Book Review: The Code Of Manavas

Book: The Code Of Manavas
Author: Arpit Bakshi
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Rupa Publication


Code of Manavas

Code Of Manavas

Mythological stories were products of rich imaginations of ancient writers who mixed reality and fantasy so well that now ages later we wonder how much of it happened, how much is real history and what all is fantasy? Did asuras really exist? Did some men really have supernatural powers that today we consider them gods? Are Ramayan and Mahabharat just epic stories or there is some truth in the events?

Mythology hence can be interpreted to one’s fertile imagination and stories added to various events from original ones.

A 21st century person would naturally add science fiction to mythology. And that is what Arpit Bakshi has attempted with his book “The Code Of Manavas”.

The book begins many years later when seemingly the world as we know has changed drastically and is inhabited by new species of Homo sapiens called ‘manavas’. The story tells of a crisis on earth and its imminent annihilation and the new age ‘Krishna’ trying to find another habitable planet for the existing species. Another group of people who supposedly exist from ancient age in small numbers live on other end of the land mass. The interaction between the two group of people is governed by  a code of conduct. This code of manavas guides everyone to not interfere in each other’s existence. However the impending doom requires both groups to work together as one force against the saboteurs and natural forces.

The author has embarked on the story very ambitiously in creating a time period which is much ahead in future. The story has few portions dedicated to the ancient mythology woven into the narrative. Then there is the mention of  magnetic trains and thought controlled computers and data. There is also ‘Kansa’  and ‘Jarasandh’ as enemies in new avatar. There is a mysterious sabotage. Then the new planet which new age Krishna is seeking is being created from scratch by inducing life, creating dinosaurs and what not.

While the story tries various angles …sometimes modern sometimes reminiscent of ancient era but it didn’t feel binding. The story did not create an impressive narrative for me. Just by giving the names like ‘bhoomidium’ to an imaginary element which is being pumped in the humans and nature to make them immortal and free of diseases and a few other terms loosely thrown in the story. A story set in millions of year ahead of present day should have had so much more science fiction instead of half of it retelling the ancient story in not very flattering way. The author’s imagination falls short. The teleportation and magnetic trains is an imagination which I grew up on. I was expecting more.

The author has put everything in one book…romance, science fiction, mythology and which has left me unimpressed. But if a light read is your idea of story, go ahead and enjoy.

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Book Review: Tides Don’t Cross

Book: Tides Don’t Cross
Author: Simar Malhotra
Publishers: Rupa Publications
Genre: Fiction

Tides Don't Cross

Tides Don’t Cross

Occasionally you come across characters in stories that seem like you know that person. They seem believable and sometimes they resonate with your own self. Tides Don’t Cross falls in that category where the two sisters Meera and Rukmini seem like real people.

It has been a while since I read a love story. Some which I did read did not much click with my liking though those were not bad stories.

Mrinalini and Rukmini, the two sisters are as different as chalk and cheese. Mrinalini, the docile one heeds everything her overbearing mother commands and decides for her while Rukmini is the rebel. Mrinalini or Meera even agrees to marry someone on her mother’s insistence quashing a budding romance with her colleague in her heart. She adjusts her life according to the man she marries and gradually loses all her individuality. No one including her husband tries to gauge her heart, her aspirations, her choices…

Rukmini on other hand does everything which annoys their mother. She questions everything and is a hot headed person who doesn’t cow down to anything she doesn’t believe in. She falls in love with a Muslim boy, Ayan, an ace swimmer, in Paris. The bliss lasts as long as the separate ambitions do not clash. But the pain of separation and love lasts in a corner of her heart.

Ayan, a national team aspirant  finds his dreams quashed due to a shoulder injury. A perfect gentleman, he contemplates making good use of his knowledge and give back to society.

Few years down the line, Meera suddenly finds herself a widow and her struggles with bringing up her son, take her to a new house. The shy girl gradually opens up to the friendly neighbor and swimming coach of her son. She comes to rely on him and starts enjoying his company. Little by little her lost confidence and desire to live takes shape again.

