Looking for Love?

December 31, 2011

Yun Hota to Kya Hota....

Of all the words of tongue and pen, the saddest are: 'It might have been different'. 

It might have been different if i was this, if i was that. if i was there, if i was here. I would have done this, i would have done that. How many times have you heard this from others? How many times have you heard from yourself only? It's killing after a time, a repulsive feeling towards thinking what could have happen and what actually happened. Just imagining the unlimited possibilities of unbridled magnitude about your life, its various options, its various streams. It's fun most of the times, but sometimes it is just a bit of pain in the ass. 

It might have been so different if i was shorter or taller. It might have been different if i had brown little eyes or black shiny hairs. It might have been so different if i was stronger to overcome dirty politics or be at least immune to it. It might have been so different if i was more happier to destroy all the pieces of heart-break and agony. It might have been different if i was richer to buy another car or a piece of necklace. It might have been different if i did something different in this year, something unique. It might have been different if i did something correct, something right. 

Another year passes by, i look around. Everything remains same. I change, for the worse, for the better. Not Sure. But what i definitely knows is: 'It might have been different'. 

Wishing everyone a rocking, fun-filled, prosperous and lovely 2012!

December 30, 2011

New Year Resolutions - A Reality Check

Every New Year people talk about resolutions, changes, promises, goals and dreams. We will do this and we will do that. So many things to cater to, so many results to be achieved. And then in nothing less than a month, people forget those resolutions. They fail to make those changes, keep those promises, finish those goals and follow those dreams. Why? Well they give lots of excuses. And those excuses always include, usually blaming everyone and everything but themselves!

While it's true that the choices others make affect each of our lives to a certain degree, in no way do they decide your life as a whole. No one has that level of control over you. No one! Well, except yourself. You control you. And you are fully responsible for you, for your life, for your choices. Period.

Making new year resolutions is a fad, not following them is a bigger fad. And making a big issues out of it is sick and at times, quite disgusting. We live in a finger pointing, shame blaming world. People hate taking responsibility when they mess up and fail. But they love taking full responsibility when they succeed! It's a selfish kind of love. It's why I roll my eyes when I read a blog post about someone who goes on and on about how much ass they are kicking in life, but they never share how much they've had their ass kicked by life. It's just not a pretty portrait to paint, therefore they don't paint it. Not only is it not a realistic portrait of who they truly are, it's not beautiful. There is beauty in struggle. And there's even more beauty in having the courage to share one's personal struggle.

If you really want some kind of new year resolution - make the one to share your own story. Your own personal struggles to make things meet, show how they finally reached this front of year. And that is indeed my new year resolution, after completing the dream, will share my own struggle story before the end of 2012.

December 29, 2011

Book Review - 63 : A Romance with Chaos

Author: Nishant Kaushik
Publisher: Rupa & Co

Meet Nakul Kapoor, a 20-something corporate executive, who gives you a hilarious account of how he struggles through a cobweb comprising an unacknowledged position at work that leaves him with nothing but the feeling of being an objectified resource, a stupid boss who thinks he is a smart Alec, a gorgeous girlfriend who can't think below D&G and Gucci when it comes to shopping with his credit card, and an extra pious room-mate who thinks that watching sleazy films and lusting after material comforts are trivialities that one needs to rise above. And then, one day, a few random sketches drawn by an acquaintance seem to give him the answers he has been looking for. Does he manage to wriggle out of the muck?

If you can look beyond the abundant stereotypes from the corporate world, there is fun in exploring the world of Nakul. There is a dickhead boss, a punch-you-in-backside colleague, an all-beauty-no-brains girl friend, a friend who is secretly in love with him, a random stranger who turns out to be an acquaintance and many more. The author neatly packages all the elements of love life, corporate politics, chaotic youngsters life and most importantly, life as an IT professional. It does not fall into the trap of touching the daily life of IT industry on the surface, but delves into the quotidian activities with depth, and abundant details. Those teleconferences, those outlook messages, those water cooler conversations, those back-room gossips; it all adds up.

To me as a reader, the chaos portrayed in the life of Nakul was extremely mature and delved with utmost sincerity and simplicity. The author portrays this chaos through sketches, making you instantly recognize what is exactly going wrong in his life. It does help that the author keep the tone straight and simple, though an undercurrent of humour is sprinkled all through the narrative. It is only in the final act that the author let us down with abundant coincidences thrown in. The boss and his daughter Natasha sub-plot is done conveniently, it looks contrived and so out of place. It makes very little sense and it appears writer was running short of ideas or time or both.

I am going with generous (2.5+0.5) = 3/5 for Nishant Kaushik's 'A Romance with Chaos'. Look beyond the usual stereotypes characters, and there is a good heart beating in this book. Not a bad way to spend a lazy weekend, and specially reliving those moments as an IT professional.

December 28, 2011

I want to sleep with you....

I want to sleep with you. I’m not implying sex.

I just want to sleep. Cuddle. Just the two of us, beneath the thick warm blankets, feeling each others heartbeats. I want my arms around your waist, your head on my chest, the wind howling outside the open window. The colder it gets, the closer we get. The moonlight shines upon the curtains. Silence before sleep, happily, blissfully, alone, eternal.

I want to sleep with you. I'm not implying sex.

I just want to sleep. Snuggle. Just the two of us, floating in the lake of emotions, feeling the warmth of each others fingers. I want your fingers entwined with me, my legs on your side, the light flickering in the room. The warmer it gets, the closer we get. The nocturnal smell wafting through our bodies. Silence before sleep, quiet, creepy, fragmented, oblivious.

I want to sleep with you. I'm not implying sex.

I just want to sleep. Embrace. Just the two of us, buried under the carpet of feelings, feeling the strokes, the squeezes, the grazes. I want our hands all over - above and below, the music floating in the room. The hotter it gets, the closer we get. The early morning rays through the windows. Silence before sleep, perspiring, tainted, persistent, ageless, timeless.

I want to sleep with you. I'm not implying sex.

