Thursday, September 30, 2021

AGAINST ALL ODDS: THE LIFE OF KISHORE V. SONPAL by Hetal Sonpal (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!


31st Book of 2021


Reading autobiographies/biographies is always the Go-to thing for me whenever I have to return back to reading after a long gap. This time again I have been away from reading for quite some week and I was looking for some unusual biographical account and I got to know about Rupa Publication’s new release named “Against All Odds” written by Hetal Sonpal. This book is written by the author where he describes his father- Kishore V. Sonpal’s life in detail. This memoir account is shared with us in just 130-around pages which I felt is the best part about this book as it has not been stretched at all. This is one of the rare biographies where the incidents and events are mentioned very crisply without adding any extended effect to it. Everything is portrayed on ground levels without exaggerating anything.


I have always thought of how it would be to read memoir of someone who’s not a celebrity or very popular personality and this has been almost the 1st attempt when I have read something from the same zone. Not even once you’ll feel bored or alienated while reading about a person you have never heard about before. The book becomes more special as a son has written his father’s life with immense love, courage, ode, and tribute. You can feel the emotions running in Hetal’s heart and mind in every word and sentence he has used in few scenes where you get to understand the bravery and values of his father.


The book starts with an incident that happens with the earlier generation of Kishore which makes them dive not only in poverty but immense debt too. When he’s born, his family is already struggling for survival which made him understand the value of money very early on. Later, in the first 10 pages of the book itself, author makes us realize how Kishore decided to never live on loans and debts which our generation has become so used to. There is also an incident later in the book where the protagonist makes his teenager children manage budget of the house so that they learn early on about how money is earned, spent, and saved. I have heard/read something like this for the 1st time and I would love to copy this in my family whenever I come to that stage.


The best thing that I learn from Kishore Sonpal’s life is the value of integrity. How he never wished anyone’s bad but always wanted to live simply in minimalistic lifestyle and assure that everything he does is right, and nothing goes against the values and principles he has followed since his early ages. His respect for Swami Vivekananda, Vinoba Bhave, Mahatma Gandhi is nicely represented in the book, and you get to learn so much about how right role models can shape your own life towards good.


There are instances discussed where he didn’t fake medical bills to gain benefit; in fact, asked the company to allow him to submit the bills of the healthy products he purchases to ensure he remains fit. Similarly, he never tried to earn anything in between when he worked in public as well as private sector makes us understand that money is not everything. Even after coming from financially unstable background, the way Kishore kept taking challenges and risks to try something new every time he tried shifting from one type of work to another is inspiring and power packed.


The way he supported his wife in the way she wanted to develop her children in the best school of the town despite less budget talks about his calibre towards personal life and relationship. Similarly, in the latter part of their marriage, how he helped his wife in taking up entrepreneurial challenge displays his open mindset towards women in that era. Author also mentions that he was known for remembering everyone’s name, birthdays and all the important days associated with the person he was close or worked with. Mentioning such qualities in this book has been an impact that was needed to make people realize the importance of less-talked soft-skills.


I am glad that author added the family tree in the book but I wish if it could have been in the start so that I didn’t have to maintain the same while reading the book by myself. Hetal has added few of the work written or maintained by his father in the end which is such a beautiful ending to the book as it is mostly about spirituality, life, values, lessons etc. I really liked every word written in this segment. I believe author can publish a separate book altogether where everything written by Kishore Sonpal can be complied together – it would be a gem for sure. Overall, I won’t say any drawback per se because the intention and execution of this book makes you understand how you can leave behind your legacy even if you are known in a very small set of people. I give this attempt 4.5 stars out of 5. You can easily read this book in a single sitting.






Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Year That Wasn’t: The Diary of a 14-year old by Brisha Jain (Book Review: 4*/5) !!!


30th Book of 2021


There are so many lockdown and pandemic related books releasing these days that I doubt even picking them. Still, I went ahead and ordered Brisha Jain’s book named “The Year That Wasn’t” which also has the tagline of “The Diary of a 14-year old”. Imagine, the author is just 14 years old and she has managed to write a 230 pages full-fledged novel which is almost a non-fictional piece of work. I remember reading Anne Frank’s book a long time ago which was also written in a diary format when she was trapped as a Jewish victim of the Holocaust. This book is almost similar in its execution where the 14-year-old girl is speaking of her life during the times when Coronavirus was a virus spreading in a country away from her home and gradually, it travels all the way to her country as well as home too.


The book is based upon the Year 2020 hence the diary entry starts from 1st January 2020 and ends on 31st December 2020. I liked how authoress had a positive tone throughout the book while talking about many things that happened during the pandemic. She has maintained the dignity of a good national citizen while speaking of critical subjects without trying to be too opinionated. I had presumed that the book would be kind of a woke-attempt but no, it is so pure that you can understand the author as a person too. Through her writing, I feel that Brisha stays just next door and I know her well. And the way she has written things precisely and beautifully, I would want to keep talking to her about what’s happening around and what she thinks of them. I am speaking of all such personal emotions because of her maturity and knowledge which are evident in every word and sentence.


I liked how she added the Covid statistics in the end of every entry because she understands that readers might not relate with the exact phase she is trying to describe. That’s a good inclusion. Every time she talks about Indian Prime Minister and his speeches during pandemic, the respect with which she refers him is something the adults should learn as we see people on Twitter and Facebook abusing the National Leader. She talks about every point that he had made during that phase right from announcing Janta Curfew to extension of lockdown to making India aatmanirbhar etc. Brisha also gives Book Recommendations regularly in her entries and all the books she mentions are not fairy tales but the ones which can make teenage children grow sensibly. It tells from where she has got the intellectual dimension from – GOOD BOOKS!


The author also talks about many other events and concerns which happened during this period such as Galwan valley attacks, migrant workers case, vaccination progress, online classes, Tablighi Jamat incident etc. The way she has ensured that she covers every aspect that she went through and experienced during this tough phase makes it a wonderful reading experience as you relate with most of them as everyone has gone through the same. Nowhere does she try to go over the top to explain things as the author knows that everyone has been through the same pain hence doing anything not required will make the attempt sound fake. This is another skill that she possesses at the age of 14 which will help her write and communicate better in her life later.


Overall, this book is a very good narration of the period all of us don’t want to remember but the way this book has been represented makes you go down the memory lane with a hope that everything will get better as you turn every page. I liked how author has closed the book speaking of arrival of 2nd wave by when she had accepted life to be improving. That chapter really made me feel for her and all of us. I would suggest all of you to gift this to your children as they are really going to get a perspective on life – how to see things positively even when everything around you are collapsing horribly. I give this book 4 stars out of 5. I wish Brisha Jain a very good future as a writer.






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