The story weaves the lives of Meera, Rukmini and Ayan through various events. No where however there is slackening in the narrative. Each character is well crafted and plays important role in the story. The story flows so naturally that I did not want to put it down and enjoyed reading it late in night.

The twists in the story will keep the readers engaged no doubt. The story ends logically and with no unnecessary drama.

A well written book that I liked quite a lot.

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Book Review: Think With Me

Book: Think With Me

Author: Subrata Roy Sahara

Publisher: Rupa Publication

think-with-meI have taken my own sweet time in reading this book just because I somehow did not believe in it.

It is a common habit of people in our society to find faults in everything from condition of roads, education system, population, governance and even how sports are played on field.

Every one is a know all and a preacher. Most of us have many solutions to all the problems that exist in our country  but when it comes to following rules, even the simplest rule of wearing a helmet and sticking to the lane while driving are ignored. If after that we are stuck in a traffic jam or somebody dies we blame it on ill-governance by city authorities, on police department for being lax and so on and so forth….Point is nobody stands up to say it was wrong to not follow rules!

I feel this book is of same temperament. This 100 pages book is divided into five sections of Electoral System and Leadership, Population, Education System, Media and Religion. Each segment is further dealt with in detail but the author goes on to tell what all is wrong with various systems. He has mentioned throughout the book ” I can personally guide the method”. The author comments ‘sick mentality’ of poor people because they bear more children with the aim of earning more. He goes on to say this and that should be done for population control.

I  agree that the problems that he has discussed are real and need a revolution. However I have a limited scope of improving the system and I do that by following rules, by being tolerant and friendly with people of other faiths, by teaching my child that the country should come first…I am vary of preachers though.

I would love to know the contribution that the author has made beyond his organization for each of the system that he has found fault in.

The title of the book is very apt…’Think with me’…yes we need to think and act as per our ability but fault-finding and hollow discussions will have no result. Each one of the educated lot needs to take responsibility and follow rules….Look within I would say instead of blaming the system. Rules already exist…why do they need to be more stringent? Why can we not begin with following existing rules in social and business spheres?

The book is an okay read.

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Book review: Into the Abyss

Book: Into the Abyss

Author: Ayush Ansal

Genre: Crime Fiction

Publishers: Rupa Publication

Into the AbyssI was introduced to a world of thrillers quite early since my father had a collection of Jason Bourne Series, Godfather by Mario Puzo and Robert Ludlum books. In school as a teenager I was allowed to read Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Alfred Hitchcock but at home I had access to my father’s collection.  Later in college I read Sidney Sheldon, Tom Clancy, Robin Cook and many more….It has been a few years now that I have laid hands on books by foreign authors of crime fiction and thrillers.

On receiving the book Into The Abyssby an Indian author Ayush Ansal,  I was quite intrigued to read a blurb with characters and story set in London and Scotland Yard detectives appearing now and then.

The story is about a kid Sam Winterfield who witnesses goons kill his parents. He has his heart set on revenge. Growing up he comes across people who play a role in moulding him into a cold young lad. His innocence is lost forever when he kills two other goons without flinching.

Story builds up on a failed embezzlement plan resulting in some gruesome murders. And what I liked was that there was no slackness in spinning the story…events follow and story goes on gradually. The mystery of killer unfolded in small doses and kept me hooked to the story till the very end. And the end was a bit of surprise for me.

The one thing that the author seems to have overlooked while writing the story is that the killer after killing parents of Sam Winterfield, a boy of ten, remarks “When time finally comes, I will be at the end of your road awaiting your vengeance”

But the boy never gets to take revenge himself. Somebody else kills the killer for some other reason. It was not emphasised to the killer that it was for Sam Winterfield’s revenge that he was being shot at.

I was expecting the boy to face the killer of his parents again instead of relying on a mobster to kill him.

Overall the story is gripping and I am ready to excuse the way revenge was taken. Author has made use of his stay in England very well with detailed descriptions of characters and backdrop of story.

A good engaging read for all.

Book Review: Kings and Queens

Book: Kings and Queens

Author: Subhadra Sen Gupta

Illustrator: Tapas Guha

Publisher: Rupa Publication

kings and queensI have grown up reading many many ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ books on kings and queens of India. In fact, my fascination towards history and the ease with which the stories made lasting memory is all due to those very books. The ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ books are much costlier now and a collector’s item.