I just want to sleep with you. Clasp. Just the two of us, disowning each others from our lives,clinging, clinching to the last thread. I want your company , me beside you, love smelling in our room. The harder it is away from you, more closer we get. The sun shining bright beyond the curtains. Silence after we sleep, eerie, continual, undying, unyielding, perpetual. My Love. Your Love. Our Love.

December 27, 2011

Book Review - 62 : Harbart

Publisher: Tranquebar Press
Author: Nabaun Bhattacharya
Translator: Arunava Sinha

Harbart Sarkar, sole proprietor of a business that brings messages from the dead to their near and dear ones left behind on earth, is found dead in his room after a night of drinking with local young men. He has killed himself. Why? Was it a threat to his business which brought him money, respect, a standing in the family, more clients and fame? Or was it a different ghost from his shadow life, where he was constantly haunted by his own unfulfilled dreams and delusions? And as the explosive events following his suicide reveal, as in his life, Harbart remains a mystery in death.

Based on Nabarun Bhattacharya's eponymous Sahitya Academy award-winning novel Herbert (1997), this translation by Arunava Sinha is a challenge to the rational mind. Herbert, who grows up on the charity of his relatives, is made out to be a good-for-nothing dimwit, thereby denied a normal life. He is an orphaned member of a crumbling household, who eventually becomes a metaphor of the collapsing city. He finds himself as someone who talks to the dead, is accused as charlatan by the Rationalists' Society, and the harmless do-gooder commits suicide. The multiplicity and the polyphony of the narrative is the most difficult matter to grapple with as it constantly moves from the comfort of a known world to the realm of the unknown. Despite a large sense of skepticism at work, when Herbert is dubbed an impostor, it is heartbreaking.

Literary translations are always difficult to do with as you not only have to recreate the milieu, but keep the basic essence of characters and the story intact. It is important to understand the story within the cultural context and make sure those regional touches are not lost in the translation. All this majorly remains in place, with elements of dark humour, sarcasm and wit present throughout the narrative. However, there are clunky transitions in the book where poems appear and at many places, where there are conversations between the characters. All this leaves you a bit unsatisfied with the final product.

I am going with 3/5 for Arunava Sinha's translation of Harbart. It is a difficult read in a few places, but in the end keeps you glued for a major portion. Read it because it is different, set in a unique time period/milieu and makes you hooked up with the intriguing central character. In the end, it is an almost rewarding read.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

December 22, 2011

Quote-Unqoute of Love

"Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love" - Neil Gaiman

"Have you ever been in love? Beautiful, isn't it? It makes you so secure. It makes you want to give happiness to others and creates happiness for others. It means someone can make you feel suave from inside and melt you like no one ever has. You build up walls to stop people from coming in, so that no one comes and be selfish with you. Then one extra-ordinary person, no different from any other ordinary person, wanders into your ordinary share a piece of yourself, uninhibited, without even thinking. They do something stupid one day, like kiss you, and then your life isn't the same anymore. Love makes you hostage, a parasite living on others life. It dissolves inside you. It bobbles up your enthusiasm and leaves you possessed on to something, so simple a phrase like 'may be we can be more than friends' turns into a rose petals throwing fragrance wafting all the way into your heart. Love swells and roars. Love fly and kicks. Not just in the heart. Not just in the mind. Not just in the body. It's a soul-stirring, a real gets-inside-you-and-robs-you-apart touch. I love love" - Amit Kumar Gupta

December 19, 2011

Notes on 'Unusual People do things Differently' by T.G.C.Prasad

Author: T.G.C Prasad
Publisher: Penguin India

Rating: 3.5/5

Unusual people are ordinary people who strive hard to do extraordinary things. They are sensitive to nuances, look to provide lateral solutions, dare to think out of the box, and often end up changing the rules of the game. The book mixes both the traditional and modern outlook for bringing changes in our lives by providing a sharp, concise way of dealing with tough situations.

T.G.C. Prasad presents the views and experiences of sixty-five individuals, from well-known names like Mike Lawrie, Azim Premji and Mother Teresa to a chef, a masseuse and a service boy, with whom he has had meaningful interactions and who have inspired him. He includes people from a broad professional spectrum; CEOs, doctors, the director general of police, realtors, an attorney, a chartered accountant; a consultant and a sports coach are among those who make his list. Singling out a dominant factor from each person’s story, he outlines the journeys these people undertook and the behaviours they exhibited, and shows how these links up to the results they achieved.

The book has been divided into six themes all dealing with lessons that one must learn from the business world. The author has given a number of examples in each of themes as each chapter talks about one of the individuals he met or worked with. The stories that have been jotted down are interesting and the book provides the dos and the don’ts while in it or planning to go in it!

The author does not fall into the trap where most non-fiction authors generally delve into; telling long boring corporate stories. Instead, the length of each chapter is kept to a minimum, crisply edited and does not hammer a view on the readers to the point of boredom. Essentially entrepreneurial in nature, the narrative even enjoys showing the human side of a few individuals. I particularly enjoyed the stories from the lower strata of society, they somehow makes more impact and are deftly dealt by the author.

Unusual People Do Things Differently is full of pithy everyday management lessons and offers valuable insights to everyone who aspires to grow manage and lead.
Read the book in short bursts, looking for that kick-start to be inspired in your own field. Go for it!

December 17, 2011

Book Review - 61 : Prey By The Ganges

Author: Hemant Kumar
Publisher: Wisdom Tree

There is an inherent pleasure to read a book with little expectations and be pleasantly surprised with it. Prey by the Ganges by Hemant Kumar maintains a consistent tone over the course of nearly 400 pages and provides a tight thriller that is hard to put down. It helps that the author is sure-footed with the milieu the story has panned itself and brings an ensemble of engrossing characters that are difficult to get out of your mind even after finishing the book.

