Book Review: The Blue Bar

What else could a story with a sleazy bar, the bar girls gyrating to loud vulgar music, some rich influential society honchos, some underworld hit-men, few dirty cops and a lone honest policeman trying to make a sense of it all, be other than a super thriller?

If the book happens to be written by Damyanti Biswas, who debuted with bloodcurdling story ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ in the world of crime fiction novels, then be assured that the thriller would be a story with a chilling murder or two with sudden twists and turns in the story.

Damyanti is an Indian author with numerous short stories to her credit and has been shortlisted for Bath Novel Awards. She is the co-editor of Forge Literary Magazine. Says Damyanti about her second novel, The Blue Bar, “The story idea developed from a prompt in a workshop, that required me to write about a character who was being watched. The image of a woman in blue sequined sari became the first few lines of the story.”

When dismembered female corpses began to appear at different locations pointing to mysterious disappearances of bar girls, inspector Arnav concludes that he needs to hunt down a serial killer before his next victim turns up slaughtered. But when another bar girl Tara, Arnav’s love interest from a decade ago, goes missing, the desperation to solve the case becomes personal. His investigations take him through secrets of rich and powerful. Arnav’s perceptions of friendship and loyalty are challenged along the way when he uncovers corruption in the ranks of his colleagues. As he finds more about piling dead bodies, he realizes there are bigger forces at play. While Arnav faces the dilemma of confronting friends and bosses, he needs to accept his own truth about his love and fears.

From shady dance bars to lavish bungalows of the rich, the story weaves its way through myriad emotions, brutal indifference, hate, unrequited love, revenge, abuse and lies. The twists in the story not only surprise but also hit hard.

As you read this book, it is apparent that a lot of research has gone into writing a engrossing story that brings alive the locales by describing the smells, the sights and the behaviors of characters. The story is set in Mumbai, a city where people migrate in search of dreams and aspirations.The grasping narration does justice in describing certain traits of Mumbai. It pulls you into the story making it feel all real, as if all the scenes are unfolding in front of you as you watch in horror.

A nail biting super paced well-written narration that leaves the reader with no time to think anything beyond reading the next page and then.  A great read for mystery readers.

What makes me happy?

"What makes you happy? 
A large decorated house?" He asked
I can live in a small room
I will decorate it with
Hope aspirations and positivity.
For how good is a big house 
full of despair and negativity?
What about your laptop? He said.
That is for work... 
To self sustain, to not expect someone's mercy
What about your mobile? he said
That is for killing time...
I can talk with you the whole day, 
if only you sit by my side, 
and indulge my flights of fantasy...
Where will you sleep?
In your arms in a tight embrace..
That is all the luxury I need..
You for resting my head and your breath to warm me up.
What about the weekly restaurant visits? Can you do without those?
That is for escaping, I said
A simple meal with you is enough to fill me up.. 
You can live without any luxury? He asked.
Who doesn't like luxury? I said 'But try me...'
Try me.. I said
You will give up in two days, he smirked.
Try me.. I said.
I am tough and resilient... Try me, I said.
What if we are left with nothing...he wondered.
We will build more... I said. 
Just try me..
So you will be happy with nothing?
Not nothing...
If you smile and laugh with me, 
Hug me and caress me,
Rest on my shoulder and let me rest on yours..
Celebrate with me the small pleasures
Be free, be hopeful, 
And believe...
Try me... I will be happy.

Brain Freeze?

Dull ache.. 
I am numb...
Strangers, neighbors
Friends, family
And widespread doom
Raging pyre fires
Singe me..
Scar me...
Fear surges in my veins..
I want to breathe..
But hold my breath
To swim through this tide...
Hoping to be on the other side

The sea breathes
And forests sway..
Celebrate birth of a new dawn
Sun smiles 
Moon sighs..
Nature thrives..

I am numb..
Dull ache..
The forever rush, 
All for nothing..
Time stands still!

A faraway voice,
Pause.. Think.. Acknowledge

When Places Come Alive: Book Review

Book: When Places Come Alive
Author: Ami Bhat
Genre: Travel
Publisher: Notion Press

A debut self published book by avid traveler and travel blogger Ami Bhat.

