Book Review: Busting Cliches

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Book: Busting Cliches
Author: Mahevash Shaikh
Genre: Self Help
Publication: APK Publishers
Busting Cliches

Busting Cliches

Everyday most of us refer to some situation with oft used phrases. Most times we believe we have used it in the correct sense…it gives us a sense of know-all and we gloat on our knowledge of English language and our ability to describe a certain situation.

But what if I tell you that most of the very commonly used cliches are usually little off the mark of what they actually mean?

Here is a young author Mahevash Shaikh with her debut handbook who busts the misunderstood versions of twenty such phrases.

The size and shape of book itself busts the preconceived notion of a book…at least it broke my preconceived idea of a book. Honestly when the book arrived I was little miffed because it had a look of a pocket book or a cook-book. But later as I read through, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the size was purposely meant to break that cliche?

Each phrase mentioned in the book has its originally intended meaning, the misunderstood version, reference of that phrase in popular songs, a caricature and byte size explanation of what to make of it. There are snippets of comments and quotes by some popular names of the world for each phrase.

The book opens withLook Before You Leap as the first cliche to be busted. It seems that that the common understanding of this phrase is to be cautious all the time. However what it really implies is that before we take a decision, we must weigh all the pros and cons. Like Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook says “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Another phrase that left me thinking was One good turn deserves another’. Most time we expect reciprocation of a good gesture or act and feel miffed and disappointed if that doesn’t happen. And here is what the basic fault lies in understanding this phrase. The real meaning of the phrase is the other way round. It implies that when someone does a favor, we must return it with graciousness when the need arises. But pinning hopes on return of favor takes away the meaning of generosity. What the educator and leadership consultant says is absolutely true: “If expecting something in return is your reason for giving, you really are not giving! If you receive something in returnfor your gift, that is a bonus and not repayment of a debt.” 

There are more such every day phrases in the book which have been construed in different context than they were supposed to. The book ends on a positive note emphasizing how our thoughts are influenced by what we think and choose to believe.  A very different book from what I usually read, this one is a light-hearted nudge without being too much preachy.


Book Review: The Jasmine Bloom

Book: The Jasmine Bloom

Author: Rajat Narula

Genre: Fiction

Publication: Srishti Publishers

I need to apologize for finishing the book in two days flat but not putting up the review sooner.

No! I did not skip pages or skimmed through. Yes! If the first few pages of the book hold my interest, I can finish reading in one sitting.

There, I said it! Yes I liked the story.

The cover of ‘The Jasmine Bloom’ by Rajat Narula itself gives a summery  vibe. Sameer Chaddha, a middle-aged corporate guy who is stagnating in his career and hence unhappy and withdrawn all the time seems to be like some people I know….married for almost two decades, with teenager kids and unsatisfied with career graph. But the similarity ends just there…and I am glad it does.

Sameer Chaddha and his wife Kavita seem to be communicating less and less over the years with both retreating into a shell. His interaction with his teenage daughter is counterproductive leaving him more frustrated. The physical intimacy between the husband and wife is almost nil.

At such time in his life, Sameer finds himself falling headlong in a whirlwind  affair with his colleague Ritu who also is dealing with an abusive husband and an autistic child. As the two give in to their lust ignoring and ruining the fabric of their respective families, certain events bring their dream world crashing to reality.

The story however is not with the regular obvious end where each character realizes the folly and starts afresh with their spouses and all ends well. There is a twist….the characters do recollect the threads and reconcile with the changed circumstances and try finding semblance and happiness. They try building bridges and mend broken ties but with new perspective.

Am not an advocate of finding love outside marriage just because one of the partner is bored or needs some change in life. Am more of a loyal and ‘yours forever’ kind of person. So when I said I liked the story, it wasn’t to glamorize infidelity. The good thing about the story is its pace and structure. There is no unnecessary drag in the story.

The circumstances in the story that lead to torrid affair are though very clichéd and convenient yet the story reads well. The angst of a teenager is captured well. That the wife always knows when the husband is cheating is also woven in the story.

However I would like to read someday a story without these excuses of midlife crisis or boredom or abusive husband. A story bold enough to scream “I wanted this, so I cheated and I have no regrets”. Lets see how people react…

Till that kind of story gets written, we can read ones which try to reason an affair. The book is good read.