Set in 1948, during one night on the bank of Ganges, Vaidya Shambhu along with his servant, Hariya, are waiting for his friend, Ravi, who to had gone to Janak Ganj to trade with Thakur Suraj Singh. Shambhu, helplessly, watches his friend getting beaten to death. When the bandits leave Ravi on the brink of death, Shambhu brings the dead body, washes it and buries it. Intrigued to find the reason of his death, he starts a journey to Janaj Ganj to take on the evil Thakur, Gajanan. Both the Thakurs are competitors and are loggerheads with each other. What follows is a fascinating story about dealing with these two characters and a blood-curling heist for an exclusive diamond.

From the word go, with the nerve-wrecking description of killing of Ravi, the author barge in the point that it is not going to be an easy read. Over the course of the narrative, we are introduced to an eclectic mix of characters - the psychopath among Thakur's men, the nubile girl having immense sexual prowess, the well-knitted thakurain, the lusty babe whose piece both the gangs want and many more. All these characters interwoven seamlessly within the narrative brings about a roller-coaster ride that will engage and enthrall you no ends.

The book flirts with such themes as the compromises of village politics, the price that must be paid for integrity, and the loss of innocence. Even these revelations aren't of an earth-shattering magnitude, and the book feels naive for presenting them as such. But despite its shortcomings, the book works as a tight thriller that sustains dramatic tension throughout. The only time it falters is when all the blood-curling and abusive scenes starts to appear repetitively, almost sequentially making you feel like skipping the pages and get on the climactic deal.

I am going with 3.5/5 for Hemant Kumar's debut novel, 'Prey by the Ganges'. It is written with love, care and affection albeit portraying emotions of lust, revenge and power. A fresh voice on the Indian fiction circuit, which needs to be loved, nurtured and protected to provide us even better work in the future. Go ahead and get absorbed in a world of gory details, highly recommended!

December 7, 2011

Book Review - 60 : Charliezz

Author: Trupthi Guttal and Zeeshan Farooqui
Publisher: Frog Books

Welcome to the world of sorrows, tension and pressure the typical office, where employees come, do their jobs just for the money and dash back to their homes. The office here is an engineering firm which is in the process of making its mark in the world. This story revolves around two main characters working for this corporation - Zahir Pathan and Khushi Patil - and their struggle to prove themselves as worthy employees.

Work, work and work!

Well, a wave of relief is brought by Zahir. He travels into his yesteryear's in college giving Khushi a glimpse of what he experienced during his nourishing days. Phase one begins with his five college friends, including Zahir, who are invited forcibly by one of their not-so-friendly-friend to his ancestral home where they created havoc but managed to survive the wrath of his parents. These five have an insatiable hunger for creating problems. Amidst the roller coaster ride, Zahir manages to find love in a lissom girl called Rashmi, his college friend, which unfortunately ends up disastrously. What is the reason? Will they reunite or does life has a different plot ready for them? And where does Khushi fit in?

The story begins in a typical corporate set-up with a stereotypical boss and subdued colleagues. Boss erupts, colleagues listen. The conversational format is unconventional but other incidents interspersed within the narrative are not seamless and leaves a lot to be desired. There are couple of incidents of the college days which engages the readers but are soon frittered away as none of them are interesting enough to be sustained. It becomes a typical cross-religion/cultural love story which eventually makes very little impact. It gets minimum footage in the narrative and that too only towards the end.

I am going writh 2/5 for Trupthi Guttal and Zeeshan Farooqui's 'Chaliezz'. It starts promisingly but soon becomes a mis-mash of a love story, corporate politics and college adventures, none of them strong enough to make an impact. Read it if you must.

November 26, 2011

Book Review - 59 : Haunted

Author: Douglas Misquita
Publisher: Frog Books

FBI Special Agent Kirk Ingram's life is torn apart when his family is brutally murdered before his eyes. Devastated physically and psychologically, he vows to destroy organized crime in all forms. Across the globe, an international trade house brings terrorist activities and organized crime together in a deadly nexus that threatens to bring the world-order to the point of anarchy. And only one man stands in the way of global terror and paranoia-one man seeking redemption, and waging a personal battle against the demons of his past...

Haunted by Douglas Misquita is a breath of fresh air in the Indian fiction. Treating the book like a lurid thriller, the author goes for an audacious tone and a brisk pace, grabbing your attention from the very word go. The action scenes have a vivid description and brings you straight to the center of the action. Even though the fact that some scenes 'inspired' from the Mission Impossible, The Bourne Identity and Die Hard series is difficult to ignore, the book keeps you on tenterhooks and provides a tight thriller which is difficult to put down. My favourite scene is the one action scene which happens underwater and is well written to capture the essence of the narrative.

There are new characters introduced on every 10-15 pages and if you are not attentive, there is a good chance you may miss a few of them. It is not a bad idea to read this book in fewer sittings to enjoy it to the maximum potential. These characters are the emotional core and the reason the book remains grounded even when the plot occasionally teeters on the brink of sheer cheesiness. The quirky, witty conversations between them amidst crazy things going all around them forms the most enjoyable portions of the book.

The book flirts with terrorism, suicide bombers, killings, police politics and revenge drama. Even though these revelations aren't of an earth-shattering magnitude, and the book feels naive for presenting them as such. But despite its shortcomings, the book works as a brisk thriller that sustains dramatic tension throughout. The book runs out of steam in the middle portions where the actions scenes are abundant, but brings in a fatigue factor. Couple of sub-plots involving the various FBI agents are unnecessarily stretched and could have been better edited better.

But these are mere nitpicking's in an otherwise engaging, engrossing action pack adventure. Despite not much novelty on a plot-level, it works big time with a brisk pace, crispy editing and tight screenplay. I am going with 3.5/5 for Douglas Misquita's 'Haunted'. Read it if you are a fan of this genre, You will remain haunted a long time after you have finished the book.

November 22, 2011

Notes on Rohit Arora's TransGanization

Author: Rohit Arora
Publisher: Times Group Books

Rating: 3/5

TransGanization, the book is a collection of thoughts on how operationally organizations face growth trajectory problems. The content also gives explanation on the strategic approach to molding organizational dynamics when organization is moving to a more structured way of working from a free energy of entrepreneur set-up. It is neatly packaged, short, concise book which does not beat around the bush and provides a succinct way of bringing around the required changes in an organization.

