Thursday, December 28, 2023

Questions You Always Wanted to Ask by Swami Mukundananda (Book Review: 4.25*/5) !!!

  

36th Book of 2023!

 


I always get excited whenever I get to know that a spiritual leader/personality has written a book because their perspective of seeing things is always very optimistic and calm than how we look at things. I wanted to finish my reading target of 36 books for the Year 2023 with one such book. Hence, I picked up recently released book written by Swami Mukundananda named “Questions you always wanted to ask”. The book is published by Rupa Publications in around 190 pages. One can easily finish the book within a single sitting itself but the kind of spiritual and insightful gems author keeps on sharing with us doesn’t allow us to read it in speed but give each chapter its own time and reflect upon the same.

 

As the title of the book says, it is about the questions we generally have in our mind about life which we wish to ask to a spiritual guru and learn from them on how to handle our issues. Author has cumulated all such basic questions and tried giving answers from his perspective unapologetically. Author doesn’t shy away from writing solutions which might sound quite biased in terms of spiritual process but he assures that he only responds back to a question with an answer as experienced by him rather than giving some random templated answer. The book starts with talking about faith on how can one classify between blind and true faith. This chapter itself gives a solid foundation to the book as it clarifies how people generally falls into the cycle of blind faith without understanding what devotion actually is.

 

Swamiji is very crisp in his responses to every question and doesn’t end up writing long generic pieces which we have already read in some newspaper articles or Facebook/WhatsApp post. He gives short answers but with a very effective tone. Even while reading the answers, you start feeling some positive changes in your mindset and attitude. It is understandable the kind of impact it would make to us if we start following those advises and suggestions. In one of the chapters, author clarifies how all of us have misunderstood the concept of visualization and we believe that just by visualizing some ideal situations, we would manifest it into truth. He throws upon the light on how equal amount of effort is also required from our end in order to make our visualizations turn into true events.

 

Author doesn’t confine the book in either – spiritual or practical world but tries providing modern solutions even to the old-school questions. His intention is evident in every word that he wants to help readers in receiving the answer they’re looking forward by investing their time in this book. He has written every page with responsibility and ensures that the reader gets the maximum benefit out of the book and mostly, he has been successful in his endeavour.

 

There are topics where author has provided insights on the subjects such as reincarnation, past lives, destiny, life’s purpose, spirituality, religion, meditation etc. On the other hand, author has widely discussed about modern topics such as work-life balance, finding time for devotion, searching for a spiritual guru, self-confidence, enthusiasm, family life etc. Similarly, author also speaks about practical implementations for several topics such as reading scriptures and from where to start it – why Ekadashi fasting is necessary and how should one initiate it – how can one perform daily sadhana and meditation and for how long – the benefits of providing Seva – adopting vegetarian lifestyle etc.

 

Reading this book is like sitting in a breeze and enjoying pleasant flow of wind. The tough conditions and situations of our lives are also being talked of so easily that we don’t feel uncomfortable while reading them. For anyone who has never read spiritual books or didn’t perform spiritual practices, this book will be a good start to enter into the world of spirituality. The topics are nicely divided into different chapters. Every topic is then beautifully segregated in terms of several questions which helps us understand the direction in which the answer is being drafted.

 

Talking about the drawbacks, I must say that the author has provided very basic answers in certain sections which people keep on hearing anyway in their life. People expect something extra when they pick up a book from a spiritual personality like Swami Mukundananda. Secondly, author has promoted his belief right in our face without realizing that this book could be picked by anyone – either an atheist or people belonging to other religions as well. It felt very immature from the author’s end. Thirdly, author regularly gives reference of his own initiative and markets it while giving few answers. I think it should have been avoided.

 

Overall, this is a good read and can be gifted to anyone falling above the age of 12. I give this book 4.25* out of 5.


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WRITING BUDDHA


Monday, December 25, 2023

Tara's Truce by Kavita Kane (Book Review: 4*/5) !!!

  

35th Book of 2023


Well, I am almost on the last leg of my reading target of this year 2023 and I am grateful to have picked Kavita Kane’s “Tara’s Truce” in the last week of December. As all of us know, Kavita is a great mythological author and she loves penning story from the point of view of women who aren’t given much significance in our ancient texts. She picks such characters and write descriptively on them which turns out to be an exciting read for us as we don’t know much about them and wish to learn more.