Also read on Amazon and  Goodreads

Book Review: Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right

Book: Rightfully Wrong, Wrongfully Right

Author: Varsha Dixit

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Rupa Publications

varsha-book_1Opening with a morbid thought of death, the first few lines of story did nothing to encourage me to read the rest of the book. However the red cover of the book with little hearts, wine bottles, cupcakes and a young couple suggested that the story might be anything but morbid!

The blurb and the title did indicate that the story was about how opposites attract but I still did not like the ring of the title…

But read I did and after a slow start, I was hooked. The characters it seems were introduced in previous two bestsellers by the author Varsha Dixit. Since I have not read her earlier two books, it may be the reason I did not take to the characters and dive into the story immediately.

Gayatri, a rich well brought up girl has a domineering father who considers it his right to decide anything and everything for Gayatri. Caught between her wish to break free on her own and her father’s dos and dont’s, she often blunders in her decisions. Viraj, a young genius scientist works for Gayatri’s childhood friend who is more like a doting brother to her. Viraj, having grown up with an abusive father despises violence against women and any kind of weakness displayed by anyone.

From the moment Gayatri and Viraj set eyes on each other, an electric chemistry sizzles between them despite their much dislike for each other. Certain turn of events forces Viraj to agree for Gayatri’s employment in his laboratory and the two temperamentally opposite people hence onwards often come face to face. In their own ways, each helps the other overcome the personal demons. The attraction is magnetic and intense which evolves gradually into a torrid love story. Eventually all is well that ends well.

However I am not convinced by Gayatri’s characterisation. On one hand she is shown adept at Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defence technique and on other hand she doesn’t think twice before conspiring first against her ex-fiancé and then trying to hook up a lab technician with the scientist. With a domineering father who dictated all her moves, how come she even managed to learn the defence technique in the first place?

Usually when someone involves themselves in martial art disciplines, their mental strength is equally enhanced along with physical defence abilities. What I mean to say is, such defence techniques need a balanced approach to enable a person to excel in them. Whereas Gayatri is nothing like that…she is just a simply rich girl who loves all good things and is weak as far as taking decisions is concerned.

Krav Maga has caught everyone’s fancy and many stories by every alternate author that I have recently read have at least one character who is ace in this defence technique. Gayatri and her knowledge of Krav maga seems just that…a fad!

Viraj also could have been anybody, his being scientist has hardly anything to do with the story.

But then this is my outlook and yet I loved reading it. After all everyone loves to read about a girl who can fight eve teasers yet is  delicate, beautiful, mushy and romantic. And Gayatri is all that and Viraj is her knight who tries to fool people around him by putting on a devil-may-care attitude but in reality he is that handsome hunk who is slightly  possessive in love and yet very caring.

All in all the book is perfect for curling up with a cup of coffee in a cozy spot to fantasize about a delicious love. This story is the ‘Mills and Boon’ in Indian setting.

Also on:

Book Review: It Was Always You

Book: It Was Always You

Author: Divita Aggarwal

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Rupa Publication

it was always youOf the three books that landed up at my door-step, this was one which caught my eye as it had some pretty good reviews including one by Shashi Tharoor. And I was much intrigued to find that the book is penned by a 17 year-old girl. It would be a lie if I said I wasn’t jealous a bit too…here I am, mother of a teenage daughter, with an urge to write the story that has been brewing in me for quite some time now but every time I put pen to paper my courage fails me and I begin to doubt whether my story is worth telling; and there is this brave young girl who has hardly spent time in an adult world but has gone ahead and published her school life story!

The story is a simple coming of age of a young girl Aisha, who while dealing with her daily routine in school finds her friendship with Kabir, the son of a corrupt MLA, finally blossoming into love over the years.

Either I am too old to relate to the events in book(there was never any MUN kind of thing in the convents I studied in) or I am too young(my daughter’s school has not informed me about any such event in her school as yet)…the description of events in school is very new to me. I am not sure what my reaction would be when my daughter reaches that stage….I won’t be gifting her any diamond ear studs like the protagonist’s mother, for school function….at least that is certain!!

 I found Aisha’s father’s advice, in the entire narrative, quite appropriate when he tells her, “Aisha, what is meant to be, will be. If two roads are supposed to meet, they always find a way, a direction.” This philosophy holds true in most aspects of life be it finding love or your calling.

