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December 31, 2014

Quick notes on a book about disability and fighting it in India

Author : Disha
Publisher : Srishti Distributors and Publishers

Rating : 3 / 5

Because Life is a Gift is a collection of real-life success stories of fifteen disabled or differently- abled people as author like to say it. The book is a tribute to their passion, courage and zest for life. Their lives are inspiring to living life to the fullest and making the best use of your limited abilities which life has straddled with you at times.

Author raises pertinent questions in the book - In a county where 2.1% of our population is disabled, why is it that almost all major public places are still not accessible? Why is it that we still do not see them sitting next to us, in our offices, working hand-in-hand as our colleagues? Why such people made to curse their destinies and pitied upon? Biases like these have plagued the lives of millions of disabled people in the world. People have looked down upon them. Governments have failed to provide them infrastructural support. Societies have written them off. What else we can do for them. Well, for starters tell their stories to the world!

Most of the stories are awe inspiring - Hridayeshwar Singh Bhati, 12 and suffering from debilitating muscular dystrophy is India's youngest patent holder and the youngest disabled patent holder in the world. Divya Arora, lady behind Hrithik Roshan's inspiring performance in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Guzaarish herself suffers from cerebral Plasy. Sukhsohit Singh, suffering from thalassemia (a genetic blood disorder) who was finally able to crack the Civil services examination despite being constantly rejected by the interview panel. George Abraham, who despite having vision problems was instrumental in creating awareness about blind cricket in India.

Keeping the sincere intentions to write this book in mind and a successful attempt to do so, one should mention that in certain portions, the narrative is structurally disjointed. There are lapses in editing and thoughts pertaining to fighting for rights for disabled people in India is zeroed in repeatedly that by the end of the book, it looses some credibility. Author does well in keeping a balance between telling stories of these flesh and blood people but not creating undue sympathy for them which in the end work well for the book

Author does well in keeping a balance between telling stories of these flesh and blood people but not creating undue sympathy for them which in the end work well for the book. Finally, these are real stories which need to be heard, read and absorbed in. It is an effort which needs to be supported for its benign intentions and i would definitely like to read another sequel to this book, if the author decides to pen it down. I am sure, there are many more stories waiting to be told in India.

[Disha also leads the Delhi chapter of the NGO Pick-a-Fight ]

[Review of Disha's first book - My beloveed's MBA Plans here ]

December 30, 2014

Book Review - 180 : Lemon Girl

Author : Jyoti Arora
Published :

Lemon Girl, a self-published book about Nirvi who has huge internal and external demons to fight with. She is scared of her future, and ashamed of her past. She is failing herself, and knows it. She has had a long line of boyfriends, and hated them all. She detests the guy she is living with, runs away from the one she loves , and seduces the one who can never love her

When Arsh first sees Nirvi, she's a free and frank girl in whose eyes sparkle the lemony zest of life. The next time he sees her, she is a voiceless doll draped in clothes that cover her body less and shroud her soul more. And Arsh can't rest till he finds out what made Nirvi give up her own real self. Nirvi knows she is dragging herself on a path from which there can be no recovery. Can her spirit survive the treacherous downfall? Or is the pull of fear and push of desperation just too strong to withstand for a girl who believes she has "nowhere else to go" but down.

Author paints the characters with broad strokes - there is chauvinistic boyfriend, orthodox parents, candle marches, a heavy dose of anti-corruption movement, live-in relationships and a luxuriant lifestyle portrayed at times. To be fair and give credit to author, all this blends well with the story line which gives narrative required texture. The author manages successfully to allow the lead character to ask difficult questions to both herself and to the society. There is an inherent preachiness one would associate with such stories and this one is no exception.

The book is fast paced and the writing dwindles from being brave to pretentious. Since the book is self-published, there are few grammatical and punctuation mistakes which i am sure can be taken care off in the next version. I am going with 2.5/5 for Jyoti Arora's 'Lemon Girl'. If you are worried about women safety and want to dwell into the internal metamorphosis of such people, this may be a decent read.

