Thursday, December 10, 2009

My review :Nine Lives

The only book of his that I read before is 'The Last Mughal' and if you have been following my blog you would have realised how totally un-inclined I have been to history and I hate to admit Mughal history.I was almost pushed to read this book 'The Last Mughal' by all in the family (all history lovers!)...and I am so glad I paid heed to them.My fascination to read more about the Mughal history arose after reading this beautifully written book.This book was of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar.His fall from grace,the end of an era.What came across after reading this book was Dalrymple's immense knowledge of history and more so the Indian history.
After reading that book I was eagerly looking forward to his next (I have in the meanwhile read 'Age of Kali' and 'The White Mughals' written by him which are also very well written).So Nine Lives as soon as it hit the stores was bought and read in 2 days flat.With this book Dalrymple has proved himself to be an accomplished travel writer.
This book has nine different stories,as he puts it are tales of the sacred in Modern India. Dalrymple goes deeper and deeper into the landscape of India in order to return with clearer images of the people who live there. And in trying to appreciate their lives, we enrich our understanding of our own, and this is why Nine Lives might well be William Dalrymple’s most important book to date.
The book starts with The Nun's Tale where he explores the Jain religion and also gives us an insight on Jainism through the eyes of a digambara nun.Non-judgemental and sensitively handled.Jainism was also extensively covered by Suketu Mehta in his book The Maximum City

The second story is about The Dancer of Kannur from Kerala the story comes alive through Hari Das who is an accomplished theyyam dancer in the area who during the months from December to February trades his job as a jail warden to a theyyam dancer playing the part of Lord Vishnu.He is a dalit (backward caste)and comes from a very poor background who becomes a temporary god during the theyyam season and gets the kick out of having the brahmins come and seek his blessings during the season.Dalrymple handles the caste divide which is prevalent in Kerala again very honestly without looking down at such practices.Just an in your face account of it.

The third story is The daughters of Yellamma which is personally my favourite.It is so heart wrenching and beautiful.It is the story of devdasis,the women are dedicated and 'married' to a god or goddess and then these women are pushed into flesh trade.This story is of Rani Bai who was dedicated by her parents to god at a tender age of six by the time she turned 14 she was sold to the highest bidder..She continues her life as a devadasi and how she dedicates her daughters to the same practice and ends up losing them to AIDS.
The devadasis are considered auspicious as well and are seen as symbols of fertility in Karnataka.Though there are acts put in place by the government against this practice it still prevails in rural and poverty struck interiors of Maharashtra and Karnataka.

The other stories are also uncovers some facets of India that we as Indians are largely unaware of ...his story the singer of epics is of Mohan the bard (a bhopa) and a village shaman and his wife Batasi.they both are completely illiterate but are few of the last singers who can sing a 4000 line poem by heart!the poem is 600 year old.the poem is performed in front of a phad and the audience is usually the nomadic and cattle herding Rabri caste.His 5th story is from rural Sindh called the red fairyit is the story of lal peri who lives in a sufi shrine.It beautifully explains sufism. There is the monk's tale after that which is the story of a tibetan living in exile in Dharamsala in India.Did you know that some of the tibetans who were living in exile during the 62 war against China were taken into the Indian Army?This secret force,Special frontier force were trained by the CIA and India in a camp near Dehradun.Fascinating indeed!
These stories are followed by equally fascinating tales from different parts of the country there is 'the maker of idols' from Tamil Nadu,'The Lady Twilight' from a cremation ground at Tarapith in Bengal one of the most holy places in India and the home of the great goddess Tara.'The song of the blind Minstrel' is a story again from Bengal its the stpry of the Bauls meaning mad or possessed in Bengali.

Lovely and fascinating stories which show us how rich the Indian culture is and how while forging ahead in the world we as a nation are still bound by our beautiful and fascinating past!!Must read for all Dalrymple lovers!

What others say about Nine Lives

This is the reviews I picked up from Amazon from various noted authors.I'll put up my review soon!

