Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: Slither

This is going to be a really short post but wanted to review this book simply because it is a 'hatke' book on a topic which we Indians talk about only in a hush hush, conspiratorial way. This is a book of short stories that are erotic in nature with the undercurrent of carnality.

The author in her acknowledgement says that this book was the result of a challenge from her editor friend and goes on to candidly admits that the book was uncomfortable to write but at the same time also empowering and liberating.

Fair enough. So I started to read but some stories down I could figure why writing stories like this is a tough ask. Stories were great but after a point I struggled to finish the book, not because of the writing let me be clear, but the subject. There is only so much one can read about slithering bodies, sex et get the drift?

Maybe I am in minority where my reasons are concerned, but kudos to the author for taking up this challenge and doing full justice to it.

So if this genre interests you do pick up the book!

Review: Priya In Incredible Indyaa

Priya In Incredible Indyaa is a book I had read sometime back and absolutely loved. In this book author Namita Gokhale brings back some unforgettable characters from her 1984 cult bestseller Paro. So here’s a brief background of her book Paro - The book is in Priya’s voice, her narrative. Priya starts with an adolescent crush for her boss, the great B.R. He is also attracted to her leading to a brief fling, but within a month, B.R. marries Paro who is a from Delhi and for Priya someone who is larger than life. Priya herself gets married to a small time lawyer from Delhi, Suresh.The two of them try to network with ‘important’ people and make themselves known in ‘VIP circles’ for that Suresh is willing to bend himself backwards for any VIP. Soon enough Paro hits Delhi and Suresh get close since one of his friend Avinendra, or Lenin as he is known to friends, is besotted by her. At the same time Priya on a holiday to Bombay ends up having a fling with BR again leading to lots of fights between the couples. This must have been an explosive book in the 80s for sure!

So Priya returns in the second book, 25 years hence Paro is dead and Priya has grown into a middle-aged woman, her husband, Suresh, has bagged a minister of state portfolio. We see Priya struggling with Delhi's high society, her approaching menopause and finding a suitable wife each for her twins. She is still very much in touch with BR and whenever she is in Bombay makes it a point to meet him for a rendezvous. At the same time she is also struggling with all the pretenses that come along with being a wife of a public figure. She keeps remembering her humble beginnings in Bombay in a 1BHK and where she is now. At times she finds herself an outsider trying to fit in to the chic social set. Out of all the roles she plays she is the happiest being a mother to her two sons Luv and Kush.

Suresh’s friend, Lenin is around and still a Marxist while his wife Geeta is also a powerhouse in the Indian government. They have a daughter Paromita who falls in love with Priya’s son Luv. Also in the picture is the extremely loud spoken, ambitious, pushy Poonam who absolutely has no compunctions in hooking up with anyone in power to climb up the social ladder.

All in all gives the reader a glimpse into the high society life in Delhi-the hypocrisy of it all, the fake laughter, the shallow friendships, selfish alliances, double speak. The book is extremely well paced, funny, sarcastic, and witty at the same time. A satirical look at how the country has progressed not just economically but socially too.

A must read book.

Review: Fault Lines: Shortlisted for English Non-Fiction

We had reviewed the book and put it in our must read list. Happy to note that it makes it in the Vodafone Crossword shortlist for English Non-Fiction. Here's our review:

'Fault Lines-How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy is a must read book for any citizen of the world today to understand the Macro Economics governing the world financial markets and the politics behind it.

Raghuram Rajan was one of the few economists who warned of the global financial crisis before it hit. Now, as the world struggles to recover, it's tempting to blame what happened on just a few greedy bankers who took irrational risks and left the rest of us to foot the bill. In Fault Lines, Rajan argues that serious flaws in the economy are also to blame, and warns that a potentially more devastating crisis awaits us if they aren't fixed.

The book, by Raghuram G. Rajan, is very well researched and the author comes across as an authority on the subject. In the book he presents his case and arguments clearly and succinctly. Even an average lay person will be able to easily grasp the complex world of finance and Economics. Raghuram’s book explores what were the various fault lines in the economy which developed into a full blown economic crisis of 2007-09.

The book goes back into history to draw parallels with various economic crisis of the past and how it culminated into the current economic situation.

Raghuram was the Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund from September 2003 until January 2007.He is an economic advisor to the Prime Minister of India. In Fault Lines, he presents his possible solutions to avoid the economic pitfalls facing the world today. Some of the solutions do seem a bit too farfetched and overly simplistic. The other downside is that the book is too US centric, that is, it presents the American viewpoint of the economic conditions.

