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.

Zindagi me nazariye badal gaye hain….

Corona pandemic has forced each of us to rethink what is important in life…
Money or loved ones?
Desire to conquer the world or have another peaceful and free morning…
A Hindi poem for the changing attitude towards life…

ख्वाब बदल गए हैं
मर्जियां बदल गई हैं
जिंदगी को देखने के
अब नज़रिए बदल गए हैं…

कल तक थी आस
नाम की
शोहरत की
पहचान की
दौलत की…
देखते कहां थे हम
कौनसी कली खिली है
कौन मुई चिड़िया चहकी थी
लगे हुए थे एक दौड़ में
आज को भूल, कल की होड़ में

कैसा फिर है अब समय चक्र देखो
नहीं चिंता पैसे की
कपड़े की
ना छप्पन भोग की…
आज बैठे हैं सुन्न
सहमे हुए हाथ जोड़े
आस है तो सिर्फ
एक और सुबह की
एक और लम्हे की
अपनों के संग
गले लगने की
कभी ना बिछड़ ने की
फिर से मिलने की
संग हसने रोने झगड़ने की
पीठ थपथपाने की
रूठने मनाने की
ललक है ज़िन्दगी की…

सच ख्वाब बदल गए हैं
अब नज़रिए बदल गए हैं…

Book Review: Walks Through Life

Book: Walks Through Life

Author: Santhosh K Komaraju

Walks through life book image

This book arrived at my doorstep when I was quite occupied and hence the delay.

The book ‘Walks Through Life’ by Santhosh K Komaraju is a collection of nine short stories which as the name suggests are the life lessons to enlighten readers.

Inspired from mythology stories, Santhosh has written these stories to share his thoughts on different circumstances that one may learn from.

Stories like ‘Hidden Kingship’ is about finding the self and being true to oneself. The story takes Santeyi, a scrupulous trader in search of turning his luck to a sage who orders the man with some impossible tasks. In the process Santeyi discovers the dormant righteous and magnanimous man ‘the king’ within himself.

The ‘Beyond The Bar Of Humanity’ story talks about kindness and benevolence as a tool to counter disruptive behavior. It floats the idea of inclusiveness instead of differentiation. All the stories have some message in it.

Since the book has different stories, it is convenient for a reader to pick and choose to read stories in any order. The book can also be read over a longer period of time as each story is unrelated to the other. 

The stories in book are quite nice, one thing however that did not sit well for me was that the author has put too many long sentences and said simple things in a roundabout way. Honestly I took so much time to review the book a little because of this reason. In my opinion, book with stories meant for readers to learn from should be written in a very simple language. This book is not easy on readers time.

A sentence such as this: “Every evening, a mundane rite had to be performed by Pundis all alone at the juncture of the drawing sun, bringing him to his private backyard during that time” from the story ‘Blessing Of a curse’ takes up time to comprehend… at least it did mine. I like to read short snappy sentences where the meaning is immediately clear and I can get on with my reading. Such sentences distract the reader and can not keep the attention span engaged. There are more such examples but let me not point all out.

But that is just me… May be its my shortcoming. As a kid whenever I learnt a new difficult word, i would try to include it in my poetry or essay. It is then one of my teachers pointed out that if I wanted people to read what I write, the language should be simple, conversational, short… easy on mind.

While the need of the hour is that life lessons be given to people subtly in form of stories with relatable characters. The book is a brave attempt to impart secrets of a fulfilling and happy life through honorable and selfless deeds. 

Readers interested in spiritual growth and self-improvement would most probably enjoy the book more than readers who are looking for quick entertainment.

Do read and let me know whether the book worked for you?

Also at Goodreads  

Book Review: The Last Love Letter

Book: The Last Love Letter
Author: Kulpreet Yadav
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Rupa Publication
Book cover of The Last Love letterI am late…. very very late in putting up the review of this book, the first in romance genre by Kulpreet Yadav. Most of his books are crime thrillers. I have read just one though and enjoyed reading it.

The Last Love Letter is the story of a single father who hasn’t gotten over the death of his first love and a young artist who having experienced bad heartbreak has sworn off men.

The two lead characters Akash and Subah engrossed in their own world, happen to cross paths when Subah is trying to put her paintings for exhibition and Akash is trying to kick start his fledgling start-up. A rocky start to their acquaintance gradually turns into a reliable friendship. The love blossoms ever so gently.

The story describes very well the mental state of Akash after losing his beloved wife… his struggle to concentrate on work as a result and his difficulty in bringing up a daughter alone. Subah’s hatred towards men has been much written too and her gradual acceptance of her feelings towards Akash is aptly described as is Akash’s bafflement towards Subah’s initial behavior.

