Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: Past Perfect by Anna Varughese

Battle for survival. One can come up with a dozen things that this phrase could connote - it could be the intrepid attempts of a regiment in a war to stay alive while in the clutches of death or it could be the very battle a species being threatened with extinction employs. Further still, if one were to let the imagination run amok, it could be the very fight the humans are involved in when being overrun by aliens (yeah, harken back to Pullman's wonderful speech in Independence Day!). Or it could be the arduous and dauntless journey one subjects herself to in order to defeat the disease that is eating her from within, the struggle to stay alive so that her daughter does not end up growing up without the warmth and shelter of a mother. Past Perfect is exactly that and then some.

Anna Varughese diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (an abdominal dysfunction) at the age of four saw her relegated to a life of poking and prodding, highly monitored food-on-a-plate and a truckload of medicines. Her condition sometimes improves and often nosedives making a normal life quite impossible. Against these odds, Anna manages a life that had some semblance of routine; she manages to finish her MBA and becomes a mother. The final verdict on her disease came when she got to know that her liver was badly damaged and needed replacement; it was at this juncture that Past Perfect took shape in the form of memoirs to her daughter, a last-ditch attempt at letting a daughter know how much her mother battled for survival and how much she was loved; an account of the lovely childhood that her mother had amidst scores of cousins and family. I am not going to detail the nuances that this book has to offer or the actual occurrences in her life, one has to discover these for oneself for it is the tale of a grueling journey undertaken by a brave woman told in an effortless fashion that is at once compelling and absorbing. I am going to stick to those facets of the book that I found captivating.

Tales of personal suffering and individual uphill battles are a dime-a-dozen each carrying their own merits and traumatic experiences but as a book they sometimes fail to deliver the content that makes it engaging enough. So what does Anna do in order to not relegate herself to the common pile? For starters, her love for books and the fact that she is a voracious reader is amply evident in her style of writing. She abstains from resorting to wax eloquent as is a common pitfall of personal tales but she trusts simplicity to do the job. The prose is often breezy and immediate that keeps the reader engrossed enough to keep those pages turning. The anecdotal experiences are narrated so forthrightly that the reader can instinctively connect to the emotion within - that for me is exactly what a personal account should do, it should draw the reader in and invite him to be a part of the story. Another thing that impressed me is the brutal honesty that is present throughout the narration. Anna has no qualms bringing to light her own shortcomings or flaws as much as she criticizes those around her for their faults, a healthy dose of honesty does wonders in helping to understand the person behind the words.  She is also candid in stating that she is not a brave person and that the battle she was subjected to was due as much as to a lack of choice than anything else. I, however do not entirely agree with this sentiment for I do not believe that a person can tread such a perilous fight without some trace of will; yes, there was a lack of choice but to give up is always a choice that a human being has to which Anna never resorted to. That, to me speaks volume of the strength that Anna possesses and her will to survive against such heavily stacked odds.

Phrases like "Indian culture", "traditional ethics", "family value-system" and many more like those are so often misplaced and confused when narrating a story such as this. But Anna sets it right in the way she enmeshes these aspects into the story. Whether she is at loggerheads with what is accepted as societal norms (daughter-in-law paying obeisance by touching elders' feet) or if she is lauding the irreplaceable devotion of those near and dear to her always ready to lend a support, Anna is at ease; this is another aspect where Anna's candor is at the forefront lending to brilliant narration. Anna is a born raconteur and some of the things she said were actual eye-openers for me. For instance I did not know that some Christian families ancestry traces back to Brahmanism and thus practice customs which I did not know existed in Christianity (like naming the children after maternal and paternal grandparents or the presence of "thali" or "mangal sutra" in their marriage rites) - these facts make the book even more interesting and lend an irrefutable authenticity to the tale. The final icing on the cake that makes Past Perfect, well.... just about perfect is the silent homage it pays to the fundamental importance of the family value system and the beauty that is motherhood. Never in your face extolling the greatness of either, it is indisputably present and tangible enough. At every turn what eggs Anna on to witness the dawn of the next day is Aditi, her daughter. It may sound clich├ęd but one cannot refute the source of strength that it is. I, for one cannot imagine any reader not envying Anna her rich childhood and the phenomenally tightly-knit family that she got to be a part of (the whole part about Anna in Kerala with her family with games, food and fun is such a pleasant read). Neither their faith in her nor their tireless devotion to her well being is ever in question thus playing a more than significant role in seeing Anna's victory in the end. A special mention that is more than necessary is for Anna's mother (one of her rocks of Gibraltar as Anna puts it herself!) and Tarun (Anna's better half). Tireless in their efforts to keep Anna afloat, they are without question the pillars of support without which this battle would never have been fought, leave alone win.