Fault Lines is the book to read for anyone who would want to know what economic forces are shaping the world around us.

Recommended read and deserves to be!'

Friday, August 12, 2011

Review: The Crimson Throne: Shortlisted for English Fiction

This is our review of Sudhir Kakar's 'The Crimson Throne' The book has been shortlisted in the English Fiction category for Vodafone Crossword Awards 2010.

'The Crimson Throne is a book which you look at, and think that ,it is yet another attempt, to understand the dynamics of Mughal era but then you read the story synopsis which begins with  these lines  ‘Emperor Shah Jahan’s pleasures of the flesh to divert himself from the travails of old age…’ and you are instantly interested in knowing more! This book definitely does not disappoint. An excellent account of the life and times of the period.

Shah Jahan’s reign was called the golden age of the Mughals and he was also considered one of the greatest Mughal emperors but at the same time stories abound about his various sexual exploits. This book is a brilliant mix of the two- the succession battle for the throne and harem tales of the empire. Seldom has any era of Indian history evoked such strong interest as much as the Mughal age especially Aurangzeb’s reign. Aurangzeb’s battle for succession and his long and orthodox rule after Shah Jahan was the turning point in Indian History.

The book is set in the period when Shah Jahan’s reign is almost ending and the battle to succeed him has already begun between his sons Dara Shukoh, Sultan Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh. They all believe that they deserve to be the next emperor to rule the country. During the Mughal period inheritance of power and wealth in the empire was not determined through primogeniture, but by princely sons competing to achieve military successes and consolidating their power at court. This often led to rebellions and wars of succession. As a result, a complex political climate surrounded the Mughal court at all times. The bloody battle for power makes this book a truly fascinating read.

The Crimson Throne is an account of two European travellers -Niccolao Manucci and Francois Bernier who arrive in 17th century India and find their way into the inner circles of the Mughal court.

Niccolao Manucci leaves Venice to travel to India in the hope that the golden land will lead him to riches. He is a rookie who on landing in Goa learns about medicines from Luigi while Vaidraj helps him by teaching him all about Hindu medicines and cures. While working as an orderly in a hospital he befriends Dona Christina Braganza who helps him to get a contact in Delhi, her sister Maria .Maria is an important person in Dara Shukoh's harem. On reaching Delhi he is taken by Dara Shukoh in his service. He soon starts gaining a name in the harem and his business starts flourishing. He establishes his reputation as a miracle healer and gains further confidence and access to the harems. So Niccolao recounts his various harem visits, the harem gossip, the insecurities of the women who are a part of the harem, their loneliness. Through Niccolao’s tales, the author manages to give the reader a brilliant insight into the lives of the women who were part of the seraglio.

Francois Bernier after graduating ad licentiate in Medicine sets sail for Surat from France. After spending a few days in Surat he is summoned to Delhi by Danishmand Khan who advises the emperor on foreign affairs. He soon gains Danishmand’s trust and Francois recounts his cerebral and philosophical exchanges with the minister. Through Francois’ recollection we get an account of the politics, the intrigue, the plotting and planning behind the succession. The ever changing equations between the brothers, the father and the sons, and even Shah Jahan’s daughters Jahan Ara & Roshan Ara play an important role in the entire event.

So both the Europeans end up on different sides of the camp, end up giving us an interesting and insightful account of that period. It is a well-researched effort by the author. Elegant and well-written, manages to keep the reader hooked till the very end.

Highly recommended reading for any reader interested in Mughal history.'

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Saraswati Park:Shortlisted for English Fiction

We had reviewed Anjali Joseph's debut book Saraswati Park, re-posting it again as the book is on Vodafone Crossword's shortlist for English Fiction. Many congratulations Anjali! Hope to read many more books authored by you.

"Anjali Joseph’s debut novel Saraswati Park is a fascinating story about a family residing in Bombay. The book is a vivid and detailed description of Bombay and manages to capture the essence of the city brilliantly. The book is almost an ode to the city. Saraswati Park, the colony where the protagonists reside will transport you to the lanes and by lanes of quiet areas of Matunga, Dadar or rather any old colony of Bombay. It is totally nostalgic at times right from its old colonies to the almost dying profession of letter writing which the protagonist Mohan does for a living.

