Monday, April 25, 2022

The Stories We Tell by Devdutt Pattanaik (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!


10th Book of 2022


Discussing Indian mythology has become my new favorite thing. To discuss, you also need to know about it which has made me incline towards mythology books. There are only few authors who write on this in non-fiction genre trying to state facts as it is without shying. One such author is Devdutt Pattanaik who has become quite popular for retelling mythology from different perspective. He also faces certain criticisms for diluting some facts but it is inevitable to get through this because the topic is sensitive and some people genuinely get hurt if they don’t find things written the way they know about it. I am just done reading Pattanaik’s latest book released by Aleph named “The Stories We Tell” having a tagline that says “Mythology to make sense of modern lives”.


This 212-pages book discusses 72 different topics/tales which speaks about different kinds of mythology not only associated with Indian culture but other cultures and establishments too. Devdutt tries to widen our vision about how some stories are retold in different texts and cultures with the names of every culture’s respective Gods or Kings. The similarities between these stories were really surprising as the cultures are widely separated by the geography yet they speak almost the same thing. I kept on getting astonished in terms of how stories pass not only from one generation to another but even from one culture to another.


There are tales not only from Ramayan and Mahabharat but other vedas and puranas too. This really makes this book unique because the kind of stories and characters we get to know are generally not spoken about in other mythology books. It initially became really overwhelming for me to understand which character belongs to which phase of mythology but it makes you surf Internet to better your knowledge base. It actually helped me understand many different aspects of our Indian culture. There are few chapters which closes with moral or question or author’s perspective on the tale. In any case, it makes you think and realize what did the whole thing mean and that’s the magic the book does with you.


There are few pointers that stayed with me which I would like to mention as bullets below:

-          Author tells how Vishnu’s avatars are shared on social media which relates with the Human evolution theory but Devdutt gives it new outlook based on the caste system which I really found interesting.

-          Different versions of Kartikeya’s birth tells us of India’s diverse and complex layers in its culture.

-          The chapter on “Two Epics One Theme” tells us many similarities between Ramayan and Mahabharat which is surprising. Author also discusses few differences to give the complete view of it.

-          Surpanakha’s chapter was interesting for me as we only know about her from the moment she finds Ram in the jungle but here we get to know about her history before that incident which was a new learning for me.

-          Author clarifies the difference between Asuras and Rakshasas in one of the chapters which I believe is very necessary for people to know because generally we categorize them as the same kind of people.

-          “Hara and Hari” tells us the difference in personalities of Shiva and Vishnu yet author discusses how they are portrayed completely different in their images.

-          I never knew about Goddess Lakshmi’s sister, Alakshmi and even a Diwali ritual dedicated to her made me feel quite ignorant. Haha!

-          Another chapter on prominence of Numbers in our history and vedas is nicely described using which author also explains why he stopped at 72nd tale in this book.

-          The relevance of few animals such as Fish or Horse is dedicated a chapter which makes us understand why we often keep seeing or hearing about them in almost every mythological tale.

-          The difference in versions even in Abrahamic culture is catchy to read because people often say that Hinduism has multiple references whereas other religions doesn’t.


These are just few takeaways from the book otherwise there are many points which you would like to learn and keep in your mind so that you can have enough insights about our stories and culture. I wish I had a great memory to store a wonderful book like this in my brain forever. The chapters are short which makes it easy for you to read 4-5 of them every day and consume them slowly. As Devdutt has put it in his previous books, I would have loved to have him make us understand these stories through some hierarchical diagrams or images because few chapters had so many characters and their relationships explained that I would lose the link again and again.


Except that, this book is a good company to have while traveling or before sleeping every day. I give this one 4.5 stars out of 5. A very knowledgeable and well-researched piece of work.






Thursday, April 21, 2022

Zero Day by S. Hussain Zaidi (Book Review: 4.25*/5) !!!


9th Book of 2022


S. Hussain Zaidi is a phenomenal author and I have always loved reading his work. He made me fan with his book- Dongri to Dubai and after reading “Headley and I”, I just got addicted to the world that he creates in his books. From non-fiction to fiction, he knows how to handle the words so that his readers won’t get disappointed by him. I have just completed his latest book named “Zero Day” which is published by HarperCollins in around 210 pages. This is a fiction story about how a cybercrime stops Mumbai’s traffic which leads to chaos and immediate action for the Police as well as Cybercrime department. The police officer Mirza and his colleagues – Vikrant and Deo start investigation regarding how this got possible for someone to execute in the Maximum City. Immediately, another such activity takes place again which reveals the severity of the situation. From here onwards, the race begins which takes you into the world of crime, terrorism and cyber-attacks.