The process of changing the organizational genetics at the time of changing market scenarion or changing business model or during the phase-shift from one state to another is called TransGanization. This process involves changing people, processes systems, leadership, culture and other internal aspects to sustain competitive advantage and growth. Inspired by the different species from the movie 'Avatar', the author adapts the same concept into the business, by incorporating the needs of people, policies and procedures into the business model before incorporating changes.

It contains a hands-on set of problem-solving instruments as well as tools through which they can determine where they or their organization stands and the ways the gap can be eliminated between where it is at present and where it should be relative to the transganization paradigm. The DVD is excellent, with high quality video explaining the concepts and a detailed interview with the author. In fact, i enjoyed the DVD more than the book. A worthy read if you are an entrepreneur looking to make some sweeping changes into the business model or planning to incorporate innovations in the system.

November 21, 2011

Book Review - 58 : The Reverse Journey

Author: Vivek Kumar Singh
Publisher: Frog Books

This is a story about a young man faced with a decision - to follow his heart or brain. The heart wants happiness in India, among his family, friends and people who are like him. His brain wants money - without it what security does he have? All his friends are relocating to the USA. He feels isolated. And so he decides to follow 'the rat race'. He travels to America. Will the journey to a foreign land bring happiness? Will money be the answer to his prayers? Or will he finally realise that true joy is the sense of belonging?

Reverse Journey is one of those books where author is not sure which tone is suitable to take forward the narrative. So it becomes autobiographical when the author starts narrating own experiences while becomes a fiction when he decides to throw in a love story. As a result, it ends up being a mixture of awkward plot-points, cringing dialogues and clunky transitions. What finally manages to stay with you is the detail with which the author has penned down the minute details about living away from the country, adjusting to the new culture, momentarily forgetting your own and hypocrisy of Indians when subjected to racist remarks.

The book is thought provoking, delving deep into the psyche of Indians abroad or who move abroad after living for a substantial time in India. The author manages to capture the small nuggets of life abroad sincerely, but fails to enthuse any kind of reliability to the characters. Yes, you can relate to them at human level but all of them are written with flat note and hardly any variation, that in the end it fails to enthuse you.

I am going with 2/5 for Vivek Kumar Singh's 'The reverse journey'. It makes some pertinent points about brain-drain and living away from India but it is so poorly structured and told with flat narrative, that it will leave you with an empty feeling. How you wish author showed a little restraint and properly-laid straight storytelling to complement very competent thoughts about his journey.

November 20, 2011

Can love realise our true self?

How do you go about trusting people in this materialistic world - by their words, expressions or actions? In these days where online relationships are more or at least equally important for people, the line for trusting people is definitely getting blurred. People cover themselves so brilliantly, i wonder even they themselves are able to uncover that mask easily. Or may be they just learn to live by it. In any case, it is much easier to live with the mask on than be honest. But then how do you maintain honest, true relationships? Do you ever realise your true self? Do you ever realise the truth of love in relationships? Do you ever realise the honesty of the relationships you are in? It is just like being in fog, you know the destination but can't find a way to reach there. Isn't it?

I have always believed that every relationship - long or short, close or far teaches something. If it does not change you as a person, it at least allows you to form an opinion about people in your future relationships. But is that opinion always correct? How many times people judge their current relationships with what happened in the past? How many times people in your current relationships suffer because of your past? How many times people your current friendships do not go a step forward in the relationship, something which should have been so natural, so easy, so convincing...just because of your past. Just because certain people like to keep a mask on... to keep having that ostrich mentality as if nothing has happened....nothing will happen if you lose one relationship, nothing will happen if you lose one more relationship.

To realise one true self, to be on your own... you don't have to hide behind anyone or anything. Just make yourself busy, so busy you don't realise the pain of not being in love or in a relationship. Time doesn't heal relationships, it is all bull shit. What you do in that time heals relationships. What you achieve in that time heals relationships. What you learn and unlearn about human tendencies heals relationships. Then may be, just may be... you will find the real self of love, and hopefully, yourself too.

November 17, 2011

Book Review - 57 : Resident Dormitus

Author: Vikas Rathi
Publisher: Rupa Publications

Achet, the lead protagonist hails from a small town. Having excelled at whatever the world threw at him, he is set to climb the tallest corporate ladders around. But he doesn’t know what he wants from life. Both, his desire to explore life and his work take him to Singapore. And thus begins the journey of self-discovery. Despite the hectic schedule at work he finds the time to cynically size up those around him, experiment with drugs, lie for cheap thrills, display a complete disregard for professional ethics, almost commits career-suicide and a cold-blooded murder. Is there salvation for Achet? If so, is the price too high?

Resident Dormitus is a polarizing book. There is so much to like in this young adult fiction, but still it fails to keep the momentum going. During the middle portions of the book, the screenplay goes in circles without achieving anything. The book is so caught up in being self-congratulatory that it doesn't even realize where it has been slipping up. It inflicts seriously and sincerely on each of the characters but when all of them are portrayed as lazy, inactive and obsessed with booze, babes and drugs; it all becomes repetitive and to a point boring.

However, the author delves into small nuggets of life that is all so endearing. Read how Achet decides to explore the personalities of people sending official mails by observing the title and font colour. Or that scene in which a funny situation turns poignant when his friend decides to reveal about his childhood and a brooding, silent father. Even the portions when he gets drunk first time and has passed out is hilarious and keep you in spirits.

But all this does not quite fit in the scheme of things coherently. There are snake-like plot movements which do not work in taking the story forward. All the inactivity of Achet and his group of friends are likeable to start with but when the constant references of going to pubs, drinking heavily, finding girls and reflecting on their past misadventures, it all soon become all so familiar and predictable. The triggers which come off as twists in lives of the protagonist are abrupt and contrived, not investing enough in the metamorphosis for each of them.