Travel, they say makes you a story teller. The more one travels, the more aware of various folklore, cultures and traditions, one becomes. Interacting with different people opens up a world of anecdotes and experiences.

In her debut book ‘When Places Come Alive’, Ami has tried to distill those very experiences from her travels in India and abroad. ‘These stories made a place in my head when I traveled to the destinations’ says Ami.

When Ami sent me her book to read, I was expecting travel stories and essays of her experiences. Instead what I read was her experiences woven into a fictional characters. There are village belles and princesses and intrepid explorers living Ami’s experiences and re-imagined folklore.

So, the story of villagers who disappeared overnight from the haunted village of Kuldhara, near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan is visualized as that of a young village girl happily playing till an evil eye finds herin the story’Where did She Go?’. The story of Dah village of Ladakh is imagined with Greek army and Alexander leading the story ‘The Last Village’. There is a princess of Lombok, Indonesia retelling the folk tale in ‘One For All’.

For her story ‘Sparkling Secrets’ about Gold Coast, Australia, Ami has imagined a character who is her namesake. The girl in the story Amy, goes on a treasure hunt and discovers the breathtaking gifts of nature along the way. ‘Actually I felt exactly like that in Gold Coast…as if I was on a treasure hunt’ mused Ami when I asked about the message in the bottle story.

What I liked was the presentation of the travel experiences in fiction form. It is a commendable effort and the result is a wonderful read in the stories. The ten individual stories allow the reader to read at will in any sequence thus keeping the mystery and exploration like that of a traveler, alive. Each story provides a link to blog posts on traveling details of same destination on Ami’s blog Thrilling Travel.

What I would have liked to see in these stories is some kind of illustration to make the short stories more attractive. But that is totally my desire. The stories are well imagined and well written. The book makes for a interesting weekend getaway.

Go ahead and read her debut book. It would be as interesting as her blog.

Book Review: Oonga

Book: Oonga
Author: Devashish Makhija
Publication: Tulika Publishers
Genre: Fiction

A 2013 critically acclaimed film now a novel

Devashish Makhija, a screen writer and director of Hindi Cinema, made the film ‘Oonga‘ in 2013 with actress Nandita Das playing one of the important characters of the story. The film though critically acclaimed was not released commercially for various reasons. The author has released the story now as a novel and the book Oonga was launched in the Jaipur Literature Festival 2021.

Few years ago before directing the film of the same name, Makhija, spent time traveling through the jungles of Odisha meeting and observing locals and their everyday fight for survival. He realized that the story still seemed relevant in current times and decided to bring the story in the form of book. The book ‘Oonga’ is inspired by the Dongria Kondh tribals and their way of life.

The Characters Of The Story

Unadulterated by the ways of city, Oonga, a young tribal adivasi boy, lives a carefree life playing in the jungles with his friends. Like others of his adivasi tribe who have only known the forest as their home among those trees and animals, he too knows the ways of the jungle, recognizing every rustle of the leaves and the sway of each tree. He and his tribe depend on the forest, for food, shelter and well being. It is the only land they know as their own. Oonga is however unawares of the struggle that adivasis like him go through every day to protect their land, their home and their identity.

A young woman, Hemla, having seen the other side of the world beyond the forests, hopes to familiarize the young children with Hindi language which will enable them to start a dialogue with the outside world to convey their misgivings, their hopes and understand the ways of city. She teaches the children and believes in finding a solution through conversation and legal system to retain the land for the tribals. Oonga idolizes Hemla and studies Hindi in her makeshift class under the banyan tree. While Hemla dreams of arming the tribals with a language and identity, the forest echos with clashes between ‘naxalites’, the tribals and locals who have taken up arms to defend their honour and land under guidance of Laxmi and the policemen of CRPF. And amidst all this the mining company ‘India Aluminium Inc’ continues to encroach on the forest land hungrily destroying trees and environment in the name of development.

The Story

But the story is not about Oonga. Oonga is just a medium to carry the story forward. The story is about the women; Oonga’s mother Oongamma, who worries about the safety of her children, of Hemla, the young idealist teacher who believes in the goodness of the system and ultimately pays the price for being on the right path, of Laxmi, the Naxalite leader, who has seen enough pain and sacrifice and is willing to shed blood to protect her tribe, of other women who have been raped and widowed in the entire struggle over the years. It is their fight for survival that the story is all about.