For a teenager to pen a story long enough to be printed as a book, the effort is commendable. However, people of my age are not the target readers for the story. Kids from international schools would feel more aligned to the events mentioned in the book.

Overall a nice simple love story for teenagers.

Book Review: Rakshasa

Book: Raakshas

Publisher: Westland Books

Author: Piyush Jha

Genre: Crime Thriller

RaakshasMore often, it’s the crime thrillers, war-espionage-spy stories, detectives and mysteries that lure me to a book store. The affair with mystery stories and thrillers started in school with Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and shifted to Robert Ludlum with Bourne series. Later Dan Brown became much favourite.

There have been stories by Indian authors who have tried to shape their books in Dan Brown style with Indian mythology woven in the story but for me, by end of the book those stories lost their grip.

With the delivery of ‘Raakshas’ at my door step I was expecting something similar with a promising great start and later tapering off and story getting diluted.

I delayed reading the novel by a day and decided to take it as my travelling companion for a three-day trip to Kolkata. Though the ‘soon to be a major motion picture‘ tagline on the cover did not make me rush into reading but once I began reading I was happy to find that it captured my attention. Soon I was so engrossed that I almost missed the boarding announcement for flight to Kolkata.

The story is about ‘Raakshas‘, a man so named by his own grandmother for being the cause of death of his mother during childbirth. The boy grows in a love deprived atmosphere often subjected to inhuman behaviour by his own father. A child engulfed by adverse circumstances he is shaped into a heartless, dispassionate and ruthless cold-blooded killer. He meets his nemesis in Maithili Prasad, the Additional Commissioner of Police who hunts him down and puts an end to the terror he unleashed.

That the childhood traumas and upbringing may play a great role in psychology and perceptions of a person is the underlying idea behind the story. The author has brought attention towards the various other reasons that have been researched in other countries, in the making of a serial killer.

After a long time, I have come across a good attention holding story but I am not sure whether it will make into a good movie. One, because in the movies churned out by the Bollywood even a criminal breaks into a song and dance sequence and two, he is shown to have some weird quirks like insane laughing or idiotic conversation during climax which for me spoil it. Also sometimes movies do not do justice to the book. I liked the book ‘Da Vinci Code’ by Dan Brown but did not like the movie.

This is one good story, tight in its composition. I liked it and stopped reading it only after the last page late at night. This story will keep its readers engaged.

Also read on :

Book Review: Forbidden Desires

Book: Forbidden Desires
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Genre: Fiction
Author: Madhuri Banerjee

Forbidden DesiresThe educated Indian women are slowly but surely beginning to reclaim their voices which were being repressed since many centuries now. They are now being vocal about their likes, dislikes, emotions, desires. They are no longer crying behind closed doors and silently bearing the ill behaviour meted out to them by their own spouses. They have become bolder and are not afraid to walk out of a stagnating relationship. They know what they want and are working towards having it.

The ‘Forbidden Desires’ is a story of such women who at some point of life have realized that they have been betrayed in their relationship but instead of wallowing in sorrow, they free themselves and dare to find someone who understands them, reciprocates their love and stands by their desires to follow their passions.

The story is of Naina who gives up her passion of having her own restaurant to plunge headlong into taking care of family in the process losing the vivacity of her marriage and is betrayed by one whom she loved most. This is the story of Ayesha who never got an equal commitment in her marital relationship yet kept trying to find sanity in her marriage. This is also the story of Kavita who despite being a successful working woman could not find enough love and respect within her marriage. And story is about Kajal who dares to break the society’s rules by desiring a married man, fighting for her love and yet choosing to not tie herself up in a marital bond.

These women walk out of their marriages to find a new love and follow their dreams. Their lives are entwined. They realise the futility of hanging on to a dead relationship which binds both the partners.

I will not deny that marriages do not go through a rough patch when you doubt whether there is anything left worth saving but honestly speaking I haven’t yet met women who have dared to give up on marriages… May be there are women in similar situations as the characters of the story in reality too but who still are afraid to call their marriages a farce…. Or it is possible that real women have not met a character like author’s ‘Pinky’ who sets up the situations and fixes the meetings and forces the person to behave in an out of ordinary way when they are at their emotional lows.

The  bold step taken by the women of Madhuri Banerjee seems like a fantasy among the women I know. The story has a little glimpse of “Desperate Housewives” with the wives here being Indian.