While the story moves smoothly and the falling in love of two characters seems an obvious progression, I found myself annoyed a bit with Subah’s hatred towards men. While justified, I sill think her reaction was little too much….but then that goes on to say that the story convinced me of the characterization of this girl. On the other hand the love of Akash for his dead wife was so heartwarming. Who wouldn’t want a partner so much in love with them?

I liked this story much better than the thriller ‘The Girl Who Loved a Pirate’ by Kulpreet Yadav. There is an easy flow to the story and no forced conclusions. There is no unnecessary inclusion of steamy scenes just to lure the readers. A wonderfully written lovable love story this one.

But who writes the last love letter?

Read the book to find more.

Goodreads

Book Review: No Illusions In Xanadu

Book: No Illusions In Xanadu
Author: Ruby Gupta
Genre: Thriller
Publication: Bloomsbury India
Book cover: no illusions in xanaduIf you have grown up in late 80s or early 90s like me, you would be familiar with the characters of Phantom or the Ghost who Walks or Mandrake the Magician and his African friend Lothar.

Mandrake was created in 1934 and ran as comic strip till 2013 in USA. When I was growing up, thin comic booklets of adventures of Mandrake was available in Indian bookstores. I am not sure whether it was available later.

Mandrake the magician used the technique of hypnotism to create illusions and catch gangsters, mad scientists and a whole lot of villains.  And the super hi-tech mansion that he lived in was called Xanadu.

When I first read the title of Ruby Gupta’s ‘No Illusions in Xanadu’, I was taken back to a childhood teeming with books and stories. I was quite intrigued at the choice of book’s title because I am not sure the current generation of teenagers and young adults have heard either of Mandrake or his highly protected mansion Xanadu.

No Illusions in Xanadu by Ruby Gupta is about the mystery that revolves around death of renowned actor, superstar Rajiv Kapoor. Almost everyone of his family who is set to gain from his death is a prime suspect. Professor Shantanu Bose, an accidental sleuth, studies and investigates every close associate of the dead actor. What intrigues him that the house is under surveillance and yet the murderer escapes. During his investigations, professor stumbles upon more skeletons in the family cupboard. The actor’s past affairs, Casanova tendencies, another love child and more. Amidst the intensifying plot, twist comes in form of death of actor’s second wife’s son who was set to debut in his first film.

Every time the detective feels sure of role of the immediate and extended family member in murder some new clue comes to light. With different people having different motives, detective ultimately another twist and a relevation ultimately discloses the real culprit.

What I loved about the story was that it was very fluid. I did not skip any page since there was no lethargy in the narrative.The twists and turns in the plot leave the reader curious. I have read quite many thrillers and there have been instances when I have guessed who the murderer is half way through the novel but ‘No Illusions In Xanadu’ was different and it was only when the last twist was added that the identity of murderer was revealed.

I liked the pace of the story. I am a fast reader and unless the story starts dragging, I usually finish it off in a day or two. This story kept me glued and I did finish it off in one sitting.  Another thing I liked was no unnecessary cruel or bloody description of  murders…quick and clean mention of the crime. I don’t have a particular liking to gore.

Its a good mystery story.

Read excerpt at Goodreads 

Book Review: Ghummakkadi Dil Se

Book: Ghummakkadi Dil Se(Hindi)
Author: Alka Kaushik
Genre: Non- Fiction(Travel)
Publisher: Bhavna Prakashan

Book cover मुझे किस्से कहानियों को पढ़ने का शौक बचपन से लग गया था और अमर चित्र कथा और चंदामामा जैसी किताबों के भरोसे छुट्टियां बहुत मज़े में निकलती थीं | बाबा की घर पर पड़ी हुई उपन्यासों को पढ़ते पढ़ते चस्का और भी गहरा हो गया| फिर क्या था जब जहाँ जो किताब मिलती थी लाइब्रेरी में , दोस्तों के घर, रैलवेस्टैशन की दुकानों पर सब पढ़ लेने का लालच हो उठता था | एक समय ऐसा था की मैं लिस्ट बनाती  थी पढ़ी हुई किताबों की | कॉलेज के दिनों में विदेशी लेखकों को जी भर के पढ़ा और अंग्रेजी में लिखना और भाषा को आकर्षक बनाना इसी किताबों के प्रेम से आया |

अमूमन मैं अंग्रेजी में अपनी बात कहती हूँ| आसान लगता है अब | पर मुझे अपनी हिंदी भाषा से भी बहुत प्रेम है | मेरी कवितायेँ ज्यादातर हिंदी में होती हैं क्यूंकि में मानती हूँ हिंदी में जितना रस  और भाव व्यक्त करने की क्षमता है वो किसी और भाषा में नहीं | एक एक शब्द के कम से कम पांच पर्यायवाची शब्द तो यूँ ही मिल जायेंगे जिनको वाक्य  के अनुसार प्रयोग किया जा सकता है |