It also is the story of an unwanted war between policemen and Naxalites who have been pitched against each other because someone else is devouring the land of adivasis and rendering them homeless.

The story also takes reference from Ramayana. Little Oonga having taken a long journey to the city to watch a play about Sitaharan, considers himself to be little Rama and returns to his village to witness the chaos. He believes he has to defend his village, Hemla didi and his friend Idma.

Throughout the story, a filmmaker’s flair is evident in the beautiful imagery like “The smoke is black. It rises like a thick venomous snake rearing its head into the sky, almost obscuring the sun” when he describes the smoke emanating from mining company. Or when Oonga runs, his feet falling thuupthupthupthuup on the forest floor past the red flags “The red flags flutter in chorus, as if murmuring a s silent anthem of protest.” And also when he writes about the logo of mining company. The narrative makes the reader aware of the ‘India Aluminium Inc’, the mining company’s watchful eye; the image conjured by the author through the omnipresent sign board of the company. It is this ‘I’ of the company name that keeps an eye on movements of tribals and pitches policemen against innocent tribals.


The story moved me and and made me feel sympathetic towards the plight of adivasi tribes and even Naxalites.

Devashish Makhija has managed to hold reader’s attention through a tightly knit gripping tale about the dilemma of adivasis; to go down the legal way and sacrifice or to pick up arms and die. Are we not taking away the rights of tribal people to peacefully coexist on their land in name of development? Are the naxalites justified in defending their people and their land? The adivasis have lived in forests since ages but they obviously do not have legal papers to the land, does that mean they have no rights? Where will they go if all forests turn to cities?

Do the policemen of CRPF want such a war, killing people, sometimes their own? Do they deserve symathy for being the victims of brutal killings by Naxals? Or are they the perpetrators who forced the simple bow-and-arrow men and women of jungles to pick up guns and explosives?

Are the mining corporations and those who facilitate their spread deeper into farm and forest lands the real culprits? Do we really want development on cost of sacrificing a section of the society?

Makhija hopes the story will start a dialogue and force people to think the pros and cons of a greedy society that we are slowly becoming.

A great well written story told with passion and conviction. I am glad I read the novel first instead of watching the movie.

Book Review:Wrath Of the Hell Fires

Book: The Wrath Of the Hell Fires 
Author: Shatrujeet Nath
Genre: Mytho-Fiction
Publication: Jaico Books

Vikramaditya Veergatha series by author Shatrujeet Nath is the story of Avanti, the star-crossed kingdom of Vikramaditya which is the target of continuous assaults by Devas and Asuras searching for two swords, the Hellfires and a dagger that seals within its hilt, the potent ‘halahal’.

The kingdom is also under threat of attacks by its neighbor Magadha and Hun barbarians. However, the king and his nine councilmen with special powers defend their city day and night. Their combined powers have proven to be a formidable force time and again.

Many a readers might be aware of the ‘Vikram aur Betal’, the never ending mythological tale of the just king Vikramaditya and a spirit. The story has been re-imagined and retold by author Shatrujeet Nath in his four book long Vikramditya Veergatha Series.

While the first three in the series were available for the readers in quick succession, the fourth and the grand finale of the series took quite some time. The pandemic delayed its release further.

But, Wrath Of Hellfires, Book 4, from the series was released for its reader fans recently. Most who have read the first three books from Vikramaditya Veergatha were patiently waiting for the conclusion of the story in book 4.

While the wait has been long, the story in the last book does not disappoint at all. A fast paced narrative, it meanders through many a wars fought on different fronts by the king and his enemies. As one dives deeper into the story, it conjures up a vivid imagery for the readers and they are transported to described setting.

The first three books of the story have set up the stage for the final clash between the devious Asuras, devas and the enemies within the palace and around the borders. In the earlier three books, the conniving enemies had succeeded in dividing and reducing the effective force of the councilmen and king. The book 4 has all the answers for the intriguing story. What happens to the hell fire swords? What happens to the betal and his world of spirits? Does the ‘halahal’ dagger go to devas or asuras? What happens to the innocent wife of King Vikrama?