I am going with a heavy-hearted 2.5/5 for Vikas Rathi's 'Resident Dormitus'. It is a book you want to desperately like because it brings those subtle nuances so effortlessly. Unfortunately, it cannot rise above its flawed script and become a sum of all its parts. Still not a bad Sunday read as it will make you think about yourself and for those moments when you have doubted your own abilities. Otherwise it is a clunky book which takes itself far too seriously for its own good. It flys, but never soars. It swells, but never bursts.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

November 9, 2011

Book Review - 56 : Abyss

Author: Sabarna Roy
Publisher: Frog Books

Abyss is a full length play in two acts with an interval in between. It is essentially a racy crime suspense thriller. Act one builds up slowly to result in a crescendo of conflicts between personalities and ideas finally to end with an unnatural death before the interval. Is it a suicide or a murder? Act two evolves through a series of incisive interrogations to unravel the truth, which is disturbing and affecting. As the play unfolds into a very well crafted situational thriller, underneath is the debate about using land for agriculture or for industry, the ethics of a working author and the nexus of a modern state all wonderfully enmeshed into its storyline and the personal lives of its subtly etched out characters.

At 110 pages, it is a breezy read which can be finished in an hour and provides the instant rush. Since the story is written in a play form, the deliberations and discussions moves at a frenzy pace resulting in interesting one-to-one conversations between the characters. The high points of the play are its central conflict between a mother and her daughter and its female sleuth – Renuka. I particularly enjoyed the flirtations between the mother and the prospective son-in-law who has a hidden agenda behind all those sleazy talks.

The fast pace though gives away the clues to break the mystery a little too early and that is the only, but probably most fatal mistake in a murder mystery. I am going with 2.5/5 for Sabarna Roy's 'Abyss'. Revolving around lust, greed and ethical ways of working, it is a quick fast food meal which you will enjoy but quickly forget about it. Guilty pleasure at its best.

November 8, 2011

Book Review - 55 : The Promise

Author: Chital Mehta
Publisher: Mahaveer Publishers

Ajay is thrown out of his home because he don't want to join dad's business and just want to enjoy life without taking any responsibilities. Yes, Wake-up-Sid kinds. He joins CAT classes, falls in love with the coaching institute owner's daughter and the drama continues. Meanwhile, he has made a promise to do something in life with his mother and to marry the girl when he becomes that someone. Will he be able to fulfill his promises? Step into this world of friendship, love and confusion where Ajay discovers the true meaning of life.

It is tough to take such a book seriously when the author hardly tries to take the writing seriously. There are logical loopholes which will make your jaw drop. Sample these: How does Ajay get money to eat those pizzas n colas all the time? How does he get admission into CAT coaching? How does he get money to roam around on bikes when he hardly bother to work? Plot points like father putting the daughter under house arrest and a dud becoming a dude by cracking CAT are as old as the Indus valley civilization.

There is so much whining and cribbing all the time, you feel like screeching a board with fingernails. The female Author does a decent job in portraying emotions of men and Ajay's bond with his friends, but the writing is too simplistic and does not provides anything new in terms of content. There is hardly any predictability and too many similar incidents taken straight off Nicholos Sparks novels is not very original writing as well.

I am going with 1.5/5 for Chital Mehta's 'The Promise'. It is a book written with sincerity, albeit with very little logic and originality. It plays on your patience and goes on and on with the nonsense adventures of the lead protagonist. Read it if you have nothing better to do.

November 7, 2011

What matters in the end is the truth....

What matters in the end is the truth.

Perhaps there is reason to believe the philosopher who realized, to his dismay, that the truth is precisely that which is transformed the instant it is revealed, becoming thereby only one of many possible opinions, open to debate, disagreement, controversy, but also, inevitably to mystification.

In other words, there is no truth.

Put differently, truth is that which inevitably contradicts itself.

- The Storyteller of Marrakesh (Pg6, 2011)

What is truth? Your version or my version. Or somewhere in between. Is it the version in which i was right and i thought everyone else was wrong or the version in which the other person was right and i was terribly wrong. People like to say the truth, but fear follows. They want to hide the truth, but guilt follows. You see, truth is such a bitch.

Truth is such a natural question, yet has the most artificial answers. Truth is answered on the face value, yet truth is the one used as a dagger in the backside. Truth destroys arguments between people, it constructs bridges of trust between people. Truth raises objections in the mind, it clears hesitation in the matter of minutes. You see, truth is such a bitch.

Truth puts the facts in structured notions - yes or no. There is no other option. There is no alternative. The key to truth is just a relation between you and the world. Truth is singular, not just merely turn of a phrase, but a reflection of the monastic idealism. A grey area in which individual beliefs and judgements are not the complete truth. An individual has to wriggle with it, deliberate with it, fight with it, overcome it. Only then the real truth prevails. You see, truth is such a bitch.

November 2, 2011

Book Review - 54 : Pentacles

Author: Sabarna Roy
Publisher: Frog Books

Pentacles comprises one long story and four short poems. The work provides an interesting, yet intellectually stimulating, stories for the discerning reader. The long story is the best portion of this book, while the short poems even though competent just fill up the pages.

New Life is a long story written from the perspective of a successful adult whose mother had deserted the family for another man. The teenage angst and the scars it has left behind on the psyche of the protagonist are subtly reflected in the character. The different elements and characters of the story are interwoven to produce an intense and compelling story of an adult haunted by the trauma of being deserted by his mother. The work is interspersed with thought-provoking views on issues like love and socio-economic conditions in India. Even though the portions where the author provide his own version have clunky transitions with the main story and divert away your attention from the main story, the story as a whole stand tall because of a sensitive portrayal and inherent sincerity attached to it.

The traditional rhyme and metre dominated poems are on love, loss and longing. Unshackled by the bonds of rhyme and metre, author’s free verses evoke the stark reality of urban life, hitting you straight in the guts. The use of everyday urban imagery adds to the appeal of the compositions. The concrete prison of urban life and the unfulfilled desire to escape to a simple life is aptly brought out in The Tower. The free verses sketch out their life story with its attendant pathos, poignancy and logic. Even though i am not a great fan of poetry, but was able to relate to most of these poems because of the ease with which the author has written them in an almost routine conversations form.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Sabarna Roy's 'Pentacles'. Short, sweet and will leave you more or less satisfied with this variety of literature pieces string together. A quick night read after work is how i perceive this book.