`William Dalrymple's Nine Lives takes the charm and natural verve of City of Djinns, marries it to the intellectual and spiritual engagement of From the Holy Mountain, and brings it off with all the narrative skill developed in his history books, combined with his ever more profound understanding of India.'
--Maya Jasanoff

"Any of these stories could make a great film or play, they are so full of passion, tragedy, violence, compassion, and religious fervor, and so vividly evoked; . . . Their human concerns, not unlike ours, melt seamlessly into the bizarre, almost unimaginable circumstances of their ritual life, and eventually we see that that,too, is quite human, that there is nothing weird at all about drinking
warm blood or pulling out your hair by the roots. Only a brilliant writer like Dalrymple could bring off this astonishing and unprecedented revelation of the humanity of people on the farthest extremes of religious ecstasy" --Wendy Doniger

"I was enchanted by these poignant and magical stories. By artfully weaving together travel, history, and legend--all without guile--he creates a compelling narrative, reminding us why India is one of the world's greatest story telling cultures, and why he is one of its greatest story tellers" --Gurcharan das

"Any book by William Dalrymple is good news, but a travel book after close to a decade calls for a dash to the bookshop instead of a click on Amazon. Nine Lives, Dalrymple's first travel book after two exhilarating expeditions into Indian history, is a risky enterprise.
It is difficult for anyone, let alone "Westerners", to write about Indian religious traditions without slithering into Orientalist, New Ageist or Hindutva tropes. It is even more risky to narrate Indian religious beliefs against the template of today's India, which is itself a half-mythical being in the throes of constant change. But Dalrymple has managed to do so, and with aplomb." --Tabish Khair, Hindustan Times

'His most ambitious yet, taking the reader into lurid, scarcely imaginable worlds of mysticism ... Dalrymple has an inimitable way of conjuring the Indian landscape' -- Financial Times

`This is travel writing at its best. I hope it sparks a revival' -- Observer

`Beautifully written, ridiculously erudite and, more than any of his previous work, reveals Dalrymple to be remarkably warm - and open-hearted ... a towering talent' -- The Times

`William Dalrymple's Nine Lives takes the charm and natural verve of City of Djinns, marries it to the intellectual and spiritual engagement of From the Holy Mountain, and brings it off with all the narrative skill developed in his history books, combined with his ever more profound understanding of India.' --Maya Jasanoff

'Full of passion, tragedy, violence, compassion, and religious fervor, and so vividly evoked...
Only a brilliant writer like Dalrymple could bring off this astonishing and unprecedented revelation of the humanity of people on the farthest extremes of religious ecstasy.' --Wendy Doniger

`I was enchanted by these poignant and magical stories. By artfully weaving together travel, history, and legend--all without guile--he creates a compelling narrative, reminding us why India is one of the world's greatest story telling cultures, and why he is one of its greatest story tellers.' --Gurcharan Das

`His characteristic wit and sympathy are fully evident in the interviews he has conducted ... as are his love and knowledge of the sub-continent ... this fascinating book ... beautifully illustrates the relationship between tradition and modernity in India.' --Lewis Jones, Spectator

`Beautifully written, ridiculously erudite and, more than any of his previous work, reveals Dalrymple to be remarkably warm - and open-hearted ... a towering talent.' --Brian Schofield, The Times

My review :My name is Red

There is a store I frequent often which is close to home.He has some awesome collection of books at very affordable prices.These copies are not pirated but I guess second hand thats why so affordable!I picked up Orhan Pamuk's book from there.So here is my take on the book.Good read but not an effortless read...It is sometimes very slow you almost want to read the end to know who the murderer is...(Yes, the novel is a murder-mystery -- though not a typical one.)

My Name is Red is written in many voices and from many perspectives. The short chapters are narrated by more than a dozen different characters.The first voice is that of a dead person, the just-murdered Elegant Effendi.

The setting is the late 16th century, in Istanbul. Elegant Effendi -- and his murderer -- are artists: miniaturists and illustrators. Other central characters include Enishte Effendi, a master artist, his nephew, called Black (also a painter), and his daughter Shekure. Twelve years earlier Black had fallen in love with Shekure, but Enishte did not agree on the marriage; Black left Istanbul and only now has returned. Shekure married three years after he left, and now has two sons, Orhan and Shevket but her husband disappeared years ago and is presumed dead. Now her husband's brother, Hasan, is pressuring her to marry him (as Black also renews his suit).The go-between in all the communication between the trio is a lady called Esther.