तो सोचा इस बार अलका कौशिक द्वारा हिंदी भाषा में सैर-सपाटे पर लिखी किताब ”घुमक्कड़ी दिल से” की समीक्षा भी हिंदी में ही की जाए आखिर हिंदी भाषा पर मजबूत पकड़ वाली इस लेखिका का हिंदी में लिखने का एक कारण ये भी तो है की वे सभी लोग जो हिंदी भाषी हैं उन्हें भी देश विदेश की जगहों के बारे में पता चले| अंग्रेजी लेखों तक सब की पहुँच भी नहीं होती |

अलका कौशिक ट्रेवल ब्लॉगर हैं और सियाचिन से ले कर दक्षिण भारत के कई पड़ाव और राजस्थान से लेकर भारत के नार्थ ईस्ट राज्यों का भ्रमण कर चुकी हैं | यही नहीं उनके कदम विदेशों में भी कई रास्ते नाप चुके हैं | उन्होंने रोमानिया के भारत आधारित इवेंट में भारतीयता का झंडा लहरा डाला है |

जाहिर सी बात है की जिसने इतना घूमना घुमाना किया है उसके पास किस्से कहानियों का खजाना ही होगा और साथ ही अपार अनुभव | और ऐसे में ब्लॉग, अख़बारों और पत्रिकाओं के आगे खुद किताब  लिखना एक स्वाभाविक सी सीढ़ी हुई | अलका कौशिक ने अपनी कई  यात्राओं के अनुभव और सैलानियों के लिए उपयोग आने वाली जानकारी अपनी पहली किताब ‘घुमक्कड़ी दिल से‘ में बड़े प्यार से पिरो डाली हैं |

अलका की विदेश यात्राओं में से कुछ जैसे की बाली , भूटान, यूरोप के कुछ भाग , रोमानिया, कैलास मानसरोवर अदि का उल्लेख इस पुस्तक में है | यूरोप टूर पर अपनी माँ को ले जाने की ख्वाइश में स्पेन, पुर्तगाल के कई हेरिटेज से लेकर खानपान के पहलु छान लिए है जैसे लिस्बन का द फ़ूड टेम्पल नामक रेस्तरां जहाँ रोज़ वेगन मेनू दुनिया के हर कल्चर से प्रेरित होता है, मेड्रिड में यूरोप का सबसे बड़ा फ़्ली मार्किट की रौनक का विवरण है | थाईलैंड के हाइवे, पैगोडा, ताईवान के नाईट मार्केट भी शब्दों में घूमने को मिलते हैं और रोमानिया की राजधानी में धूम मचता नमस्ते इंडिया उत्सव भी |

भारत यात्राओं की फेहरिस्त में चम्बल की घाटियां से लेकर भीमबेटका के पुरातन गुफा चित्र, लद्दाख  और सियाचिन और कई अन्य रोमांचक किस्से घूमने जाने को प्रेरित करते हैं | अपनी बातचीत के अंदाज़ में लिखी हुई ये ट्रेवल मेमॉयर एक इजी रीड है और घूमने का शौक रखने वालों क लिए जिज्ञासा जगा जाती है |

अगर आप को घुम्मक्कड़ी का शौक है तो इस पुस्तक को पढ़ने का लुत्फ़ ज़रूर उठाएं और हिंदी और कुछ उर्दू शब्दों के मिलान से भाषा की मधुरता का आनंद भी लें |

Book Review: Before You Breathe


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Book: Before You Breathe
Author: Tanushree Podder
Genre: Thriller
Publication: Harper Collins

Tanushree Podder

Mystery stories, as I have always said, happen to be my preferred read. So when the latest by Tanushree Podder arrived at the door step, I couldn’t resist.

The lazy town of Ramsar, an imaginary Himalayan town, is jolted out of its languid pace by mysterious and extraordinary break-ins on two consecutive days at two different locations. The break-ins are extraordinary because nothing seems to have been stolen from neither sites, the doctor’s clinic and affluent Shekhar Sharma’s bungalow.

The town is also home to retired army officer Colonel Arjun Acharya, an amateur detective with his skills somewhat honed while serving in army. Joining forces with town police, the colonel follows subtle links, reads between the lines, draws inferences which no one else thinks of and solves the strange incidents happening in town.

