Rani Padmavati by Anuja Chandramouli

Deemed to be the famous beauty of Chittor, Rani Padmavati was respected, loved, chided, looked up to as an inspiration and lusted upon. One knows about Rani Padmavati or Rani Padmini through history books and oral tales, especially in the princely States of Rajasthan. The story and her life are not unheard of, but what sets Chandramouli’s novel apart from the rest are the vivid character sketches. One gets to know who the ‘Burning Queen ‘was. The readers cannot help but appreciate the actions of Allauddin Khalji as a ruler, strategist and an invader. Maharaja  Ratan Singh too has been portrayed in many shades through the book.

Rani Padmavati has been highlighted as a woman of substance; knowledgeable, courteous, fearless, fierce and knowing how best to react under circumstances. Her unique ability to befriend people from all classes and present herself in the most respectable way to the Greatest Royalties made her loved and respected among all. Her abilities to gather knowledge from the inner sanctum of the Rajput rulers and from the gossips among the maids quenched her thirst to gather political knowledge and keep her up to date with the world beyond. In this sense, she was given an equal foothold in the patriarchal conservative world.

Ratan Singh, the ruler of Chittor was a kind-hearted man who loved his subjects and took immense care of them, even fighting for their rights whenever required. However, he was not far-sighted and did not have the iron fist with which a ruler should have ruled his Kingdom. His principles, ego, love for his wife and his subjects captured him within the walls of his city and prevented him from curtailing the advancement of foreign invasion.

Allauddin Khalji was a man most fearful, yet respected and admired. His ruthless ruling and strategic planning made him victorious each time; almost equalling him to Alexander-The Great. His unique ability to hunt down traitors, make full use of their disloyalty and later dispose of them in the most unthinkable ways invokes a feeling of disgust and yet makes him a fearfully respected character.

The discrepancies between the various Rajput clans whether it be their ego, their thirst for power, their want to prove themselves mightier than the other; prevented them from standing up against their common enemy together. This inequality became a major reason for the downfall of the Rajput’s. Interestingly, the famous tale of Khalji’s will to see the Queen and her condition of seeing merely her reflection was a missing instance in the novel. Nevertheless, the novel would not disappoint you and you would like reading it. For me, reading Rani Padmavati coincided with the release of the much controversial and much-awaited movie Padmaavat by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I could almost visualize the characters coming alive in front of my eyes.

Rani Padmavati is a beautiful re-telling of the age-old legend. What had been told orally through stories, poems, and performances; now finds a place between the pages of Chandramouli’s book. It is available at your nearest bookstores or can be purchased through Snapdeal, Amazon, and Flipkart.

*Disclaimer: I would like to Thank Author Anuja Chandramouli who sent me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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.

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.

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.



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 .