The premise is that there is a group of people who are working on a secretly commissioned work by the great ruler which is influenced by the European paintings.It is also a very confidential and secret project.While there is another group which feels that it is an attack on the philosophy long followed by the miniaturists and illustrators.So the miniaturist Elegant is killed by one of his colleagues who has started feeling that the series of paintings ( that they are working on ) commissioned goes against their lord and basic tenets of Islam.
My Name is Red is very much a book about art and reality, about what the purpose of art is -- and about its dangers. There is a good deal of discussion about painting and art, and about what makes real art . The book offers some splendid detail here, from what the miniaturists do to avoid going blind (face away from the sun when it rises, among other things) to the idea that only in blindness does pure art exist. The novel is the contest between the old and new, and tradition and change.

His narration is very descriptive almost gives you a feeling of being there and watching the events unfold.

My Name is Red is an enjoyable and often fascinating read...but very slow.Very different style of writing that I have never read before.Sensitive,beautiful,descriptive and informative.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Palace of Illusions

]The Palace of Illusions is a book I picked on a whim at Crossword but I must say haven't regretted buying it even once!Many a times after buying a book and reading it I have instantly repented buying the book.I have a long list of badly plotted,over the top,over preachy books that I have bought and not enjoyed!

In today's times a good marketing strategy can sell any book at ridiculous prices too!The book that comes into my mind right away is 'The Mistress of the Game' which must have sold lacs of copies just because it had Sidney Sheldon written boldly on the cover but is actually written by another author as a tribute to the deceased celebrated author.I don't even remember the name of the actual author who has actually written it.It was supposedly a sequel to Sidney Sheldon's bestseller 'The Master of the Game'.I am sure even Mr.Sheldon would be squirming in his grave.

Ok so now to get to the point this book The Palace of Illusions has been written by Chitra Banerjee Divakurni and it is a guaranteed one sitting read.The story is about Paanchali (aka Draupadi) and the legendary Mahabharat through her eyes.What is unique about this book is that it is the first time that a book based on the great Indian mythology has been written through a woman's point of view.

The great war between the Kauravas and Paanchali's husbands the Paandavas triggered off because of Draupadi and the great humiliation she faced due to the Kauravas.It explores her relationship with Karna (who she deeply loved),Krishna (her friend and her guide),Kunti (her Mother in law-who she was always at loggerheads with) and her husbands (Yudishtir,Bheem,Arjun,Nakul and Sahdeva).

The book is easy flowing,riveting till the last page,insightful and more importantly beautifully written.

A must read!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My review :2 States

This book was really not on my to read list.Though the entire country seems to like what Chetan Bhagat writes I am not a fan.We can't take the fact away that he has a huge fan following and two of his books have been adapted into full fledged movie. Facebook is a good indicator of his popularity.Everyone's status update as soon as the book released was about how funny the book is.When I entered Crossword his book was all over the place from the top ten best selling fiction,to the billing counter,to the shop front it's all over the place.And for 95 bucks you definitely not have people picking it up from the book shelves.So I would say picked up the book simply because everyone else was reading it!

Chetan Bhagat is a mass writer his critics might trash him but his fans ensure that every book he writes becomes an instant bestseller.

I must say didn't regret buying it!It was funny from the word go.the story is simple about a guy and a girl meeting in college and falling head over heels in love and deciding to get married.The hitch is convincing both sets of parents as he is a punjabi and his girl a tam brahm.And as any Indian would know it is definitely not an easy task convincing parents for a love marriage and more so if you are from opposite parts of the country.So this is the premise and must say he has handled the difficult situations with aplomb.I personally liked the Panju mom....she is so typical north Indian mum...!Over dramatic,OTT,food loving,loud mouth (guys am north Indian too!)So the boy and the girl set out to woo the families ...and the various hurdles they face and overcome to marry each other is really funny!I read somewhere in his interview that the story was autobiographical...that it was his own story.If thats the case then I must say it was very candid.