The book is a delight to read with glimpses of Tanushree’s love for Agatha Christie and Hercules Poirot showing up in the narrative. The amateur sleuth in colonel ponders on the hints and clues in a similar fashion as the famed Belgian detective Poirot. Colonel Acharya’s description and his quiet investigations bring out the tiny details of the case to the reader and tie the story up in one fluid narrative like Sherlock Holmes. In fact all characters are well thought of and have their own importance in the story.

A good mystery keeps you guessing who the culprit is. The story of Before You Breathe does exactly that. It keeps introducing characters who may have ulterior motives and then suddenly you feel you have solved the mystery but a twist proves you wrong. What you see may not be the whole truth and that comes out in the story.

For a long time I was not happy with the books that kept arriving for a review and I had given up on reading a good thriller. But Before You Breathe reminded me of mystery books I read while growing up… vivid description, subtle hints and no unnecessary blood and gore.

This book is an enjoyable light read. The ‘Shirt Pant’ nickname for a character brings a smile reminding me of the silly nicknames we labeled on people whom we disliked. There is no unnecessary stretching of the story. The narrative compels you to turn page after page.

I was happy to read this simple easy story.  Go read if you are looking for a clean and intriguing story.

Going The Theatre Way To Bring Positivity In Life

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” ~ Oscar Wilde

And indeed with its live presentation, the artists connect better with their audience, leave a lasting impact by its tradition of living in the present, transparency and immediate gesture or word.

Mime

Initiated in 1961 by International Theatre Institute, the World Theatre Day is celebrated across the world on 27th March.  With an aim to generate interest and awareness of this important medium of art in future generations, an yearly message by prominent stage artist, translated in more than 50 languages, is conveyed to the theatre fraternity and read to thousands of spectators.

Art For Wellness

The performing arts are known for creating an atmosphere that enhances wellness and grasping quality of children. The visuals tend to engage the imaginations of children and make them understand better. The right kind of cultural stories and influences also promote a feeling of security, responsibility and happiness quotient. This may prevent children from going astray, feel neglected or abused and from becoming violent as some studies claim, especially the under privileged children with low income families.

French Philosopher and Mathematician Blaise Pascal, has rightly said : “Imagination…creates beauty, justice and happiness which are everything in this world”

Across the world many institutions have resorted to involving children in music, mime, painting, ballet, dancing and plays to express themselves. The performing arts  aid in driving away the inhibitions of young children. The children gain confidence by exploring the medium fearlessly.

Mime

Researchers from the School of Social Policy Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, over two years have found that low-income New York City residents with more access to cultural resources experienced better education, security and health outcomes. The study  showed a 14% decrease in cases of child abuse and neglect, an 18% decrease in the serious crime rate and an 18% increase in the number of students scoring at the highest level on standardized math and English tests compared to low-income communities with fewer cultural resources.

Many Indian institutions have included theatre and performing arts as tools to engage kids and motivate participation especially for under privileged children. The Child’s Play India Organisation provides Music lessons and instruments for under privileged children in Goa.

Salam Bombay Foundation also works to promote this among the children in its educative programmes. With an aim to keep the children in school and lower drop-out rates, an experimental Play ‘Eka Dhotrachi Gosht’ – a production by theatre students from the Academy has held several successful shows across the country including performances at the National School of Drama, New Delhi.

Recently a group of students of Stanford University, Stanford Talisman, interacted and performed along with Salam Bombay Foundation’s Academy of Arts students thus giving the children an international exposure and a hope of dreaming big.

Stanford talisman

If theatre and performing arts could be utilized in keeping children aware and away from a life of crime, what else could be better than that? World today is in dire need of compassionate souls, less rage and more happiness and love…

“The object of art is to give life shape”~William Shakespeare

तू मेरा आसमां


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This year on Women’s Day, I had written a poem dedicated to men in my life…my husband and father. I forgot to post this poetry on blog but posted on Facebook.

Here it is now:

वो समंदर जहां
मिलता है न आसमां से
उस छोर तक तैर आऊं
चाहती हूं मैं
और हर लहर की तरह
किनारे पर लौट आऊं
चाहती हूं मैं….

वो आकाश जहां
झिलमिला जाते हैं न चांद सितारे
उस नीली छतरी को नाप आऊं
चाहती हूं मैं
और हर पंछी की तरह
घरौंदे पर लौट आऊं
चाहती हूं मैं

वो भीनी सी धूप में
खिल उठती है कली जैसे
यूं ही बरबस महक उठूं
चाहती हूं मैं
ठंडी छांव में फिर तेरी छुप जाऊं
चाहती हूं मैं

तू मेरा आसमां
तू मेरी धरती
तू ही मेरा समंदर
तेरा साथ पाकर
उन्मुक्त जीना
चाहती हूं मैं

Thanks to all those men who are the wind under the wings of their wives, daughters and sisters #internationalwomensday