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May 31, 2013

Quick Notes on 'AFTERLIFE - Ghost Stories From Goa'

Author : Jessica Faleiro
Publisher : Rupa Co.

Rating : 3/5

The Fonsecas are your friendly neighbourhood Goan family. There’s Savio with his salt and pepper hair, and a propensity for eating chicken cafreal with a fork. His wife, Lillian, worries about feeding guests and finding a boy for her unmarried daughter. Their daughters Carol and Joanna are both settled abroad. The Foncesca family- father Savio, mother Lillian and daughters Carol and Joanna have gathered in Goa to celebrate Savio's 75th birthday.

The night before the big party, the family has a visit from Savio's cousin brother Eduardo and his wife Maria and kids Susheela and Jason come and as the rain pours outside and the power goes out . the Foncescas start telling ghost stories- about things that they've experienced or the extended family members have experienced. There are stories of naughty ghosts, exorcism and haunted palaces.

The narrative has distinct Goan flavour to it and even though these stories can happen in any part of the world, they explore the genre by keeping Catholic religion and fanaticism as background in all of them. Each of the story by a family member forms a new chapter. There are usual horror genre stories here - exorcism of a young boy infected with an old man's spirit or a girl who dares to spend a night in a haunted library and end up doing the 'unnatural' stuff. At the same time, there are stories explored with a twist - An uncle who prefers sending messages from the grave or a relative who all believe has been reincarnated as a bird or my personal favourite - a 'good ghost' who loves children.

I particularly liked the way Goa has been used in setting up of stories - right from furniture to flower vases to the ballroom dances and ivory curtains. Most of the stories are not horror inducing but gradually grow into thrilling stories about the experience of paranormal. And there lies in the victory of the book which is finding the uncommon in the common, the occurrence of horror in our everyday life. Read it if you are a fan of horror genre. You won't be disappointed.

May 30, 2013

Book Review - 125 : When Strangers Meet

Author : K. Hari Kumar
Publisher : Srishti Publications

Reading mass fiction novels has their own advantages and disadvantages. It provides a quick refreshing change from the heavy duty stuff, similar in vain to the potboiler movies in Bollywood. How much you enjoy K. Hari Kumar's 'When Strangers meet' depends how much you have missed reading the-all-genre-mixed style books.  Even though essentially it remains a love story which encapsulates the major middle portion of this book, there are strong indicators of parent-children generation gap, caste divide in metropolitan cities, male bromance and a existence of paranormal phenomenon.

An irritating but lovable wise-cracking 'Stranger' called Iyer meets a frustrated and arrogant teenager, Jai, on a fateful day in a congested room at the Metro station.Meanwhile, Pathan, abandoned by fate and friends, surrounded by responsibilities and poverty knew only one thing...How to keep the faith in Allah binded. How the tale from the Iyer's past will change Pathan's present and Jai's future forms the rest of the crux of the novel.

Too long by at least 50 odd pages, the middle portions goes around in circles doing very little to take the story forward. However, the story starts a brisk pace and through the interactions of Jai with his father presents a strong hate relationship and an ever increasing generation gap in today's world. The dialogues are over written at most places and have a laboured feel towards them and makes you cringe with oh-so-cool-jargon language. The climax will take you with surprise and even though not all loose ends are tied up properly, you are willing to forgive for this faltering note.

What stays with you in the end is a feeling of observing almost all the emotions together in one novel - be it romance, action, thriller, fantasy or paranormal. I am going with 3/5 for K. Hari Kumar's 'When strangers meet'. It will provide you with brisk entertainment, just don't keep your expectations too high. You will not be disappointed.

May 23, 2013

Old Notes on 'What Young India Wants' by Chetan Bhagat

Publisher : Rupa Publications
Author : Chetan Bhagat

Rating : 2.5 / 5

What Young India wants by Chetan Bhagat is a collection of his selected essays and columns written over a period of time over various publishing mediums. Bhagat constantly talks about corruption free India and how society should get rid of it and create a progressive society. Bhagat clearly could not be bothered to delve beneath the surface, and pelts us with his fast-flowing ruminations—that most politicians are greedy scums of the earth for instance or that our education system needs a serious overhaul—that they reflect popular sentiment broadly enough to elicit a “me too!” reaction from his readership. 