There can be no review without some bellyaches now, can there?! Well, I do not mean to find faults just for the sake of doing it but Anna's pretty frequent use of "What if I am not around tomorrow?", "Will I live to see...?" laments could have definitely been toned down. I do not dare suggest that this is an indulgence on her part, by no means. A story that is this powerful and heart rending would definitely mean that the narrator would have been in throes of self doubt whenever life had a new curve ball to throw at her. I just mean to suggest that on hindsight these could have been fine tuned for the book. A minor gripe, I assure you that takes nothing away from the book. I would have also liked more photos (there is an array of photographs inset in the middle of the book) for putting a face to a name means that much more in a story such as this.

I definitely cannot end the review on the note above, that would be injustice! Past Perfect is a story of will and courage that results in triumph. It pays tribute to something that seems to be dwindling in our lives of late - values of family and love, it does so in a fashion that is not pedantic but natural, something that is not forced into its pages. Anna Varughese's debut is well written without doubt; yeah she did have a story already but the presentation is what makes the difference and Anna manages it with panache and skill. This is a book that can be enjoyed as a simple tale without being burdened with the trauma that is present within, the breezy style and matter-of-fact writing makes it possible. Unquestionable is the salute that the books manages to pay to motherhood and its strengths, something that could well use a little bit of reaffirmation in present times. 

(I intend to have an email interview with Anna and I would be following this up with that interview)
Buy from Flipkart

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

So have you ordered your copy yet?

The Superstar Syndrome, Sanjay Jha and Dr. Myra White's book is up for pre-order on Flipkart. The book has already garnered a lot of positive reviews from voices that matter. To order your copy here's the link and also below a sneak peek into what the book is all about:


Hidden in each of us is a superstar waiting to come to life. Often we struggle to find this, not because we lack talent, desire, or ability, but because we dont know the right steps to take. Frequently, we surrender to a sea of negative emotions and self-doubts right at the very beginning, or give up after a few setbacks. Dr Myra S. White and Sanjay Jha provide a comprehensive nine-step roadmap to help you succeed in the workplace and other areas of your lives.
The Superstar Syndrome is the ultimate success bible based on the lives of over 80 well-known people, like N.R. Narayana Murthy, M.S. Dhoni, Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Warren Buffet and Ratan Tata who transformed themselves from ordinary people into exceptional achievers. It covers all aspects of what you need to know and do to successfully make the journey to superstardom how to identify and manage your special talents, build power, influence and deliver A-level performances and illustrates each step with examples from the lives of the well-known superstars that were studied. It makes you believe that the finish line is not just within your reach, but opens up dreams and possibilities beyond.
The Superstar Syndrome is a captivating and colourful read that through some fascinating stories strengthens our self belief and makes us realize our often untapped potential. A thoroughly engaging and enjoyable book which delves deep into the human psyche and the superstar resident within each one of us.Naina Lal Kidwai, President, FICCI and Country head India and Director Asia Pacific, HSBC.
The Superstar Syndrome is not about how to become one, but to release your natural talent to exhibit your true stardom. This is because you are a natural superstar, whose stardom is hidden. Here is a book that tells you how to take off the covering. Enjoy reading chapters like know where you are going to know how to have fun. All this and more for a few dollars.Gopalakrishnan, Director, TATA Sons Limited.
The Superstar Syndrome is a book filled with wisdom, wit and well-known leadership superstars. There are myriad case studies and tips gleaned from the fascinating success stories of a wide ranging group of famous superstars from Warren Buffet, Lady Gaga and even Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, to Lee Iacocca, Ratan Tata, Margaret Thatcher and Sam Walton. Dr Myra White and Sanjay Jha have done a superb job. They obviously practice # 9 on their Superstar Roadmap Know How to have Fun. They must have had fun writing this book and I am sure the readers will also have fun reading it.Peter Handal, Chairman and CEO, Dale Carnegie and Associates.
I was fascinated and inspired by the stories narrated and would strongly recommend this book to all who are seeking to make a difference to their own lives and to the world in which they live.Rajeev Dubey, President (Group HR, Corporate Services and After Market), Mahindra & Mahindra.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Forgot to mention the winners of Grey Oak and The Book Lovers 'Write a story,get Published' short story competition exclusively for Wassup Andheri. 

