the United Kingdom. Having lost him at a very young age, she had always wanted to discover her father’s hometown- Calcutta. Her joy knew no bounds when she finally got the opportunity. But in time she would also discover that her identity might not be very welcome in the conservative Indian society, and thus decide to hide it. Mordy returns to Calcutta from Australia after a good sixty years to pay respects to his late parents. Unfortunately, he is greeted by shock when he sees a place and a society changed from its core. He feels like a stranger and loner in the city that he grew up in and loved much once. In fact, he starts despising the new Calcutta till he meets friends from his own community who gives him a new perspective to the city and the changes that it has harbored. Firozah, who lives in Bombay faces a new storm in her life when she discovers her long hidden past with the Jewish community of Calcutta.

The Teak Almirah  is an amalgamation of nostalgia and changing times; it is a reflection of cherishing your individual identity and yet moving ahead with the progressing time. It depicts the beauty of a vanishing community and the struggles to keep it alive so that it is not wiped out completely from the memories of the people. The once flourishing Jewish community is today etched in the memories of the old. The author, Jael Silliman being one of the last members of the community in the city, is trying to archive the community memories in her website www.jewishcalcutta.in .

The Teak Almirah is available in major bookstores and can also be purchased online via Amazon.

The Gutter Princess by Mini Gautam

The extra-ordinary story of a reluctant sex-worker is beautifully portrayed through the writings of Mini Gautam . The narrator is a young girl from the lower middle-class background . She traces her life which she embraced unwillingly due to her impoverished childhood.  The Gutter Princess highlights the brutal truth of those living on the other side of the poverty line. It depicts how they un-enthusiastically sacrifice themselves to make ends meet. The dearth of work and lack of proper education forces the lower class to take up work which they may not often approve of but becomes a quick way to find solutions to all their miseries.

Throughout the narration I could relate to the social evils inflicted upon women in contemporary world. From a drunkard husband beating and abusing his wife and children , to a paedophilic father who could stoop down no more than lusting after his own daughter; all these and many more find mention in The Gutter Princess.

Further, the book also explores human psychology through its pages. A person is most vulnerable during childhood and his/her surroundings shapes up his/her personality for the years to come. In that delicate phase if a child stands witness to domestic violence, sexual assaults, rape and discrimination based on gender; there is a stark difference in the personality of the child as compared to those children who have a normal upbringing. Their personality often emerges to be stoic , bold, unloved yet determined to meet their goals- much like that of the protagonist of The Gutter Princess.

To conclude I would say that the novel is just not a poignant tale of the life of a sex-worker, but also a ray of hope to many who have traversed similar paths. Society may demean a person but a winner is one who fights against all odds and gives it back on the face of the so- called modern, contemporary and liberal society.

The Gutter Princess can be purchased in your nearby bookstore or it can be ordered online via Flipkart, Amazon or Snapdeal.

Rains off A Smoky Sky : A Book Review

Rains off a Smoky Sky is the perfect metaphor for destroying the shackles of the society and carving a name for yourself, despite all odds. It is the debut novel by Dr Pritam Mandal, who pens down the life portrait of the protagonist- Anurita- through the pages of her diary. Just as rains are a bout of relief when it falls on the parched ground, similarly, Anurita’s experiences are a ray of hope and relief for the many young girls out there, who are hounded by a plethora of social stigma and taboos all the time.

What is interesting about the book is that it specifies the milestones of Anurita’s life through its pages. Thus, even though chronologically arranged you would find sufficient time gaps. Dr Mandal has carefully traced the life of a young girl, who grows up in a small village and chases her dreams beyond the boundaries of her rural settings to distant lands. He has also highlighted the various social stigmas associated with women- from studying science to marriage proposals after education; from the lecherous intents of men around to political harassment- the book has it all.

What struck me most in Rains off a Smoky Sky, was the idea of narrating the story through a diary. Today, in the digital age, people are forgetting the look of their own handwriting; let alone maintain a diary. The recollections of Anurita’s life through her diary touched a chord in my heart making me realize the importance of penning down memories; lest they be forgotten and lost forever in the sands of time.

Furthermore, the recurring statement of being a good human being made me stop and contemplate that it is easier to be scientific Homo sapiens but equally difficult to be ‘human beings’ in the true sense of the term. Being human does not mean being educated, ambitious, powerful and knowledgeable; rather it means to use your knowledge judiciously for the betterment of yourself, others and thereby the society. It means to use the power in your hands for the welfare of the people around you. It means to succeed in life but not at a compromising cost. Above all, being human means to retain your ground values and principles no matter how high you fly in the world. Thus, being human means to be humble and sensitive apart from being the rest.

I would, thus, suggest that you must read Rains off a Smoky Sky till the very end to follow Anurita on her fantastic journey. In fact, at the end of it all, many of you, like me, might wonder, if there is a sequel coming up. The story ends on a very high note leaving you anticipating for more.

You can purchase Rains off a Smoky Sky from your nearest bookstore or even online via Flipkart  and Amazon .