There is a gradual build up to the various forces coming together for retaliation and defense but no where does the story slack in its pace. There is no hurried or forced end to the story but yet the story doesn’t seem to linger on unnecessarily. The small twists added within the story will excite the reader as they root for the human king.

If one is fan of mytho-fiction and thrillers, this book and the whole Vikramaditya series pack a great punch.

I usually get bored of stories that are too long and give up reading. But this was one story where I wanted to know how the journey of King Vikramaditya shapes up in keeping his promise and protecting the potent halahal. This was a story which made me curious and turn page after page with bated breath as to what new challenges does the king face in his struggle to keep his kingdom safe.

I would suggest fans of thrillers to read all four books of the series in sequence.

Also read book reviews of:

Vikramaditya Veergatha I

Vikramaditya Veergatha II

Vikramaditya Veergatha III

Also at Amazon

Book Review: Gangster On The Run

Book: Gangster On The Run
Author: Puja Changoiwala
Publication: Harper Collins
Book cover Gangster On The Run

Films are a strong visual media that have a huge impact on young mind. And ‘Bhiku’ a name inspired from the character of gangster ‘Bhiku Mhatre’ of film ‘Satya’ was not the only thing that Rahul Jadhav adopted. ‘Gangster On the Run’ is Bhiku or Rahul Jadhav’s story.

Puja Changoiwala, an award winning journalist and author, who has worked as crime reporter for Hindustan Times and written extensively on gender, crime, human rights in national and international publications, brings her latest well researched story of  a reformed criminal in the book ‘Gangster On The Run’. Having interacted with criminals closely during her research, Puja aims to present the human story of second chances and redemption, through this story of a boy, who chose guns over books, power and money over values of family, whiskey, drugs and brothels over love.

Jadhav’s life story seems straight out of a fiction movie, only that it is true.

A non-fiction real life story of gangster Rahul Jadhav, the book documents the journey of a teenager from a humble family background who loved to paint and cycle in the neighborhood but found life as an extortionist and gangster more lucrative than what a college degree could give. A young boy disgruntled with monetary situation at home Rahul Jhadav, was drawn to the power and money that underworld commanded, found it fascinating and gravitated towards a life of crime. He chose continue his adventures in underbelly of Mumbai, ignoring his lover who implored him to change.

As he became more entrenched in the life of crime realized, Rahul discovered and realized the potential of internet. He trained himself to be tech savvy. He became more lethal and difficult to track down as he used internet to dig up information on industrialists and big wigs of cinema and to cover his tracks by using international phone numbers. His lust for power and money made him ruthless by the day and indispensable for the don.

But crime seldom pays in the long run. The story meanders through his personal life unraveling with his family disassociating themselves for his connection with the underworld and the love of his life leaving him for not amending his ways. He turned to alcohol and brothels in hope of filling the void  to get over his lost love.

His capture and subsequent abandonment by the Don brought a new twist in Jadhav’s life for worse. Schizophrenic, alcoholic, drug addict and disillusioned from the uncertainty and futility of the criminal life, Rahul Jadhav turned a new leaf.

Jadhav recalls Inspector Vijay salaskar, renowned encounter specialist, who was part of the team that had arrested him, telling him during interrogation “Men like you belong in coffin”.

His time in prison gradually made him remorseful and repentant. With a desire to resurrect himself and make things right , he turned to running. He felt the running liberate him of his demons. A counselor and champion of de-addiction he is also an ultra marathoner now. He has covered 10000 kilometres and ran the 2019 marathon from Gateway of India to India Gate and aims to break national marathon records.

The story gives a glimpse of underbelly of Mumbai and the constant cat and mouse chase between the crime branch of police and the criminals. A very engaging read, the story also puts forth the idea that many criminals chose to adapt the life but have the will to reform.

This book is a page turner indeed that the readers of thrillers will definitely enjoy.


Easy #DIY Projects By Arty Smarty

Hobbies of all kinds are the best way to utilize free hours of the day and usually are cathartic. My hobbies are Art and Craft besides few others that make me forget time and help in keeping depressed mood away.