Having lived for major part of my growing up years in northern India, the Akbar-Birbal stories were much popular.

The school books had stories of Mughal rulers, Ashoka, different dynasties that ruled Delhi and of temples of southern India.

This book by Subhadra Sen Gupta has stories of other four important rulers of India who find only a little mention in history books. The author has highlighted stories about Empress Nur Jehan, Razia Sultan and two kings, Chandragupt Maurya and Krishnadev Raya. I had not known much about King Krishnadev Raya except some stories about Tenali Raman, the court jester of the King. But this book helped me brush up my knowledge about Hampi and the king’s greatness.

Concise and to the point, this book is a wonderful read and may attract children with colourful illustrations. It is a commendable effort to highlight the achievements of important rulers of Indian history. Presented in a story form with relevant details this book would make for a great gift to kids to kindle a love for not only reading but also an inclination towards history and a curiosity to know more.

And not only kids but grown-ups might enjoy revisiting history through this book and illustrations. I for one enjoyed reading because it took me back to my childhood and the days of Amar Chitra Katha books. I often even copied and drew the characters and scenes from those books and with this book may be I will revive my artistic skills too.

A well compiled book with list of sources of reference for those readers who might want to go for detailed study of these stories.

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Book Review: As Boys Become Men

Book: As Boys Become Men

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Fiction

Author: Mukul Kumar

as-boys-become-men-original-imaefkrthnnhujfqJust because a couple of Bollywood movies with three friends became popular, it seems three is a magical number.

And just because Chetan Bhagat made his college life into a crowd pulling story, doesn’t mean everybody starts writing story of their  college days.

I too went to a college and it was one of the first few all girls architecture college. We had to struggle quite a lot to make people see us as serious students. This way I guess I am qualified to write my college life story as well.

In this book “As Boys Become Men“, the story revolves around three civil services aspirants and their trials and tribulations. The three boys hailing from Bihar come from modest backgrounds and each one carries the burden of expectations of their families. The boys struggle with biases towards students from Bihar, accommodation problems in the expensive capital city, finding love and no-strings attached relationships, coaching sessions, anxiety of results, successes and failures.

Now I don’t know much about preparing for a civil services exam. No doubt it must be a hard nut to crack….after all not everyone becomes an IAS officer. But after reading first few pages, I was not much inspired to read the book. I had to literally force myself to read the story, all because I had signed in for book reviewer’s programme.

The effort in describing a scene like ‘the trio is laughing and chatting’  or ‘the boys finish eating and switch off the movie’ throughout the story do not really make for an attractive reading.

The story telling is way too ordinary….not interesting enough. The reference of ‘Monalisa’ and ‘Soma’ again and again do not work at all. The struggle of a civil services aspirant does not ‘shine’ through the entire narrative at all.

When I received the book, someone asked me what my opinion was judging from the blurb. And I honestly replied that the blurb seems promising but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The blurb is better than the story inside. I have even skipped portions of book because it did not hold my attention.

I am quite disappointed by the story and the mediocre style of writing. I am dying to read a good book now where the language, the situation, the characterisation and plot all come together to make a good read.

Read if it works for you….

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: I Made A Booboo

Book: I Made A Booboo

Genre: Non-fiction/Parenting

Author: Shivangi Sharma

Publication: Rupa Publications

bookWhen I opted to write review of three books by Rupa Publications, I wasn’t expecting a big bundle delivered at the doorstep with all three books at once. Now it was a matter of choice for me to read any one of them.

I chose to read Shivangi Sharma’s “I made a Booboo” first because the blurb promised to take me down the memory lane when my baby was born. The title of book was unusually funny and reminded me of the movie ‘Baby’s Day Out’.

I started reading the book enthusiastically because being a mother I kind of knew what to expect from the caricature on the book cover….and I could identify with the world turning all topsy-turvy with the arrival of the baby. As I read along a constant smile played on my lips…it seemed the author had peeped into my bedroom to spy before writing the account.

