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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.