We received over 100 entries and it was quite a task choosing the final 3 that made it, nevertheless thanking all those who participated and sent their stories to us. 

The names of the 3 winners are: Rahul Biswas,Parimal Datta & Subhasis Ghosal. Congratulations to the winners and wish them a great writing career ahead! All the best!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Grey Oak&The Book Lovers present 'Write a story, get published!'

An exciting new contest exclusively for all out blog readers and book lovers. The Book Lovers and Grey Oak publishing have an exciting short story writing competition lined up only for Wassup!Andheri ! The winners get their stories published in Grey Oak's Urban Shots series. All you budding writers your time starts now! Read the details and send your entries to . So read the details real quick and send us your entries NOW! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Book Lovers:Day 2&Day 3 at Wassup Andheri

Day 2:  Friday 1st March 2013

S. Hussain Zaidi - A man who needs no introduction, his books have been bestsellers, a veteran crime reporter & author of Black Friday, Mafia Queens of Mumbai and the latest Dongri to Dubai that covers the life of Mumbai Mafia Dawood Ibrahim joins us to give his valuable insights on Crime Writing. Be there to get tips from the man who witnessed it all.

Creative Writing workshop by Salil Desai                                                                                        A perfect blend of crime & fiction is his forte and to let you learn this fine art, Salil Desai will be at Wassup Andheri for an exclusive discussion on Crime Writing.
Day 3-  Saturday 2nd March 2013

Talk on Travel & Photography Travel Writer & Avid Photographer Rishad Saam Mehta author of Hot Tea Across India talks to the audience about his adventorous experiences while travelling & his anecdotes with photographs of the usual and the unusual during his road trips.

The Book Lovers at Wassup Andheri on Day 1-28th Feb 2013

The Book Lovers is back along with Wassup! Andheri this year. And as promised we are bigger...better and grander this year! With an exciting line up of events. Here is the itinerary we have lined up for you for the four days starting from 28th Feb to 3rd March 2013.

February 28th 2013 Thursday


  • Panel Discussion : 5-5.30pm Noted women authors Milan Vohra, Madhuri Banerjee and Pia Heikkila who have made their mark in the Literature World are here to get into a discussion on "Writing for the women of Today"
  • 5.30-6pm Book Launch:  Harlequin Contest Winner and India's first Mills& Boon Author Milan Vohra launches her 2nd book Tic  we're 30 at exclusively at Wassup!
  • 6-6.30pm Interaction & Fitness Workshop by Abhishek Sharma  author of Fitness on the Go will show us some simple fitness techniques to lead a healthy life without compromising on your daily routine
  • 6.30-7pm Music Video Launch of The Oath of Vayuputras - His 3rd book is eagerly awaited, his fans  have all queued up, the pre-orders have begun. Can you guess which author are we talking about? Yes it is none other than Amish as he launches the full music video for his third book exclusively at Wassup! Andheri and talks about his last book in the Shiva Trilogy series'The Oath  of Vayuputras'

Monday, February 4, 2013

Guest Review: Cut Like Wound

Book reviewed by: Mahathi Ramya Vanapalli

Book details:
Title: Cut like Wound
Author: Anita Nair
Publisher: Harper Collins
This is my first novel of Anita Nair’s. I love reading Indian authors, but never got a chance to read a gripping thriller from them. This is the first phsyco thriller that I read from an Indian author and I loved it.

Plot is about the investigation of similar serial crimes in Bangalore by an experienced inspector Gowda. Though Gowda is not young and dynamic, he is the hero of our story with his small imperfections.

Story starts with a burnt body of young male prostitute in Ramzan month and series of murders of random men on every Friday with peculiar ligature strangulation on neck. Author introduces us to corporator Ravi’s life in parallel. What is the relation between murders and Corporator? How Gowda finds the pattern in the killings? Remaining story is about the clues and findings of Gowda. Gowda’s problems in his family life, affair with his ex-girl friend etc., also form a part of the story. Climax is good and unexpected.