December 24, 2014

Book Review - 179 : Catching the Departed

Author : Kulpreet Yadav
Publisher : 4 Hour books / Tara India Research Press

They say to grab attention of the readers in a thriller/mystery genre, make the murder happen as quickly as possible. Kulpreet does this within the first 3 pages and that's what intrigues you about the book straight away. As the book proceeds, the plot thickens and even though writing wavers in the middle portions and plot slips, the writing is competent enough to take you through the end.

A ghastly murder in the dead of night at a faraway village in the capital's underbelly sets the motion in 'Catching the Departed' - the first in the Andy Karan trilogy. Andy Karan is an investigative journalist with a mission. Monica, his boss at the New Delhi Today magazine, assigns him to unravel the mystery behind the death of a local lawyer. Slowly, Andy Karan embarks on a life-threatening journey that lands him into the centre of a much bigger conspiracy.

The character of Andy Karan, also ex-Army personnel in the book, is modelled upon one of Mahabharata's legendary warriors and often misunderstood soldiers, Karan. Much like the hero from the epic, Andy refuses to walk the path of corruption and politics. He embodies all qualities of a patriot who is willing to die upholding the virtues of truth, friendship and love; but can never bring himself to live a borrowed life dictated by someone else's terms and conditions.

The author shows an eye for detail in setting up the countryside scenes and there are couple of wonderfully etched out scenes when Andy first starts his interrogation. The story pace is brisk, punctuated with short, saucy sentences and keeps you turning pages to know what lies ahead. As the story progresses, motivations of antagonists and other additional information appear which at times is hazy but do keep the book at a tight leash.

The minor quibbles about the book are what ultimately does not take it to the next level. The female character hardly justify the presence - Monica's presence is mere ornamental and even though at one point she does set off things in motion, it is hardly convincing. The editing with respect to grammatical and punctuation mistakes could have been much better. I also could not get my head around the Vietnam and North Korean connection for Andy. The unnecessary time shifts also creates somewhat confusing experience.

Barring these nitpicking's, Catching the departed is a competent thriller in the first of Andy Karan series. I am going with 3/5 for this one. I hope to read two more books in this series in the future.

‘Catching the Departed by Kulpreet Yadav’ was shortlisted for the DNA-Hachette “Hunt for the Next Bestseller” prize

[He is also the founder-editor of Open Road Review ]

[Earlier review of Yadav books : India Unlimited here and A Waiting Wave here ]

December 4, 2014

Book Review - 178 : Play with me

Author : Ananth Padmanabhan
Publisher : Penguin India

If writing about sex was that easy, there would never have been bad sex awards in existence. Play with me by Ananth has right intentions to create an erotic novel, and mostly succeeds in creating those heavy duty sex scenes, but ultimately ruins it by concentrating only on sex and rarely on the feeling of these protagonists turning it marginally into a pornographic novel.

The book is about Sid, a successful photographer in a boutique ad agency. He is single and has everything he wants - a good job, great colleagues and a hassle-free life. But if there is one thing that has eluded him it is love. Until the gorgeous, free-spirited Cara walks into his life. Sexually obsessed, the two begin a charged affair that disrupts all his notions of love and transforms the way Sid thinks about erotic pleasure. But then something strange happens - Sid finds himself falling in love with another woman.

The biggest issue with the book is that it hardly a 'real' novel. Slowly, scene by scene, it turns into a fantasy novel because author hardly invests time in building some kind of connection between these characters. In the fantasy world of Sid, it is easy to have a threesome on beach in Goa and it is extremely easy to get laid on the first night out with a Turkish colleague. Problem you see, is in details - What makes Sid attractive to them? What circumstances or feelings bring them close? Why Sid prefers to have such a lifestyle? There are many questions and narrative offers very little answers. This is book written with amateur zeal and more to attract people with kinky stuff.

The pace is brisk and thankfully, it does not overstay than required. Cut into short, punchy chapters, it is decently structured and well edited. I personally enjoyed the moments of introspection in Sid's life when he is free of sex thoughts and more concerned on what he is doing with his life. The distinction in characters between the two ladies in Sid's life is more cosmetic than build into an organic flow. There are hardly twists and turns and the climax is deliberately kept open with loose ends, most probably to make a sequel out of it.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Play with me by Ananth. Enjoy the book like you enjoy porn. That is, without thinking too much. Because there is hardly anything of literal value here. Read at your own risk and keep your expectations extremely low.