November 1, 2011

Book Review - 53 : The Incredible Banker

Publisher: Rupa Publications
Author: Ravi Subramanian

The Incredible Banker is a story set in ‘Greater Boston Global Bank’ (GB2), an American Bank struggling to grow in India. It’s business is usual – until one day the CEO for the bank, Ronald McCain is quickly summoned out of his morning meeting to the RBI headquarters to meet the Governor. On his arrival, the Governor reprimanded Ronald McCain catching him totally off guard. How could something as catastrophic transpire in an organization considered to be the ultimate in banking? Ronald has no answers and numerous questions to answer.

On an another plot point, when the CBI lands up at Deepak Sarups doors trailing the scent of a the same scandal, Ronald decides to distance the bank leaving Deepak, a senior executive, to fight his own battles. Will Karan, Deepak's one time adversary and now a Journo, bail him out? Will Savitha, his girlfriend, stand by him? And will his family; the CBI and more importantly the country believe what he says? With the media and CBI in hot pursuit, Ronald can't help but wonder what his fate has in store for him an intriguing tale of love, politics, unbridled aggression and money laundering.

The story in itself is intrigue and complex, and with a brisk pace it provides a worthy weekend reading. The attention to detail about the banking operations is commendable and the author brings in interesting plot points ranging from Naxalities of Chattisgarh to the top management predicament about retail operations of the bank in Singapore. There are characters introduced in every 20-30 pages which introduces to an array of diverse personalities from the hierarchy of retail banking. I particularly liked the character of the CEO, Ronald who is probably etched with utmost sincerity and provides bouts of anxiety, success and anguish throughout the book. Some of the characters are under-developed (For instance the wife of a corporate head in the bank totally unaware of an extra-marital affair of his husband ); but still things move at such a hefty pace, you won't probably notice these things. The language is simple and even though banking jargon are used abundantly, you won't feel like suffocated in a boring corporate strategy meeting.

The only glitch i found in the book was the length, which could have been shorter by around 40 odd pages. There are long portions of back stabbing and corporate politics, reoccurring so many times in the book that it takes sucks away from the fun you are having while reading the main story. Ultimately, the author paints all the characters in broad strokes with grey shades, giving readers very little chance to feel sympathetic towards any of the them. No doubt, there are ample incidents of served imaginings telling us how cut-throat the competition is in banks where you are as good as the last target you have achieved. But how much of these corrupt measures you can take in one single book? It goes overboard while portraying the office politics and at times, stalls momentum of an other otherwise brisk narrative.

I am going with 3/5 for Ravi Subramanian's 'The Incredible Banker'. I quite disliked the author's only non-fiction attempt, 'I bought the Monk's Ferrari'. In an email conversation, he was candid enough to admit that he want to stick to fiction genre for a while even when his only non-fiction book had sold 60k+ copies. I believe every author should try different, but ultimately find his forte. Ravi, with his latest attempt takes a right step in that direction. For all other readers out there, go ahead and get engrossed in the world of banking and politics therein.

October 28, 2011

Book Review - 52 : The Ancient Book

Author: Parikshit Rane
Publisher: Frog Books

The Ancient book is like that quick take-away meal which will satisfy your hunger but will leave you wanting more out of it and i mean that in the best form of the word. It is a fantasy fiction novella that transports the reader into a magical world of Angdom and the gruesome colony of Satan called Lyncastia that is increasing at an alarming rate. A magical dark cloud prepared by Queen Witch Gilda hovers over all the captured territories and has the ability to shower acid rain or fire from the clouds. Gilda controls the clouds from the confines of Satan's castle through a magical mirror. Satan's castle is encircled by magical thorns that are growing wider and wider.

King Zius, the King of Angdam and the world, is the protector of the Ancient Book, a tome that has all the answers to protect the earth. When the tome falls in wrong hands, hell breaks loose. The universe works in mysterious ways helping him restore it back from the evil Satan. King Zius' daughter, Sara plays a major role in this war to bring back normalcy on earth. The aliens too help King Zius due to their deep-rooted connection with him. A new era beckons, but not before it changes the various dynamics of the Satans.

The narrative is kept at a tight leash, with screenplay moving at a brisk pace. I particularly enjoyed how the writer kept a few things deliberately unspoken to create a feeling of mystery around the characters. Developed from a poem written by the author itself, it wastes no time in delving into the characters and straight away action follows. It transports you bang into the middle of the crazy situations and you are blown away by the honesty with which each character is handled. I wish it was much longer than it current form, and certain portions were developed sufficiently to create a better impact on readers.

I am going with 3/5 for Parikshit Rane's, The Ancient Book. It will transport you to the fairy tale land which we used to adore in our childhood. At 80 pages odd, this novella will keep you hooked and engrossed for most of the time. Go ahead and rekindle the child inside you!

October 27, 2011

Book Review - 51 : Are you the one for me?

Author: Chital mehta
Publisher: Diamond Books

Having lived in a dream world where everything seems perfect, Khushi is heart - broken when Rohit, her boyfriend of two years, dumps her for another blonde. Since then, she resolves to seal her heart for love convinced that she would never fall in love ever. Just when she moves on with her life surrounded by friends who help her our to mend her broken heart, she meets Jai, Mr. Perfect - her boss. At least, that's what Khushi thought about him. Despite her initial resistance, she falls in love with him. Disaster hits her again when she learns that he doesn't feel the same way about her. This time, Khushi decides on a stronger note that love was just not meant for her. And then, Manav, a carefree guy, steps into her life who promises to love her in every possible way. After being heart - broken twice, which still hurts, will khushi give love another chance knowing that it could be risking her heart again for the third time ?