This book is Mohan’s story. Mohan Karekar is by profession a letter writer who sits outside the post office in Bombay, he has helped put other people’s thoughts and feelings into words day on day. He is also a closet writer who also loves to read. Residing in a quiet suburban colony with his wife at Saraswati Park his life is pretty ordinary and mundane. Though on the surface all looks well between the two but underneath it all their marriage is thawing. Mohan’s lack of engagement and his contemplative attitude is pushing him further and further apart from his wife, Lakshmi. This again he does not notice or realize.

Soon they are joined by Ashish,a diffident, sexually uncertain  19-year-old nephew who is studying English literature. The book then takes us on a journey of these three different individuals who are deeply unsettled with their existence and are constantly striving to better it but are unable to do so.
So we have Mohan who would much rather read his books or attempt to write ignoring the tensions in his own marriage, his wife struggling to salvage the marriage and their relationship and Ashish who is coming to terms with his own problems. Though they are all battling their personal demons they intentionally or unintentionally end up being a support system for each other.

When Lakshmi loses her only brother she decides to leave Bombay under the pretext of helping an ailing relative, to mourn not only the death of a sibling but also the vital force of her marriage.  Mohan finally realizes the cracks in his marriage which he had been ignoring all along when there is no sign of Lakshmi returning; he finally manages to take a few decisive steps to salvage it. Meanwhile Ashish jumps from one failed relationship with his school friend into another with his English tutor who ends up breaking Ashish’s heart yet again but it also helps him find his peace. Mohan‘s dreams of turning into a writer also soon start taking shape.

The writer manages to breathe life into each character with her detailed description. Though every character is well thought of and characterized it is Ashish’s story which is the most interesting.

The book which is initially very slow paced ends up being very vague and hurried at the end. The book meandering at times and  is agonizingly slow paced in places, even if you skip a few pages you don’t really end up missing anything.

But all in all an interesting and promising debut."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vodafone Crossword Book Awards 2010

Hurrah  it is that time of the year again where we celebrate our Indian writers and their work. So the shortlisted books for the Vodafone Crossword Awards have been announced. Lots of interesting books were published in 2010 and it must have indeed been a difficult task for the jury to shortlist the books for this year's awards! 
We are happy to announce that our blog would be carrying updates, reviews , interviews of authors who have made it in the Vodafone Crossword's shortlist. 
We are certain you would all be familiar with these awards that take place every year to recognize our very own desi writers? Here's a small brief about what the awards are all about 

Exclusively Indian, inclusive in every other sense, the Vodafone Crossword Book Award brings together the entire literary community – readers, authors, booksellers & publishers – like no other awards.
These are your awards - join us in celebrating Indian writing.

The Vodafone Crossword Book Award is one of the most prestigious and popular literary prizes in India that not only recognizes and rewards the best of Indian writing but also actively promotes the authors and their books.

The Vodafone Crossword Book Awards are given out in the following categories:
1.       Vodafone Crossword Fiction Award.
2.       Vodafone Crossword Non-Fiction Award.
3.       Vodafone Crossword Translation Award.
4.       Vodafone Crossword Children’s Award.
5.       Vodafone Crossword Popular Award.
Honestly there were some titles we were looking forward to see in the shortlist but were surprised not to find them in the final list. But now that the list is out here's wishing all the shortlisted books all the very best. May the best book win!
So which are the books that made it this year? Here's an entire list of the shortlisted books.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Femina Blogger Bee for Books all this month!

We take great pride in announcing that our blog has been selected by Femina as Blogger Bee for Books. An honour really. Here is the Blogger bee link

Do you know how it feels when something/someone you have loved and looked up to  ends up acknowledging you for your efforts? That is exactly how I felt when I saw my name up there on the Femina FB page.  A very happy feeling also very humbled. 

Femina has been a part of my life for years now. My style guide, health guide, relationship guide all rolled into one.

When I started this blog the idea was to share my thoughts on books ,to talk about whatever I had read and give my review as any average reader would want to read a review..

It is amazing how the blog has grown thanks to the encouraging comments and feedback we have received from our readers. Thank you so much to all our readers, the blog is what it is today because of your unstinting support.

Femina, thank you, for selecting the blog as part of your 'For all the Women you are' campaign

And last but not the least - proud to be a Femina Woman :) 


And here is more about Femina's new campaign 

With "For all the women you are" Femina's new brand campaign, we have chosen to put the spotlight on the modern Indian woman's expanding roles & changing equations at her Home, Workplace, Social space, Personal life & the Online space.

She is the Princess of all things -Shoes, She is Nobody's fool, She is the Wizard of Odds, She is the FeminaWoman!

