Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: 7 Secrets of Vishnu

Reviewed by: Baisali Chatterjee Dutt

When you are asked to review a book by one of your favourite authors, and that too, on a subject that you have been passionate about ever since you have been a little kid, then the task at hand can only be a pleasant one. Well, that is exactly what reviewing Devdutt Pattanaik’s “7 Secrets of Vishnu” was for me. I have been an avid mythology buff ever since I can remember and the passion has only intensified with time.

I have been reading Devdutt Pattanaik’s work for quite a while now. Not just me, in fact, but my eight-year-old son as well, who is a fan of Pattanaik’s “Adventures in Devlok” series.

The Hindu trinity, as we all know, comprises of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. The symbols and rituals connected to Each One are markedly different. And why not? It stands to reason as They represent different levels of consciousness. They do not look like Each Other, nor do They behave similarly and They perform different duties. Pattanaik’s “7 Secrets of Vishnu” attempts to help the reader decipher the symbology and unlock the secrets behind the stories and rituals associated with Lord Vishnu.

Through the stories of Vishnu, complex Hindu ideologies and philosophies have been communicated in an easy to read manner. Issues that we have always wondered about have been addressed beautifully by the author. Like, for example, why are the Devas and Asuras, both the offspring of Brahma, always at war? The saga of the never-ending battles between the Devas and the Asuras bring to light the emotional turmoil faced by both; the Devas also represent insecurity while the Asuras embody ambition and thus the constant state of unrest.

The book takes us through the various avatars assumed by Him on Earth. Divided into seven chapters, each one helps us in understanding key concepts and in delving into the mysteries of the Divine. I learnt so many new things from each of these chapters, which is always very exciting. For example, I learnt about Alakshmi, the Sister of Lakshmi who accompanies her Sister wherever She goes and She represents strife. The entire passage about how Lakshmi arose from amrit and Alakshmi from halahala – brilliant! Also the gem about how Shukracharya, guru to the Asuras, lost an eye when Vishnu descended to Earth as Vamana, the Brahmin dwarf, was a new story for me to imbibe and marvel over. The absolute crowning jewel for me was how Pattanaik beautifully explained that Luv-Kush’s victory over their father showed that dharma rests with Sita and not Ayodhya! Brilliant! As one who has always been furious over the treatment meted out to Sita in the epic, this one statement was a fist-pumping hurrah! moment. Yes, it has been explained time and again that Ram put his kingly duties above his personal needs, but that only serves to make him the Perfect King, not the Perfect Man.

The photographs of ancient artwork and temple sculptures help bring the book alive, especially with their little bubbles of explanation. Colour photography would have been greatly appreciated, of course, but that’s nitpicking. An index would also have been of great use, and I strongly suggest the publishers think of adding one in the next edition.

All in all, a great read and one I would urge all mythology buffs to immediately indulge in!

(This book is reviewed by Baisali Chatterjee Dutt. Baisali blogs at )

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: The Best of Quest

Quest was born in 1954, a magazine that was published out of Bombay (now Mumbai) with Nissim Ezekiel at its helm. After successfully publishing it for two decades the magazine collapsed during the Emergency period.

An intellectual magazine for the discerning reader with articles contributed by the best names that light up newspapers, magazines, academic journals and even television screens today. The common link between them? They all made their mark with a piece in Quest.

The Best of Quest brings to the reader the best of stories, essays and poems published in the magazine. Hence making the book a treasure trove of well written, well argued articles. It gives the reader insights into the political and social history of independent India.

Some of the articles in the book, in all honesty, were difficult for me to fathom or read through. But some were exceptionally brilliant. The book is edited by Lafeq Futehally, who worked as the Literary Editor with the Quest for over twenty years. Achal Prabhala who is a writer and researcher in Bangalore. Arshia Sattar who works with classical Indian Literature and teaches at various institutions across the country.

So you have eminent writers such as Nirad Chaudhuri, P.Lal. Jyotirmoy Datta, Khushwant Singh, Dilip Chitre, Ashis Nandy and others who have contributed towards the magazine. Poetry contributed by Dom Moraes, Kamala Das, Nissim Ezekiel. Mukul Sharma makes this section extremely interesting.

The pieces are well selected and show the kind of enrichment in terms of knowledge and thoughts the magazine brought to its readers. You know when you read through the book the editors have worked with a passion to make this book worth a collectible for every reader.

Do pick this book up to get a better understanding of the country we live in by the writers who are the very best in the industry today. The book is a fitting tribute to a man who headed the magazine.

Magazine Review: BBC Knowledge India

This particular review of BBC Knowledge’s long overdue. I should have reviewed it much sooner, in fact as soon as I read it. I am not much of a magazine person except for the weekly news magazines but whatever issues I read I found the magazine an enjoyable read.

So here goes. I had got two magazines for review one was the May/June issue which covered– Does god exist?And the other was Jan/Feb issue with “So you want to be a spy “as the cover story. The cover stories were good and interesting to read. The picture and print quality of the magazine was at par with other international magazines.

This bi-monthly magazine encompasses 3 main topics - science, history and nature. Besides these topics the magazine is also divided into sections like updates, round-ups, comment & analysis, insights, world news in context, Q&A, reviews, etc.

I personally found the content in-depth, well researched and written in simple and easy to read language.

It is worth a read or rather a long term subscription! Go ahead-enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thinkfest: The hits and the misses

We were following up on all the news creators at the recently concluded Thinkfest in Goa. As expected Siddhartha Mukherjee, VS Naipaul, Mohammed Hanif, Thomas Friedman, Hari Kunzru sessions have come in for much praise. Here are a few links that will give you a better insight into who said what:

Also making news at Thinkfest were Arvind Kejriwal, Shashi Tharoor ,Omar Abdullah and Shehrbano Taseer. From Bollywood we had Abhay Deol and Aamir Khan who were the news makers at the event.

Here's the FB page that will give you all the information you were looking for!

Until next year then....