It is very common for writers to write stories on murder or terrorism but it’s very gutsy from Zaidi to write a fiction account of what extreme can happen with cybercrime which we generally hear about in modern podcasts and tech channels. It is not very easy to frame whole story which is based upon this and yet keep it enough exciting for the readers to enjoy the cat-and-mouse game. I liked how author has kept things light for readers to understand as such topics can become pain to comprehend which could have become the major reason of people putting this book aside in between. Hussain has explained the complex terminologies such as DDoS attacks, cybercrime, Internet bots, dark web etc. in a simple manner even for someone from a non-IT background to get the theme.


Developing the characters in the most utopian way is an art for S. Hussain Zaidi and he proves it so wonderfully in both the worlds- non-fiction and fiction. Right from Mirza’s character to his colleagues and sub-ordinates, the way he handles the equation and chemistry between them makes you fall in love with their department even when Police department is something you can never fall in love with. Haha! Similarly, the way he brings in the angle of CM and his person being in the team for the investigation is handled so comically that there are many instances which makes you laugh. The dialogues are very nicely written because even in the tense situations, the way sarcasm for each other makes you smile keeps your interest in the story as well as these not-so-important but funny conversations intact.  


Every chapter is like a small episode similar to the modern-day web-series format. Not a single chapter is written just for extending the plot but it brings the narration to the next level which increases your curiosity about what happens next. The way even the anonymous criminal is handled in the first half of the book is exciting as you don’t get bored of his repetitive acts. The twists and turns come at the right spot. Even the pre-climax and climax takes the plot towards another parallel story but the way all of it come together in the end makes it a fun experience. I liked the editing by the author and the crisp story-telling prowess that even with such complex concept, author completes the whole narration in just about 210 pages which is a very positive sign. Even the beginners can start their reading journey right from the thriller genre without worrying about how tough it would get for them.


I give this book 4.25* out of 5.






Monday, April 18, 2022

Lies Look Like Love by Bijaya Kumar Mishra (Book Review: 4.25*/5) !!!


8th Book of 2022

It is always fun to read a book from a new author or publisher. It was time to read Bijaya Kumar Mishra’s Lies Look Like Love which is published by Invincible publication in around 222 pages. It is a short story which can be completed within a single sitting. I must tell you that not only because of its length but the way story is narrated keeping the suspense intact, you want to just keep turning the pages. I was surprised that I didn’t hear about Bijaya before picking this book as he deserves more accolades for the kind of storytelling prowess he has. The book’s title sounds like a tongue twister initially but after reading the story, I understood why it has been named so. The story justifies the name of the book very perfectly.


The story is about how a widower named Maya is living with her sisters in a big villa when one man named Ravi appears asking to stay there on rent. He is denied initially by her but then he is allowed to stay in the outhouse. Gradually, he starts getting close to Maya, her caretakers as well as her sisters who look almost similar. Suddenly, he realizes some unusual activities happening in the villa which makes him learn about many facts about this family. He is now confused if he should continue staying there because of his new blossomed love for Maya or leave it. At the same time, Maya is also hiding things from him but doesn’t want him to go away. This whole psycho-analysis part makes the story very interesting.


I liked how author was able to develop chemistry between both the main characters – Maya and Ravi within few chapters itself. The treatment of both these individuals is done very seamlessly which has helped this book get its purpose fulfilled. I liked how author was able to execute different transitions in their relationship as they went through whole ups and downs of being together – initial awkwardness, closeness, distrust, coming together, revelation of secret and lot more. Along with this, Bijaya also assures that Maya’s sisters are introduced at the right time and the kind of word author has done to ensure that their psychology of mind reaches us is commendable. Handling a topic which is still a taboo in our society has been dealt with maturity.


I liked how the chapters are cleverly planned where each of them holds you so firmly that you get excited about the next one. Author manages to keep twists and turns come around at the right time which doubles your excitement to know what happens next. Writing a thriller is not very easy and when there are certain secrets post revelation of which it becomes more difficult to keep the interest of the readers alive, Mishra has managed to keep his narration enough strong to not let the story go down.