The book takes you through the story of its lead protagonist, Khushi through ups and downs of love life. Plain, simple, straight forward thoughts punctuate the narrative with the story told in a linear manner. The story moves forward through a series of contrived 'meet-cute' moments between the leads and there is so much mumbo jumbo about relationships (or the lack of it) that i felt inside an Archies shop browsing through the cards. Khushi's friends are straight out of American sitcom - no real care in the world and all cliche ridden. Apart from some enjoyable moments between the girl and Manav, the book fails to engage for most of the time. It is one more addition to the 'oh-i-want-to-tell-my-love-story' genre.

I am going with 2/5 for Chital Mehta's, Are you the one for me? It does not offer anything new in terms of story or screenplay content, but if you are a fan of Bollywood kind of pulp will not be disappointed. For me, it is a tiring rehash of a format which is published so much these days, you have very little left to chew on. Only thing which you can appreciate after reading this one is the sincerity with which author has penned it down.

October 26, 2011

Old Writings, New Updates, Same Diwali.

1. My post - Is common courtesy gender dependent? will be published in the next edition (Volume 2, issue 2) of Verse and Verbs Magazine. This will be out in the market by first week of November.

2. My book review (in an edited form) of Ashwin Sanghi's Chanakya Chant will be published in the next edition of the novel. You can read the detailed review here and do catch the novel soon, if you haven't. The rights of the novel has been acquired by UTV and the movie will be directed by Ashutosh Gwaorikar.

3. My Short story for Chicken Soup for the Indian Couples' Soul is finally seeing the light. All the editions of the CS were delayed by few months because of licensing issues with CS-USA. The book will now hit the bookstores by February end. More on this in a previous post here.

Wishing everyone happy and prosperous Diwali. This is my fifth consecutive go-green Diwali. (Helped generously that i was not in India on three of those occasions!) I intend to keep it same till i have kids who want to burn fire-crackers. That reminds me i have to get married!

October 25, 2011

Ra.One - A new genre beckons Bollywood?

In the past few days, i have been asked this question a little too often - Why this silence over Ra.One from my side? No tweets, no blog-posts, no Facebook updates. The reason is pretty simple and something which i have followed more or less all the time in the past. I have never understood the fascination of doing post-martum of a movie before seeing it. I think each movie should be judged on its merits irrespective of the hype around it. That, i believe is the best way to not only enjoy a flick but do some pertinent analysis later on.

That brings me back to Dabaang, a movie i was extremely critical when it's first trailer came out last year. My first and an almost, instantaneous reaction was more directed towards the star than the movie. But i did stuck to my guns of not getting carried away with the hype of a movie, I was not excited enough to see Dabaang. And it was not till this June i finally managed to catch it on DVD with few friends. I thought movie was strictly average, but Salman was terrific in it. How you wish he can use this star power to get better movies made? But, i digress.

Now, is definitely not the first time a super-hero movie is being made in India - Krissh and the most recent, Robot are the two flicks which straight away come to mind. But in a way, could very well start a new genre of super hero films in India. Our mythology is full of such characters and i believe, Ra. one is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more stories to be explored, more super heroes (and hopefully super-heroines) which can be translated on the screen. It just have to be started.

Here are some of the reactions and questions i have heard in the past few weeks leading up to release. My reactions to the same:

Q1: will be a flop. There is too much marketing going on, SRK is everywhere.
A1: Sounds trashy to start with... SRK has always been all over. This is nothing new, it has been the same since past 15 years or so. He has danced at weddings, promoted brands ad-nauseam, and have hosted abysmal TV Shows (Remember Jor ka Jhatka early this year!). But still the brand value has remained untouched. Like it or not, that is star power. Too much marketing has never affected fortunes of a film. In fact, in an industry where the box-office collections have become restricted to first week becomes even more imperative to do aggressive marketing.

Q2: Ra.One is too costly. It can't recover 150-200 crore as investment.
A2: This could just be partly true, specially if the initial reaction to the film is negative. However, the movie has already been sold for 35 crore for TV rights and going further, in association with 40 brands, the producers have pocketed another 45 crore. This takes the total revenues to 80 crore already. So in net, it just requires 100 odd crore to break even, which is predicted to be the revenues in the first 5 days considering the advance bookings in over 1500 screens in India and abroad. So the loss is out of question. The only point remains, will it be able to make profits?

Q3: has scenes copied from Hollywood films. Even the poster is copied from Batman Begins.
A3: This is true, but then when we have not copied from Hollywood films? The list is endless. What should matter in the end is how the movie engages you in its 150 minutes running time. I am not supporting plagiarism, but there have been worse Hindi movies made even after copying. At least, attempts to take the genre and the work in it seriously and most importantly, to a next level.

Q4: What is this craze of all about - video games, merchandise, T-shirts? Just release the damn movie.
A4: It is not maniacal approach to promote a movie, it is a simple two-fold marketing strategy. First, to get in revenues before the movie releases and secondly, to create enough buzz in keeping the audience engaged before they finally watch it in big screen. In Hollywood, for years super-hero films are preceded and succeeded by such marketing activities. We are just seeing the first instance of it here in India. Being first doesn't mean you are wrong, it means people are just getting used to it.

Q5: What's a big deal in seeing It is just another Diwali release.
A5: That solely depends on how big movie buff you are and exactly which section (mass entertainment or classy cinematic experience) your priorities lies. is important from a futuristic point of view. If this works, we will have more super-hero films made, with bigger special effects and better technologies. If this works, we will have a window open to a genre which is neglected in our cinema so far. If this works, may be...just may be, we will have better action movies made in India.

PS: Was no fan of Farhan Akthar's Don (2006) but the second trailer of Don 2 looks promising. Car chases, free falls, guns and the girls. Bring Christmas Early!

October 9, 2011

Book Review - 50 : The Storyteller of Marrakesh

Author: Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
Publisher: Tranquebar Press

Good books should give me a sensory head rush, they should set my brain rolling after a drab day at work. They should force me to think, don't allow me to breathe for a few moments. You know, a good book is one which should allow me to forget everything; be my boss, my work, my family, my worries. If such a thing happens, the book is working for me. Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya's lastest book is one such piece of literature which will not only provide you with an exciting story but gives you insights, an exclusive window into a new world.