Beneath the humour is also a very strong message that he has tried to convey and the prejudices that we Indians have about each other.Every state in India is different and unique with different languages ,different festivals,different cultures thats what makes this country unique.This uniqueness can also be used for selfish purposes to divide people we have the north Indian mum referring to all south Indians as Madrasis and dark and we have the tamil family who is deeply unhappy with the girl choosing to marry a north indian as they believe all of them are loud mouths and over the top.He says we are Indians first.That's what Sachin Tendulkar said and look what he got back.Really thats beside the point but yes a stark reminder that differences are created for own gains.

Ok now for the brickbats I just couldn't understand his 3 min conversation with god to propose Ananya if he (Krish) wanted god to help him get a job with Citibank.So Krish makes a mad dash to propose marriage while she is in the final round of interview with HLL.Krish's father's sudden U turn to make his son happy after so much bitterness is also highly unbelievable.his trip to Aurobindo Ashram and his fateful meeting with a guru is also a bit off.

All in all value for money book...makes you feel good whenever you read a happy ending.Was just the right read after the book on Mughals and start of My name is Red.

Soon my review on Nine Lives..

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My review :Raiders from the North

Ok so I was MIA for a couple of days as I was on a holiday (yipee!)and also because the net connection was down and out for the last two days.Finally managed to finish the book...believe me hardly an effort as the book was indeed very interesting.Let me start off with the fact that until recently I was not too interested in the Mughal history if someone was to ask me who was Akbar's father I would not have an answer yes as clueless as that!So I thought this bad knowledge of History and disinterest had to change and I should have the answers before my children end up learning history.So in that way this book was a good pick as it starts off with the story of how Babur managed to end up invading India and thus followed the great Mughal era which is much chronicled by various historians.
So in this book we get to know about Babur not only as a ruler but also as a son,grandson,brother,friend and a father.At the age of 12 after being anointed the king of Ferghana his ambition is to ultimately rule Samarkhand.After his two failed attempts he also ends up losing Ferghana to his half brother.He ends up as a king without a throne till fate finally smiles on him.He is requested to take over the reigns of Kabul, as the king who was Babur's distant relative is dead, and he being the descendant of Timur is offered to take charge.He accepts the offer and moves to Kabul to rule as the king but his sights are set on Hindustan.So from there his journey begins to capture Hindustan and his yet another failed attempt to rule Samarkhand.
Every page offers a vivid image that captures the deeply violent world of the Moghuls. The rivalry, the paranoia, poisonings, torturing and killings, flaying, blinding,'d find it all in the pages of the book.
SO if you would want a course in History this is the book to read!though it is a historic fiction it is filled with historical characters and situations which indeed happened.

Some interesting facts about the book and the author: ‘Alex Rutherford’, author of the historical novel relating the epic rise and fall of one of the most powerful, opulent and glamorous dynasties in history are actually Michael and Diana Preston, the husband and wife team !Read more about them here
the second part of the book is Empire of the Moghuls:Brothers at War which will hopefully be out by early next year! Looking forward!
The book I also just finished reading is Chetan Bhagat's 2 states...more on that soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Empire of the Moghul:Raiders from the north

I am currently reading this book.It is written by Alex Rutherford.Raiders from the North is the first novel in The Empire of Moghul quintet.Raiders from the North chronicles the life of Babur and how after his father died he took the reins of his kingdom Ferghana at the tender age of 12.Babur from a very young age had to learn to defend himself and his kingdom from enemies outside and also from within the family.It more importantly chronicles his heroics against Shaibani Khan ,the Uzbek king who is bent on killing the blood relations and lineage of Timur.
It is very well written till now will give an update once I am done with reading the book

main bhi book critic!

Nope I am not your typical book reviewer !Neither am I a qualified journalist to speak/write/review a book.I am just a book lover! Many a times there are books that I want to know more about but I don't end up finding reviews.Or if I do I most of the time don't end up agreeing with them.Most of the time after reading good reviews for a particular book I end up buying the book and at times don't end up agreeing with the critic.
No I do not read Literary , Nobel worthy books...if you are looking for those reviews then sorry this blog is not worthy of your time!Though I must admit Orhan Pamuk's book 'My name is Red' has been bought and will be started off?No most of the time my reading a book or starting one depends on my mood..
This blog will also not just have my book reviews but also will try to include any other fellow blogger who wishes to review a book they have read.I'd be glad to put it up on my blog!
So guys if you would like to put up a post of your reviews do send it to me and will try my best to put it up..!