 

This 300-pages book published by Rupa Publications is based on Tara, who is married to King Vali of Kishkindha and serves as the queen of the kingdom. Some events happen and she has to unhappily marry Vali’s brother, Sugriv. The book talks about the kind of trauma she has to go through to survive the ego clashes between both the brothers. She is also shown as a wife who is regularly trying to control her aggressive husband’s behaviour throughout her life. The story speaks of all the pre-events that happens before the main event where Lord Ram kills Vali – something that all of us have heard. Kavita takes us deeply into the world of Kishkindha and basically, the Kishkindha palace and makes us understand the dynamics of how the Vanara leaders were caught in their own turmoil before joining Lord Ram’s force in search of Sita Mata.

 

Kavita Kane had a very complex task while writing this book which is clearly evident as she had to convey and handle the complexities and dynamics between a lot of characters as every individual had direct relationship with another and none of them were either white or black. The gray shade in the personality of both the brothers- Vali and Sugriv has been beautifully portrayed. Throughout the story, as a reader, one ends up being confused if either of the two brothers can be called righteous and supported against the another. Both had their flaws but their backstory makes you support each of them at different instances. Kavita has been able to play this game beautifully with words and series of events narrated powerfully to display the best and worst in both of them.

 

Talking about Tara’s character on whom the book is based, I, frankly, didn’t know anything about her even though I am someone who reads about my religion regularly. Thankfully, this book has made me understand the plight and power of Tara. Her role in managing the kingdom in tough situations tells us how women played equal and major role in not only managing the bureaucracy but also go through the tantrums their King husband starts showing out of their ego, power, money and what not. All the conversations where Tara stood up against Vali and make him realize about his wrongs were such courageous scenes to read as any other woman must have got scared of even putting her opinion. Every time she ended up failing in stopping Vali from going the wrong path, her reactions and responses are just too inspirational for us with respect to how to behave when we are at our most hopeless and helpless state.

 

Though the book is named after Tara, but it gives equal justice not only to Sugriv and Vali but also to Rumi, who is Sugriv’s wife. She is not as courageous as Tara but the way she keeps herself up emotionally against everything that happens around her without her approval or validation tells us about the inner strength of a lady. A conversation between herself and Tara where they discuss how both of them didn’t get an ideal husband is such a phenomenal piece to read. I was in awe while reading what even Rumi had to say about her expectations from Sugriv and how she has not received much love from him.

 

In the pre-climax, the interest level goes on another stage as finally, Ram enters the storyline and it’s just mesmerizing to read how he talks with Tara after killing Vali maintaining his Godliness and stability. His conduct with Tara even after she curses him teaches us so much about humility, acceptance and forgiveness. Tara’s character again sees an upsurge after she handles Lakshman’s anger against Sugriv for not being available for Ram in search for his wife despite promising the same. Even Lakshman gets confused how she could play so beautifully with words and assure him of support after being cheated for months by her husband. The epilogue comes as a surprise where Ram’s words are being kept by him even in his next birth as Krishna. Kavita Kane’s research and effort can be seen in every twists and turns that makes this story so interesting and powerful.

 

Now, talking about the drawbacks, I must say that Kavita ends up writing few things very descriptively which ends up lengthening the story. It becomes boring at many places where the story becomes stagnant and we read the same thing repeatedly. Even some conversations between the main characters seems similar multiple times and we wish if author could have shortened it by just mentioning what conversation they had in just 2-3 sentences. The book could have been easily short by 70-80 pages for sure. Other characters such as of Hanuman, Jamvant, Angad etc. should have been given a little more visibility as all of us know about them and wished to read how they were participant in Kishkindha’s work affairs.

 

Overall, this is a nice read as we get to know about one of the characters in Ramayan who has to offer so much. I give this book 4 stars out of 5. This is my 2nd book by Kavita Kane and I am looking forward to reading all her other works as well.


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WRITING BUDDHA


Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The Nigerian Mafia- Mumbai by Onyeka Nwelue (Book Review: 3.75*/5) !!!

  

34th Book of 2023

 


Living in Navi Mumbai and Mumbai, there has been multiple times I have spotted Nigerian citizens in local train and other public places. There’re always some assumptions about them and we don’t take a second to pass judgments against them. Secretly, everyone of us wish to know how they are in India and what do they exactly do to survive or live in our city. Thankfully, I got my hands upon this book named “The Nigerian Mafia- Mumbai” written by Onyeka Nwelue who is a Nigerian filmmaker, publisher, talk-show host, bookseller, author and an Academic Visitor and founder of the James Currey Society, at the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford.

 

As the author is himself from Nigeria, he has been able to provide us specific details on the life of a Nigerian who has left his home to be in a new country and start from zero amidst all the struggles and chaos he has to go through. Onyeka has used the character of Uche to describe why the protagonist left his country and how he is trying to survive in India in its most fancy city- Mumbai.