I keep posting my one odd painting and craft projects on and off on my social media and it gives me immense pleasure when people praise my work.

And so Arty Smarty of Bangalore decided to send me a few of their DIY Craft projects. Arty Smarty creates easy to do-it-yourself craft kits for children as well as grown ups. The projects are smart and look good. I crafted a ‘wall clock’, a small ‘table lamp’ and an Eiffel Tower.

Diy craft kits
DIY Craft Kits

Wall Clock

Wall clock kit contains a square base with an option to chose the art one would want on its face, a set of clock arms, a clock mechanism for cell and arms and a hanging hook.

Wall clock DIY project
Wall clock

I chose to have a compass on the clock surface as it symbolizes my love for outside, for travel.

Did a quick makeover of the white base with mountains, sea, desert and forests to depict all cardinal directions that we can explore and I have traveled to.

The wall surface is perfect for acrylics and oil paints. I have however used oil pastels as I wanted a rustic finish. With other designs available on website solid colors could also be easily applied.

Diy wall clock painted
A quick makeover of wall-clock with scenes depicting four cardinal directions

Table Lamp

A bedside table lamp kit comes with a base unit and adapter for electrical connection and a perspex sheet printed with a design of one’s choice. The sheet goes into a slot on base unit.

Just paint away with colors you love and and voila! your own hand-painted bedside table lamp is ready for use.

diy lamp kit
Table lamp with base unit and a design imprint of my choosing

I chose a simple mandala design and added a some dash of color. I purposely did not color the entire design to let the original design show. I have used washable glass paints so I could change the color whenever I want to.

The lamp DIY kit is for ages seven years and above. There are numerous images to choose, from cartoons to mandala designs. The children would find cute little cartoons quite attractive to paint and have their own art work light up as a lamp in their rooms.

Painted with glass paints table lamp diy kit
Added a little colour

It is quite easy and child friendly project.

Eiffel Tower

Small individual elements can be glued together to make this iconic structure of Eiffel Tower. It becomes a good show piece for decor at your home.

The DIY projects by Arty Smarty come with a link to the instructions on their website and are fun way of utilizing the time.

I quite enjoyed assembling and coloring the DIY projects.

Disclaimer: This is a promotional post. Please use your discretion with the website and products of ArtySmarty. I was not paid for this post, however I received the project kits from the brand as part of product review.

Do follow my Instagram : @arty_affair and if you do like my art, get in touch with me for customized greeting cards, coasters, wall pieces, book marks and more.

For travel pics follow me @shomaabhyankar

Book Review: Heroes Amongst Us

Book: Heroes Amongst Us

Author: Dr Amit Nagpal

Heroes Amongst Us book cover

There is always something in each of us that excites us no end. If we pay heed to that inner fire we can achieve success in whatever we desire from the bottom of our hearts.

As singer Jon Bon Jovi aptly says:

“Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you do with your life, be passionate”

And it is this passion that is brought out in some 30 stories of ordinary people from various walks of life across the world who followed their heart and achieved great heights in the direction they chose in this book “Heroes Amongst Us” by Dr Amit Nagpal.

The story of Bhikkhu Sanghasena, a revered Buddhist monk, from Ladakh shows how choosing a path of one’s calling gives joy and satisfaction. Sanghsena joined army as a soldier at the young age of 17. But his heart lay in following the austere life of Buddhism. Leaving the army life he chose to embrace a monk’s life and integrate both the disciplines, one that he imbibed from his training in army and other as a monk, to help his community and people of Ladakh.

Among some of his endeavors are educational institute, meditation center, shelters for underprivileged children, healthcare, Save The Himalayas Foundation and more. His selfless contribution to the society has received acknowledgement in the form of ‘National Award for Welfare of People With Disabilities’ by Indian government, World Peace Award by Gandhi Peace Foundation and ‘Man of the Year 2002’ by American Biographical Institute. The monk lives by the mantra of taking work as worship and finding joy in enabling others.

