Friday, March 11, 2011

Q&A with Abbas Kazerooni

Recently I had the pleasure of reading ‘On two feet and Wings’ , (this book was published in the USA in 2008 under the title 'The Little Man') an immensely heartwarming story of a 9 year old boy’s journey from Iran to the UK.  I couldn’t help but remember the oft repeated quote from Spiderman “With great power comes great responsibility” but the 9 year old shows “With great responsibility comes great power” and that too with so much positivity and presence of mind.

This book is the author’s true story. Just close to his tenth birthday Abbas has to leave his parents and flee Tehran. The Iran-Iraq war has reached its bloodiest and the age of recruitment in the Iran army has been reduced. If Abbas doesn’t leave soon he will have to go to war. His ultimate destination is to reach London for which he will have to go to Istanbul to get a visa. On reaching Istanbul, Abbas shows exemplary courage and has no other option but take charge of his life and do the job he has to do. He has to learn difficult things-how to live on his own, how to make his way around the city and most importantly, how to judge who he can trust and who he cannot.

A story that will tug every mother’s heart and make every child believe that they have it in them to surpass all obstacles that come their way.

The Book Lovers blog posed a few questions to the author on his debut book.  Here is what he said:

The book’s journey from being called ‘The Little Man’ to ‘On two feet and Wings’ –

I have to give my Editor Vatsala Kaul Banerjee a lot of credit for this change. At first I was resistant but once I thought about it, it seemed to make a lot of sense. The Little Man is much less evocative, and the new title gives that message of the boy being on his own and small in a big world and yet still gives the message that it was miraculous and full of hope all at the same time. 

It was a huge responsibility to shoulder at such a young age, how did you manage to stay so positive throughout?

I think it was my naivete that kept me positive. If I had to endure the same experience at the age of 16, it would have been much harder for me. There were serious low points, don’t get me wrong…like constantly missing my parents and feeling bored and lonely…but as a child I felt like I was there to get a visa and that is what would happen. I was not old enough to constantly think about the negative and the “what ifs.” So I guess the answer is that ironically it was my lack of sophistication that kept me positive!

Did you at any point feel robbed of your childhood? Any regrets?

Yes, all the time. I still feel like I am dealing with that today.  By the time that I had abnormal drama in my life I was eighteen. That was the first time I had time to look back and contemplate what I had gone through…and that was the first time I felt sorry for myself. It was not a good time in my life.  I knew that this would be a downward spiral and I took action to stop this pattern of behavior. At eighteen I took a year out between school and university and went to teach underprivileged children in Malawi (which at the time was the second poorest country in the world). I lived in a hut with no running water or electricity for 6 months, got malaria in the process and yet it was the one most useful experience in my life. It put my history in perspective. I went home as a different person. That is not to say that I do not feel sad about what I had to endure as a child (like I said, I still have to deal with it) but it made it easier. There is always someone out there that has had it worse.

You handled multiple roles while you were in Turkey, you continue doing the same even now! Besides being a writer you are also a lawyer, actor and producer. How do you manage to wear so many hats?

I have a personality that does not allow me to sit still…sometimes to my detriment. I always have to be doing something. I like to be creative and I am always thinking. I have a pad and pen with me at all times and when ideas come to me, I write them down. I just have a character that once I get an idea in my head, I had to follow through with it. I get tunnel vision! Once I start writing, I do not stop till I have finished. That way I tend to get a lot of things accomplished. But if I am being honest it is my way of coping with a lot of issues…if I am busy, I do not have time to think about them.

I am sure many of the readers who have read the book would be curious to know how ‘the little man’ managed to handle his life in the UK and beyond..

Well, there very well may be a sequel or a whole new book that tells of my life in the UK when I arrived there. The story actually gets more dramatic if you can believe that! The next book will deal with an insensitive guardian and being homeless at a very young age.

Have you signed a movie deal yet for your story?

No…I am still waiting for an offer!

Are you working on another book, could you share more details?

As I mentioned before I will start working on the next book shortly. It will be showing how I survived living a double life, a life of contrasts, one during the day and another at night.

Any message for your young fans.

First and foremost thank you so much for caring and reading my story. I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to read about my story. Second, I just want them to know that irrespective how hard life may seem, if you stick with it and do the right thing, you will get the most from life… just be patient and positive.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review: Chettinad Kitchen

Chettinad Kitchen
Alamelu Vairavan
Westland Books, Rs 350
Reviewed by : Kiran Manral

Coming straight from trip to a wonderful Indian restaurant called Chor Bizarre in Lavasa where I had the most scrumptious gravied Chettinad Chicken with Malabar Parothas, I reached home and grabbed this book which had been languishing on my too read list for a while now.
For a person who is a total non cook, but paradoxically a total foodie, a cook book is read not with the primary aim of attempting the recipes contained within, but rather to wander through the culinary
realm of Chettinad cooking and check out if there are dishes that I needed to investigate gastronomically.
The cover of this book is colourful, you see the primary ingredients of Chettinad cooking, rice, ginger, curry leaves all placed artfully on a grinding stone, and a bright pink gold bordered traditional saree forming the visual motif of what you instantly know is going to be traditional cooking as prescribed down the ages and generations.
This is the author, Alamelu Vairavan’s third book. She co-authored the Art of South Indian Cooking and Healthy South Indian Cooking. This time round, her book looks at the cooking of the Chettinadu region of Tamil Nadu known for its spicy dishes, guaranteed to get the tears rolling down the eyes of those with blander tastes. The recipes in the book are primarily non vegetarian, the book is matter of fact, with no pretty pictures, no concession to Western readers or milder susbstitutes of ingredients, but instead has the detailed lists of ingredients for every recipe including the traditional sambar, rasam,chutneys and tamarind rice, apart from the non vegetarian dishes. The language is simple, the measurements precise and the directions clear.
What more can one want from a cook book. If you love cooking, this book is a must read.