Here's a video shot by Anurag Basu, featuring Kalki Koechlin celebrating the relaunch campaign. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: Battleground Telangana: Chronicle of an Agitation

The other book non-fiction book that I read was on the Telangana movement. The book looks at the Telangana movement; the people there are battling for a separate state ever since the state of Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1956.

Telangana that was ruled by the Nizams before Independence never wanted to be a part of Andhra Pradesh, fearing that their people would be displaced by the more enterprising and better educated migrants from the Andhra region.The seeds of dissent were for all to see, but just that, it was largely ignored by the central government.

The book goes on to argue how first betrayed, in terms of development, by the Nizams and then by each successive CM, on how fund marked and raised for the Telangana region were instead pumped into AP. Differences cropped up not just in development of the area but Telengana employees also felt they were overlooked via a vis Andhraites where promotions were concerned.

The students of Osmania University in 1968 called for a separate Telanagan state and slowly this agitation started to spread which led to massive agitations in 1969, this left 400 people dead, but soon the movement petered out.The movement gained momentum again with the creation of new states like Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Uttranchal in 2000. Since then Telangana has come to occupy centre stage in the state’s politics, with elections won and lost over the issue. In 2009, the central government committed to carve out a separate state but then soon after has been dilly dallying over it. They fear the backlash of its Andhra voters. Yes that is the sad politics behind it, every successive government has failed the people of Telangana hence their unhappiness and frustration.

What is more is at the heart of this agitation lies the claim for the city of Hyderabad. The capital of AP lies bang in the middle of Telangana so they demand that it should rightfully belong to them, whereas for very obvious reasons Andhraites are reluctant to concede to this demand. While both sides fight over it the end sufferers here are the residents of Hyderabad for whom the uncertainty has become a way of life.
So where is the agitation heading, will the Centre be able to find a middle ground and make both parts happy. The book explores the complex issues and underlying causes behind the demand for a new state.

The book makes for an insightful read and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who would want to know and learn the history behind the Telangana movement.

About the Author:

Kingshuk Nag is the resident editor of The Times Of India’s Hyderabad edition. A recipient of the Prem Bhatia award for his political analysis and reporting of the Gujarat riots of 2002, this is Nag’s second book. His first book, The Double Life of Ramalinga Raju: The Story of India’s Biggest Corporate Fraud, was a critically acclaimed bestseller.

Review: Hello Bastar

My recent reads in the past have somehow tilted towards non-fiction. I would say that is so because there have been some interesting titles in context to various Indian states that have been published. I started my non-fiction reading spree with the much talked about book on the Maoist movement and who better than Rahul Pandita writing about it.  Rahul has been studying the Maoist movement at ground level for more than a decade, travelling through the remoter jungles of Central India for weeks and spending time with the tribal people says Patrick French, in his book India: A Portrait.

How did the Maoist movement begin, how did it grow, what caused it to find support in other states, why do the tribals trust them more than the government itself. Rahul very candidly tries to answer all these questions and gives the reader an insight in this movement which is becoming difficult by the day for the government to bring under control. Unbiased reportage by the writer, gains more credence since he has been intimately following their lives.

With direct access to the top Maoist leadership, Rahul Pandita provides an authoritative account of how a handful of men and women, who believed in the idea of revolution, entered Bastar in Central India in 1980 and created a powerful movement that New Delhi now terms as India’s biggest internal security threat. It traces the circumstances due to which the Maoist movement entrenched itself in about 10 states of India, carrying out deadly attacks against the Indian establishment in the name of the poor and the marginalised. It offers rare insight into the lives of Maoist guerillas and also of the Adivasi tribals living in the Red zone. Based on extensive on-ground reportage and exhaustive interviews with Maoist leaders including their supreme commander Ganapathi, Kobad Ghandy and others who are jailed or have been killed in police encounters, this book is a combination of firsthand storytelling and intrepid analysis.

The book speaks extensively about Ghandys- Kobad and Anuradha, their belief in the movement, the reasons why they became a part of it. There is absolutely no denying that some sections in India have been long ignored and the government just kept pushing the problem under the carpet till the time the Maoist movement came to haunt them and grow into a movement which is now difficult to curb.

Though at times I did feel that at some places the writer tries to justify the movement, with a ‘we deserve it’ kind of writing but all in all a book which gives an insight into the movement like no other.

This book should definitely be in your must read list if you would want to know more about the history of the movement.

Read more about the author here :