Each year, the storyteller, Hassan, gathers listeners to the city square of Marrakesh (Morocco) to share their recollections of a young, foreign couple who mysteriously disappeared years earlier. As various witnesses describe their encounters with the couple—their tales overlapping, confirming, and contradicting each other—Hassan hopes to light upon details that will explain what happened to them, and to absolve his own brother, who is in prison for their disappearance. As testimonies circle an elusive truth, the couple takes on an air as enigmatic as their fate. But is this annual storytelling ritual a genuine attempt to uncover the truth, or is it intended instead to weave an ambiguous mythology around a crime? The book explores in detail these questions to finally unravel the mystery.

This book employins literary tricks such as making use of multiple narrators, multiple perspectives, and stories embedded within stories: in fact, the novel is a story about a storyteller, who tells a story within a story. I enjoyed how the narratives somehow contradicted each other. One narrator would give one take on it, and another would claim that the previous narration was a fabrication.

The author’s talent for describing Morocco, Marrakesh, and the Jemaa el Fna is breathtaking. As Hassan’s story builds, the square fills with drummers, jugglers, acrobats, fortune tellers, beggars, artists, poets, and singers. The Jemaa el Fna itself becomes another character in the tale. This place is magical, and has a life of its own. I was enthralled by the beautiful descriptions of the orange sellers, the acrobats, the storytellers, the mosque, and so forth.But in the end, the novel is about love and its various manifestations in the face of adversity. How two lovers, torn apart by destiny and politics carry on their relationship and finally reaches a conclusion dictated by the society.

My only problem with the book is its length. Even though it employs various literary devices neatly, in certain portions it just meanders... the narrative drags and ultimately sucks out some fun from this ride. The story is brilliant in parts when Hasan comes back every year to tell the tales, but certain sentimental detours it takes to reach the final climax plays down on your patience and you really want to flip pages to move on in the narrative.

I am going with 4/5 for Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya's second book, 'The Storyteller of Marrakesh'. It is slow in certain portions, but provides sensual and evocative responses from the readers. It portrays a throbbing picture of Moroccan social dynamics, through scenes of paternal authority and men-women relationships. If you are not put off by multiple non-linear narratives, if you are a fan of exploring various cultures through books, this book is just perfect for you. It is also billed as the first book in the trilogy of novels set in the Muslim world. If this is any indication, i am lining up for the next two whenever they come out.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

October 8, 2011

Notes on Chetan Bhagat's Revolution 2020

Author: Chetan Bhagat
Publisher: Rupa Publications

Rating: 3/5

It could be a little too early to predict, but Revolution 2020 may just go down as Chetan Bhagat’s best work since Five Point Someone. After that sparkling debut in 2004, to me personally his writing had gone down a notch. One night at the Call Centre (2005) had a cop-out climax while 3 Mistakes of my life (2007) had OTT sensibilities and was too ‘filmy’ for me. CB recovered ground with 2 States (2009) by picking an interesting semi auto-biographical account of his own marriage but still the narrative was teetering on melodrama at various plot-points.

R2020 is the story about three childhood friends in Varanasi - Aarthi, Raghav and the narrator, Gopal. Gopal has always loved Aarthi but following his debacle in JEE/AIEEE exams and in turn, moving to Kota for coaching, Raghav and Aarthi's relationship blossoms. Gopal fails at the second attempt of engineering exams. Following some dramatic incidents and with the help of a local politician, he starts an engineering college of his own in Varanasi... though with corrupt money and means. Raghav meanwhile chucks his IT-BHU engineering degree to take up journalism and is hell bent on creating a revolution to root out corruption from Varanasi. What follows is an exhilarating tale of power, corruption, love and greed.

R2020 takes a contemporary issue of corruption in education, but it happens as a contrived scenario. The "revolution" happens only as an after thought and is not delved sufficiently enough to show how the change can be brought. Sure, it works at an individual level but is it sufficient at a national level? I do not think so. But the author succeeds in showing the ugly side of education in our country where colleges are now run by Sari shop owners, politicians, beedi-makers, anything but the academicians. There is also a strong undercurrent towards the apathy shown by the society towards students who are always judged by the ranks they get in the competitive exams.

At its core, the book still remains a triangular love story. The usual CB trademarks are present in this one as well: The quirky one-liners, the oblivious in-jokes, the witty conversations between the couple, the customary sex scene and the jibes at man-woman relationship.The pace is brisk, editing crisp and even though this is Bhagat's longest book, you never feel the narrative dwindling into side-tracks and losing steam. The scenes between Gopal and Aarti are heartwarming: those coffee conversations, those boat rowing scenes near the Varanasi Ghats, those awkward pauses, they all add up in the end. Two scenes stood out for me - one in which Aarti shop around for Gopal before he leaves for Kota and another in which Aarti for the first time confessed how Gopal pushed her "too much" for a relationship. These are well thought off and executed scenes in writing where the exact emotions are unveiled for the characters.

Now it may appear i am putting the book on the pedestal which is definitely not the intention. There are certain plot points which left me unsatisfied. There is not even one confrontation scene between Aarti and Raghav, latter of which is never ready to work on the relationship in his passion for the "change" in the society. In fact, the character of Raghav gets minimum footage when it comes to the love story and to me that was the most baffling portion of the book. I also thought the earlier portions of coaching in Kota were too elaborated and did not added up to the central theme, though did added to Gopal's woes and eventually bringing him to the lowest point in life.

I believe in the coming days, jury will be out how good or bad CB is, how his literature sucks or rocks and all that jazz. I can even see another movie made on this book. People will keep arguing about the merits of his writing. But in the end, the sales numbers are already out – more than 5 lakh copies had been pre-ordered, which is by far the highest number for any Indian author. As far as R2020 is concerned, the fans of Chetan Bhagat won’t be disappointed at all.