Then there is Dr Vartika Nanda, recipient of ‘Stree Shakti Puraskar’ the highest civilian honor for women in India who brought about reforms in Indian prisons. Introduced to fame through anchoring TV show at 11 years for Jalandhar Doordarshan, Vartika grew up to become a crime reporter and author. She worked through ZEE TV, NDTV and having seen the life of victims and criminals up-close, she set up ‘Tinka Tinka Foundation’ for reform of inmates of jails. The foundation helped many inmates with organic farming skills, improving literacy and reducing the sentence.

Vartika currently heads the department of journalism in Lady Shri ram College, Delhi University and her reports on condition of women and children in jails has been recognized by Supreme Court Of India. Her success mantra is ‘work with passion and purity’.

Osama Manzar‘s journey to success as Founder and Director of Digital Empowerment Foundation that works towards digitally empowering the masses is another inspiring story included in the book.

Having grown under strict father and failing to succeed in conventional academics and subsequently in finding job as journalist, Osama finally found his passion and calling in the world of internet. He started work as a writer with Computer World Magazine and invested much time in learning as much from the IT professionals he met during the job. Soon he moved to digital portalof Hindustan times and later co-authored the book ‘Internet Economy Of India’. In the process he realized that most of the rural Indian population was unconnected to the progressive world. He set up Digital Empowerment Foundation to connect the masses. His mantra; hard work and using common sense.

There are many such stories in the book reiterating the importance of passion, hard work and belief in self. Written as short stories that inspire the book is the kind of compilation that one can read even after a long gap since the stories vary and are about different people.

The common thread in all stories is of course passion and dedication to one’s dreams.

Pick up the book, now available world wide, if reading about ordinary people who made a life for themselves with determination motivates you to define your journey to success.

Book Review: Queen Of At-Home Lifestyle

Book: Queen Of At-home Lifestyle
Genre: Self Help
Author: Chandana Banerjee
Publication: Self Published E-Book

Book ReviewIt has been quite some time since I have written anything. Honestly I had lost motivation. Also the change in scenario with Covid spreading in all countries causing suffering and deaths in its wake scared me forcing me to concentrate on the present times instead of future.

This unfamiliar unknown deadly disease made me falter in my regular life with everything from home, work and helping daughter with her studies. What I actually needed was something to point me towards a direction to re-channelize my energies in home-making and my work as a writer.

It was coincidence that Author Chandana Banerjee connected with me to about her book “Queen Of At-Home Lifestyle”.  And it intrigued me enough when she described her E-book being about tips and suggestions of how to make most of time in these pandemic times.

Chandana Banerjee, a military wife, a successful entrepreneur and author has brought her latest book “Queen of At-Home Lifestyle” for women who are the backbone of a home. The book is divided into three major parts Home-Making, Home-Schooling and Work From Home.

The Work from Home section deals with whys and hows of setting up a micro business or entrepreneurship from home with whatever resources are available at hand without unnecessary expenditure to begin with. Being a military wife herself, Chandana Banerjee knows how to make best of sources available in remote places of the country when she moves to such obscure places with her husband. She advises on how to juggle work and home chores like cooking, stocking up kitchen, laundry and hose cleaning without giving up on the passion of your fledgling business from home.

The Home making section deals with making a weekly plan for various activities required to run a house like clockwork so that the chores do not overwhelm the home-maker. While sharing the hacks and tips for running the house like queen, she emphasizes how creating a routine saves many hours in a day. An uncluttered and simply decorated space goes a long way in enhancing the work and home skills is what she says.

The home schooling section also shares tips about how to make home schooling not only enjoyable for the kids but also an easy task for the primary care giver. The chapters point out the sources for home schooling as well.

But in all this the best advice author gives is to take things slow and easy pace without overburdening yourself or rest of the members of the home, spending quality time with family and enjoying the whole gamut of things to do!

The book is a collection of handy tips to organize your thoughts and guide through the initial steps of stepping home based small scale business along with increasing efficiency at home.

Most of us would understand the easy tips and suggestions because in heart of heart, we know these logical pointers. But at times we let circumstances cloud our thinking and that is when a little nudge can bring us back on track. And this is what Chandan Banerjee’s book does… it pushes you to take up that niggling idea out in open from the crevices of your mind and helps you take the first few baby steps towards your dream of wonderful home and a successful home run entrepreneurship.

Do give it a read.