I stopped being an active architect since the birth of my daughter and now I am a ‘housewife’ since last twelve years. Do I miss being a working woman? Yes I do…sometimes… Has it changed me into a wife with suppressed desires? I don’t think so… Most of the time I am pretty happy being at home indulging in my writing, painting, cooking and other house chores…. Has it driven away my husband to a more younger carefree woman for a wilder sex… Well I can safely say an emphatic no…you see he too has grown older and calmer and his physical fitness has also taken as much beating as mine ;p 😉 But then the book is not about my story!

The book has forced me to think what if I face any of such situation…What would I do? I believe women should take charge of their lives and not suppress their dreams but in real life how many women take any drastic steps? It is not easy to break the shackles of society and swim against the flow. And more importantly is it always right?

Madhuri’s women want more magic and more romance in their monotonous life. There are small snippets from life of each character which many of us might relate to in small doses. The book makes for one spicy mix of stories so well woven that I found it difficult to put it down. As they say gossip about other people always make for an interesting topic…and I enjoyed peeking into the juicy life of the four women and their affairs(now I understand why women are crazy about Ekta Kapoor’s serials and their hideously painted women)

Being a screenplay writer for Hindi Cinema, the author has belted out a crowd-puller of a story. It would not surprise me if the book becomes one masala movie.

Read it if gossip is your tea…


#Iam16IcanRapeWhen the nation was rudely woken up from its slumber by the brutal savage Nirbhaya Rape, I overnight graduated from a worried mother to a paranoid one. I will not deny that I have lost faith in men and look at every man other than my husband and father as potential rapists. With this frame of mind, when I heard about this new book inspired from Nirbhaya, I had decided not to read it assuming it to be another frivolous ‘masala-story’.

Then the author, Kirtida Gautam, asked me if I would be interested in reviewing the book. Honestly, I am honoured that the author placed such faith in me.

Kirtida Gautam, a clinical psychologist and an alumna of FTII, Pune did an extensive research on the rape laws of the country and knows her subject psychology well.

When the courier guy delivered the book, I did not start reading it immediately because the word ‘Rape’ gives me a headache. But once I started reading, I wanted to see where the story led to.

The story revolves around a 16 year old Aarush accused of rape. Each and every person who interacts with Aarush has been given a distinct voice in the story and story inches forward with all the characters of the story contributing in the character sketch and thought process of the accused.

The typical thoughts prevalent in the society have been brought forward in the story that for every rape committed it is the girl who is blamed and not the perpetrator. The author has identified through victim of the story how the society instead of sympathising and standing by the victim withdraws emotional and social support making rape a stigma for the victim”

May be it was my wishful thinking or influence of hindi movies which made me hope for a happy ending and triumph of good over bad but the end of the story was closer to the reality of the society. However being a fiction some things have been exaggerated like the stand of grandfather of accused. The grandfather’s attitude towards the whole incident is that of a compassionate and righteous person that is so desirable but again he is not what real society is made of….I would be so happy to see men like Rudransh Kashyap, the grandfather, in real life who believe in standing for what is right. But alas…

Some chapters on psychology are bit too heavy for me but then those are required to understand the complex character of the accused. Again because the work is a fiction, hence the ability of the accused to think through is understood but in real world men indulging in such heinous actions might not be even half as intelligent.

Author has raised the issue that while we instil the fear of rape, of strangers and of going alone somewhere in our daughters but then why we do not scare our sons of the consequences of raping a woman? Why we let our girls express all their emotions but dissuade boys to show emotions of fear and vulnerability thus forcing them to bottle up and in the process become frustrated? We stop our daughters to go out alone at night but why we do not teach our sons to respect and protect women?

By the time I finished the story, I was angry and felt murderous. The recent news of acquittal of the accused juvenile of the Nirbhaya’s case added fuel to the fire and I felt the need to stand against the juvenile rape laws of our country. I felt hatred against those politicians who have so carelessly given opinion that boys make mistake when they are growing up…

Rape is not the fault of women and not some ordinary mistake by men…it is an unforgivable crime and those who violate a woman’s body must be punished with an equal magnitude.

Author has handled the issue very delicately. The book is quite a tough read due to the topic itself along with serious psychology…not for readers who want a quick racy story. A poignant and thought-provoking book.