What I liked?
Story seems to be intriguing till the end. It is a medium paced psycho thriller. It met my expectation for sure. Characterization and writing style are impressive. Climax is good, Reader will be sure of the murderer from the middle of the story, but suddenly realizes that it is not that person.

What I didn’t like..
Motive of the crime doesn’t look very convincing. Sometimes, We feel , story is dragging and going no where, but, from the middle of the novel it picks the proper pace.

My overall rating: 4/5

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Guest Review: The Householder

Author Amitabha Bagchi
Reviewed by: Amit Gupta

I must admit i was not a big fan of the writer's debut novel, 'Above Average'. I thought it was a book which was true to its title. But in his next book, the writer explores the dark underbelly of power, greed and corruption in Delhi. It has delicate touches of humour and sensitivity which is rare to find in the India based fiction writing these days.

The novel incorporates two worlds — New Delhi’s babu-dom and the flashy gen-next culture of Gurgaon’s call centres. He takes us into the labyrinth of bureaucracy to meet Naresh Kumar, PA to Shri Asthana, IAS. Although he failed to make the grade as an IAS officer, Naresh learnt early in life how to negotiate the path to success — from upping the dowry amount set by his father to securing his first bribe. Naresh’s moral justification is that he is a householder, a man whose primary duty is to provide for his family.Naresh’s life progresses satisfactorily until a series of calamities occur. A complaint on a deal — which helped Naresh pay for the catering and the tent-wallah at his daughter’s wedding — leads to a departmental inquiry that results in Naresh being suspended. His daughter Seema’s marriage flounders because she has not borne the obligatory child despite IVF treatments. His son Praveen, who works in a call centre, gets implicated in a murder and runs off to Manali. And moreover, he is attracted to a widow colleague Pinki, who has marriage plans of her own. The Householder is about how Naresh charts his journey through these turbulent waters. The writing is taut in most cases and even though the book does get slow at times, but then picks up pace once more toward the final leg. Amitabha writes about a world where money rules and nothing can be done without it – he presents the dilemma of a common man – of morals, of the metaphoric good and evil and the choices we make.The writing is taut in most cases and even though the book does get slow at times, but then picks up pace once more toward the final leg. Amitabha writes about a world where money rules and nothing can be done without it – he presents the dilemma of a common man – of morals, of the metaphoric good and evil and the choices we make.

There are scenes which stay with you - like the one where the mother and the daughter in a casual dining table conversation discuss about men's approach towards sex or the one where Naresh is fired.  The decaying moral fiber of the society and families, in general always loom around in the background and gives us a surprising, yet disturbing overview of each of us as individuals.

I am going with 4/5 for Amitabha Bachi's 'The Householder'. It is slow at times, but in the end it is an extremely rewarding read. It promises to break new grounds and in make sure, it achieves that with some solid storytelling. Don't miss it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: Garbage Beat

What happens when what you see on television news channels makes you want to be like one of them? When the glamorous news reporters covering Bollywood beat makes you think that this is the dream job that you got to have? How would you convince your parents that you want to make a career in the cut throat television industry instead of becoming a doctor or an engineer as they had planned?
Meet Laila the protagonist of the book Garbage Beat who does exactly that. She is ecstatic when she lands up getting her dream job in her dream channel but not all is as glamorous and beautiful as she thinks it would be.  As she gets busier with her own role, working odd hours to cover film events and report them for her channel she ends up distancing herself from her dad- who as per her will never understand her and her boyfriend Rehan. To top it all her constant fights with her hard to please boss/ editor Bunny who doesn’t stop to remind her that there are others waiting in queue to get Laila’s job.
The television industry has its fair share of glamorous people but the industry also has its set of eccentric but fun bunch working there – having worked in the television industry I can say it with confidence! So in every channel you will find the kind of people described in the book.  While reading the book I was almost taken back to my days in the TV industry. The author has managed to capture the essence of television industry well, could be because she herself comes from there.
As Laila struggles her way trying to excel in her chosen career of TV journalism, as a reader you end up engrossed in her story, her struggles, her laughter and her tears. It is an endearing story written straight from the heart by an author who has looked and worked in the industry closely.
A fun fast paced read. For those in television industry will enjoy reading it and those who wish to make a career in it will get a glimpse of how the industry works especially the entertainment news industry.
Interesting debut by the author looking forward to many many more.