Divided into three sections - Our Society, Politics and Our youth, the book contains major points but just like his newspaper columns and essays, this one also do not take pains to do any depth analysis. You would think that in a book, he would take the liberty to be more open and responsive but unfortunately it does not happen. As a result, book defies logic and is devoid of any layers.

What Chetan does well is what he usually does. Be simplistic, yet reach out to a layman. So all those who don't take a deep interest in political and socio-economic issues, it can be a good starting point to get introduced to the concerns of the nation. With tight editing, simple language and natural flow of words, it can be a good initial source to get introduced to the nation and then may be "want" something from it. Overall, an average read brought down by the author reluctance to delve deeper into the material.

May 15, 2013

Quick Notes on 'Ghost Stories of Shimla Hills'

Author : Minakshi Chaudhry
Publisher : Rupa co.

Rating : 2.5 / 5 

Minakshi Chaudhry, a former journalist and writer of multiple books based in Shimla provides yet another book of Ghost stories of Shimla Hills. A total of 16 short stories are based on the other side, deals with supernatural and spirits which refuse to die down. The author's earlier book, 'Ghost Stories of the Shimla Hills', published in 2005 also by Rupa and Co, became a bestseller and is in constant reprint.

In these 16 stories,  the readers will encounter bhoots (ghosts) and churails (witches) who wander in the Shimla hills. These stories also tell us about the cultural and religious life of hill people. Generations of Shimlaites grew up hearing stories about bhoots and churails. These tales based on facts and experiences shared by people, have been narrated in a fictionalised way. Dark moonless nights, lonely stretches, mist enveloping hills and valleys, something howling in the faraway jungle - everything in the Shimla hills gives an appearance of these unearthly beings.

The book includes tales about the spirit of an English nurse who wanders in the wards of Lady Reading (now known as Kamla Nehru hospital in Shimla), taking care of the children in need; a theatre manager - an Englishman who died before India's Independence who was so much in love with Shimla that he did not leave even after he died and his spirit haunts the (Gaiety) theatre and roams there on dark nights.

In these stories we meet people who can talk to the spirits and who live between the two worlds - living and the dead! We also travel to the strange world of fairies, who land and take off at the lawns of Pari Mehal (a locality in Shimla) and meet members of a unique family that claims to have met ghosts just as we meet each other.

There is a touching tale of a Muslim ghost who came to Shimla hills (in Nankhari village, some 100 km from Shimla) after partition and stayed back. It plays pranks on people but as it grew old, it lost interest in teasing people and longed to go back to Lahore but could not do so.

But apart from this, all other stories are mostly bland and have a read-that-before feeling to it. They do not invoke much emotions and hardly provides a surprise in its narrative. Over all, a mixed bag of book which provide some interesting stories but does not show enough courage to take it to the next level by introducing some new concepts in the horror genre.

May 3, 2013

Notes on 'Love Stories that touched my Heart'

Edited by : Ravinder Singh
Publisher : Penguin Metro Reads

Rating : 3 / 5

'Love Stories That Touched My Heart’ is a collection from readers who have a tale to tell, shortlisted from over 2000 entries that were submitted in a competition conducted by Penguin India. It encompasses all emotions associated with love - anger, frustration, anxiety, eagerness, delicateness and nervous energy. While routing through these emotions, multiple writers in this anthology takes you through first crush, first heartbreak, love in marriage, love in old age, love across decades, love across genders and sexual orientations and love across generations.

'The 'Divine Union' by K.Bala Kumaran is my personal favourite as it sensitively portrays the romance through ages and difficult, trying circumstances. 'Flirting' by Vinay Nandkarni takes you by surprise by its ending and tugs at your heart strings. 'One Night Stand in Hariharapuram' by Mohan Raghavan is another shot at love across generations and an ample evidence of how love never gets old. 'May God Bless you, dear' by Yamini Yijendran portrays love through death and grief and is an extremely moving.

There are multiple stories which i did not found particularly engrossing but then that's the catch of anthologies. On the whole, most of the stories does not fit into a template and there lies the success of this book. You will get a variety of emotions in multiple narrative structures and are tightly edited and neatly packaged. If there is a romantic inside you, you should not be missing this one.