Overall, this is a light thriller with deep characters. Author’s words will make you imagine the whole villa and every scene in your own way and make you feel that the whole thing is happening in front of you. I would give this book 4.25 stars out of 5. I am really excited to read more work from Bijaya now and already waiting to read his next.






Friday, April 15, 2022

RISING: 30 WOMEN WHO CHANGED INDIA by Kiran Manral (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!


7th Book of 2022

I have known Kiran Manral as a celebrated author since a long time but I couldn’t get a chance to read any of her work. Finally, in the month of March 2022, on the occasion of Women’s Day, her latest book released named “Rising: 30 Women Who Changed India” which speaks about 30 different women who changed the mindset, stereotypes and gave a new definition on what an Indian women or girl can do and achieve. I generally don’t like reading a book for a long time as I want to move to the next as soon as possible but here, I read story of one woman per day on an average and dedicated the whole month of March to this book which speaks about these inspiring personalities.


Kiran Manral has very perfectly chosen the women who comes from all walks of life such as entertainment, movies, sports, entrepreneurship, government job, judiciary system, educational, science, rural panchayat etc. Another great attempt is in considering such personalities whom we haven’t heard about before or who aren’t that popular even after they achieved something incredible through their legacy for the Indian girls. Every personality has been dedicated a chapter of around 5-10 pages and its like a small summary of their life just to ensure that you are introduced and know about them here onwards. I was quite ashamed of myself for not even knowing names of many of them even though they have initiated something not many could dare even after 75 years of independence today.


The book speaks about how women are generally stereotyped and they have to break multiple shackles to achieve something that men can do without any question towards them. Author manages to let us know that the gender equality that we talk about today and which I believe we have almost achieved in many ways have been possible due to few of such women who didn’t think only about themselves but about the whole system as well as other females around them. They didn’t let their dreams and aspirations die just because no other women had attempted it before them or the society considered it wrong for them. They achieved the unbelievable by managing themselves even when they had to go against family, spouse, society or system at times. There are many ladies who have gone through divorces in these stories and you can understand the challenge they had to endure during those times when it would have been such a setback to manage everything from family to work alone.


The book starts with the politicians such as Sushma Swaraj and Sheila Dikshit and also discusses about multiple film personalities such as Lata Mangeshkar, M. S. Subbulakshmi, Madhuri Dikshit, Rekha, Ekta Kapoor, Aparna Sen etc later in the chapters. Author also gives enough prominence to Sport personalities where women from different sports are discussed such as Karnam Malleshwari, Hima Das, P. T. Usha, P. V. Sindhu, Mary Kom etc. I personally loved reading about them as I could relate with Sports very easily and many of their achievements happened in my notice so it was like getting the whole thing replayed again in my mind.


Then Kiran also gets into the characters who have accomplished the zenith in completely special fields such as knowing about Tessy Thomas being the Missile Woman of India made me feel ashamed that I didn’t know that we even have someone who has achieved this title. We only know about APJ Abdul Kalam as Missile Man but we also have a woman who have achieved the same. I am pretty sure that 99% of Indians don’t know about her. The book speaks about entrepreneur, Kiran Mazumdar – Shaw, who is an inspiration for so many women. I liked reading about how she managed to survive against all ups and downs. We get to know about Shakuntala Devi and her struggles after she got famous for her fast-processing brain which could calculate tough mathematical computations within seconds. I felt personal happiness in reading about Menaka Guruswamy who helped the whole LGBTQ community by fighting for them in court and removing the long-awaited section 377 imposed on them. She further says that now she wants to legalize same-sex marriage in India on which she is working day-and-night. Such people are meant to be celebrated in our country. There are many other personalities who are discussed in this book – not all of them can be discussed in this short review.


Now talking about the drawbacks – I must say that few women are not discussed in terms of their struggles but author could only manage to tell us about the way their career progressed. An example – the chapter on Madhuri Dikshit and P. T. Usha manages to talk only about what happened when in their career rather than what it took for them to do it. Secondly, I believe few personalities are added just for managing to get the book picked by the reader such as Madhuri Dikshit and Rekha. I don’t think they are among the list of women who changed India in any way. There are many better than them who could have been covered. Thirdly, you won’t find pictures of any woman listed in the book, not even in Black and White. It would have been great if Kiran could have managed to have their pictures so we could have known them little better.


Overall, this book deserves its place in your bookshelf. It is really exciting to know about how few women have worked upon to take India to the level it is today. I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5 – for its intention and versatility.






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