(Kiran Manral is a writer, blogger, social activist. She is also the Creative Head  at Karma Communications, Mumbai)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Penguin's Spring Fever Festival (Mar 4th-13th,2011)

Penguin's Spring Festival Fever is back..with an Open Air Library featuring Penguin India Books from 4 to 10 March 2011, Open daily from 11 am to 7 pm at the Amphitheatre , India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.

One of the must attend event,Blockbuster Friday: An Exclusive Preview of Mega books in the making...", is coming up on 11th March from 7pm to 10pm.  All William Dalrymple fans you got to be there since he will be speaking on his forthcoming book..

William Dalrymple will speak on "The Return of the King: Shah Shuja and the First Anglo-Afghan War"
Shobhaa De will read from "Sethji" and
Suhel Seth from Jamil Ahmad's "The Wandering Falcon"

For more event details go here --->

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review: Chanakya's Chant

Chanakya, also known as Kautilya, continues being one of the most interesting and intriguing person till date. Chanakya’s policies have been debated, discussed and his strategies have kept people fascinated and interested even now.

Chanakya is well known as a master strategist who crafted Chandragupta Maurya’s ascent to the king of Bharat. Ashwin Sanghi’s latest book Chanakya’s Chant excellently blends Chanakya’s Bharat and today’s Bharat (modern day India). The thriller also proves that Chanakya’s neetis are as relevant today as they were in those days.

The book takes the reader right into 340BC where Chanakya, a Brahmin youth vows revenge for the gruesome death of his father by the King of Magadh, Dhanananda. Chanakya grows up to become a master strategist who, through his, calculating and cunning tactics seeks his revenge and also, at the same time, manages to thwart Alexander the Great’s plan to invade Bharat. But his most stunning victory is yet to come when by using all his crafty means and pitting the weak forces against each other he manages to anoint Chandragupta Maurya to the throne of Magadh and forming the first empire in India, the mighty Mauryan Empire.

In today’s Bharat, almost two and a half thousand years after, we have Pandit Gangasagar Mishra living in Kanpur ,draws inspiration from the master strategist Chankaya, to get his protégée Chandini Gupta appointed to the highest office in India, that of the Prime Minister. As was with Chanakya the same is with Pandit Mishra, there is no rule that can’t be broken or mended, no price too high to pay and absolutely nothing that can stop you from reaching your goal. There were four mantras that Chanakya believed in Saam, daam, dand, bhed (Equality, enticement, punishment and sowing dissension) and so does the modern day Chankaya aka Pandit Mishra.

The book excellently flits between the two periods and keeps the reader hooked to read what comes next in the political drama. Will Pandit Mishra succeed in his mission to take Chandni to the top? Will he be the king maker he so desires to be?

Though, at times, while reading the modern day events unfold, I felt that some incidents were highly exaggerated and could have been toned down a bit. And some of the decisions that Pandit Mishra takes come across unconvincingly.

Yet the book continues to keep the reader engaged and enthused enough to read through to the very end. A well paced political thriller that will keep you riveted. It should be in your must read list this month.

About the Author:

Ashwin Sanghi’s first novel, The Rozabal Line, was originally published in 2007 under his pseudonym, Shawn Haigins. The book was subsequently published in 2008 and 2010 in India under his own name and went on to become a national bestseller.

An entrepreneur by profession, Ashwin writes extensively on history, religion, mythology and politics in his spare time, but writing historical fiction in the thriller genre is his passion and hobby.
Ashwin, lives in India, with his wife Anushika and son Raghuvir.

Review: Scandals

Review: Scandals by Penny Jordan
Reviewed by Kiran Manral
Published by Avon
Price UK 6.99

The third book in the Silk trilogy by the author, Scandals is a coming together of the disparate skeins of all the characters lives in a way that only those who have read the previous books could understand.

The story is the final in a series about a family, the Fulshawe family from Macclesfield who own the Denham silk mill, and through the previous two books the reader has seen the life of Amber, the matriarch of the family and the owner of the mill as it evolves from that of a young girl to that of a matriarch ruling an entire clan with an iron fist in a velvet glove.
Spanning 50 years, the tale tells the reader the tragedies and the twists in fate that have befallen each of the individuals who make up this rather extended clan and their loves, their losses and the motives that drive them.

The current novel opens at Christmas time, when the entire clan will congregate and as also, a time when Amber approaches her 80th birthday. She now takes stock of her life, and what she will bequeath her assorted grandchildren who will gather to wish her.

Amber and her second husband Jay are the one's who must decide how their children and grandchild will take the legacy of the silk mills forward. But each of them have their own tangled mysteries, secrets and motives, and the book, true in the drama tradition has all the romance and tearjerking moments that make the reader sniffle through boxes of tissues and stay poised for what could happen next. If you are one of those readers who is addicted to her daily soaps, this is the book for you. 

(Kiran Manral is a writer, blogger, social activist. She is also the Creative Head  at Karma Communications, Mumbai)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Winners of Chanakya's Chant Contest

Thank you so much readers, we received a tremendous response to the Chankya's Chant contest. Since we had only 10 autographed copies to give away we had to end the contest sooner than we planned. The name of the winners are as listed below:
Tarannum Dobriyal, Mumbai
Vijeet Rathi, Amravati
Shripad N, Bangalore
Kavya Shankaregowda, Mysore
Sweta Lal, Patna
Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma, Raipur
Amit Das, Mumbai
Ruchik Doshi, Mumbai
Amit Gupta, Delhi
 Preeti Anand

Congratulations winners! And a big thanks to all of you for making this contest a huge success.

We will have many more contests coming up on the blog. So keep reading!!