The pregnancy jitters and apprehensions in first few pages resonated with my condition and I guess most of the mothers will identify with the story too. Once our bundle of joy arrives in the world, it makes sure we learn patience with its own set of rules of sleeping and waking up. But may be because I followed my mother and grandmother’s advices to the word, my daughter adapted within two months of her birth, the schedule I set for her feeding, bathing and sleeping….the first two months however had been similar to the author’s experience with sleepless nights making me look more haggard instead of a happy woman.

Though I left my job only few months into my pregnancy and never looked back but I can relate to the guilt pangs of the author. It is because of that guilt that I let my baby have all my time exclusively for herself even ignoring time meant for husband and disregarding his needs.

Author has used humor well in describing the routine of a new mother and managed to not become a preachy-here-is-what-you-should-do self-help guide on bringing up a baby kind of book.

After few pages however the account of the author post-pregnancy though hilarious becomes monotonously predictable and I got bored halfway through the journal. Relating  a few episodes is fine but the book goes on and on about similar events and is repetitive. It should have been a shorter book to keep my kind of readers engaged.

Many new mothers will find themselves in the same shoes as the author and enjoy reading the account as if it was their own. Readers with grown up kids will also reminisce and laugh on the  similar events…

A light perk you up kind of read.

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…

Book Review: Shakuntala, The Woman Wronged

Book: Shakuntala

Genre: Fiction/Mythology

Publisher: Rupa Publication

Author: Utkarsh Patel

Shakuntala_CoverI have been reading a lot of fiction based on mythological stories  these  days. A few days ago I finished reading about love of the most beautiful celestial nymph Menaka and sage Vishwamitra. Their love came to fruition with the birth of a beautiful daughter Shakuntala. And the love story of this fiery daughter with Dushyant, King of Hastinapur  is what that has kept me busy these last few days.

The author, Utkarsh Patel, has astutely observed the different moral yardsticks of our society which still remain unaltered:

“A man was seldom blamed for his sins and if at all he was, it was passed off as an oversight. But a woman was blamed, shamed and made to suffer for the misdemeanours of men around her for no fault of hers”

Because of such double standards, almost all stories revolving around Dushyant have depicted the king as an upright man of high morals who becomes a victim of some strange curse and forgets about his love and marriage. He was hardly ever shown as one pleasure-seeking wily king…

But here in this story, author has dared to call a spade a spade….King Dushyant engaged in a one night stand with the a virgin woman on false promises of marriage and that makes him one of those vain men who consider women an object to play with and discard at convenience. His morals and intentions are questionable and the story does not sugar-coat the character of the mighty, used-to-getting-his-way king.

The demure Shakuntala of Kalidas, the great poet of all times, who pines for her beloved and is dependent on fate for reminding the King of Hastinapur of his marriage and promises to her, is nowhere to be seen in this story. This Shakuntala, based on the original characterization by Sage Vyasa, does not wallow in pain of abandonment but takes matter in her hands and questions the society and its different rules for men and women. She is fierce, fights for the rights of her son and asserts her importance as a wife. She is independent woman who does not need the crutches of wealth and a label of queen to survive in the world.

I loved the book through and through not only because it is very well-knit and to the point but also because author has subtly raised certain issues that still need to be addressed and debated over; the difference of reactions meted out to men and women for craving physical gratifications, the unnecessary emphasis given to virginity of women, freedom of women to choose their partners…

I am quite impressed by Vyasa’s and Utkarsh Patel’s Shakuntala for being brave enough to stand up against an hypocritical society and silence it with her uninhibited logical reasoning. Such strong women who believe in equality of men and women are need of this nation and more so today because men have taken enough advantage of the love which a woman has to offer.

We need more such men too who respect and honour women; who believe that future of such a nation, that does not respect its women, where women shed tears and are treated like objects, is doomed.

The chapter ‘Time’ however seemed little out-of-place because it reminded me of the opening scene from the mega serial “Mahabharat” with voice booming out of the idiot box “Mai Samay hoon….” Story could have been taken forward by prose within the chapters instead of ‘Mr Time’ speaking up suddenly and then keeping quiet during rest of the story!

But this hardly anything to hold against because the book has a wonderful prose that is apt to be read even in modern context.

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