 

The book is written in a very easy language which can be understood even by the beginners. I was quite unsure about the language initially as the author belongs to a foreign land where English is not prominently spoken hence the citizens lack the fluency. Surprisingly, Onyeka does great justice to the primary language he chose to write his story. He has also tried to maintain the flavor of Nigerian accent by ensuring that the same is scribbled in the conversations where certain characters are involved. Initially, I found difficult reading and understanding it but once I understood the purpose, it became easy to read the same.

 

Nwelue’s has a great potential in narrating the story as he is able to convince us about multiple sub plots and the kind of situations the characters have to go through. We are able to comprehend the arc of the characters and their changing priorities with the passing time in a city like Bandra where they get the difficult opportunities to survive but on the risk of getting caught at any point of time. How a local actor moves to Mumbai for becoming a Bollywood actor but ends up becoming a drug dealer – even a pimp – and indulges in other criminal activities as well. While reading the whole scenario from the perspective of a Nigerian, a reader is able to empathize with them completely.

 

In the pre-climax, author brings a twist and reveals what exactly happened with Uche before leaving for India. I read that part twice. The convincing factor in the author’s writing makes you believe even those sections where the possibility of it seems very fictional. Obviously, the book is a fictional attempt but the way it’s written makes it sound like an autobiography. I liked how author has justified the rawness of all the locales he has based his story in such as Bandra, Mumbai, Nigerian cities etc. One can easily imagine the whole ambience of the place where the character is regularly on a run for survival.

 

The romantic angle in the story is given a small place which gives a different perspective of the character but the confusion and uncertainty of the same makes it a separate but integral part of the tale. The book also takes us through how even fellow Nigerians doesn’t support each other due to their own caste system where there’s a lot of superiority complex in the ones who belong to the higher community. It speaks of other aspects of Nigeria as well.

 

Overall, the book is a compelling read which makes you keep turning pages until you finish it. It tempts you in believing that there’s something more sensational about to happen in the next chapter. Author has made the reading experience very easy and interesting. I give the book 3.75* out of 5. I am looking forward to read more work from the author in future.


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WRITING BUDDHA


Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Protected Rakshasa: KAAL by Pranay Bhalerao (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!

 

33rd Book of 2023

 

I remember reading around 3-4 books written by Pranay last year in 2022 and I was surprised with his scale of imagination while creating a universe in which he weaves his stories. The latest book I read by him was the 1st part of a new trilogy (“Kavaach Trilogy”) he had introduced reading which I was amazed by the world he had created. The series became promising with the 1st book itself and I am glad that within a year, Pranay has managed to draft the 2nd book and released the same recently. This 362-pages book is named “Kaal: The Protected Rakshasa” which is typically based on one of the two prominent characters of the book – Kaal.

 

Even though the book is part of a series and the last book was read by me a year back, the way Pranay has given start to this book makes the reader comfortable without getting confused with the multiple groups and characters. Just as we read the life of Krishna separately apart from his massive involvement in Mahabharata, author has given almost the same touch to the story of Kaal where we get to read about his whole life right from his birth to a phase where he finally gets involved in the Kavaach saga. I am surprised with respect to how Pranay made it possible to make it an easy-read without even giving a brief of what happened in the 1st book as a recap or something. This tells about the writing prowess he holds.

 

Pranay has managed to give a great shape to the development of Kaal’s character where he is a very innocent boy in childhood – then gets into a training module where he starts analyzing about the extra-ordinary events happening with him – later, as a lover boy who starts getting involved in a relationship fearlessly – as an intellectual youth - and finally into a warrior who is ready to take on anyone. The story around all these events progresses smoothly making us enjoy each of the phases and rooting for Kaal – even at the instances where we know he is not completely right.

 

His chemistry with his parents in his childhood is very nicely projected which shapes up his future regarding how and why he turns so evil over a period of time. His life in ashram is portrayed along with other themes of nepotism, favoritism and the struggle one has to go through when one tries to push himself up in the status ladder created by the society. I liked how Pranay was able to describe the whole tantric and other mantra-level hawans etc. very clearly that as a reader, we can imagine how the whole ceremonies are being carried out. A book that belongs to a genre where the ancient Indian history or mythology is touched upon needs description of such processes widely so that readers are aware of all that goes into developing a culture which is so vast and popular. Pranay just utilizes this specialty well and doesn’t leave a chance anywhere of not making us go through such events deeply.

 

Like the 1st book, even here the story keeps moving to and fro in two different eras- the ancient 600 BC and the modern world. Yet again, author has been able to make the transition happen very organically without making it sound complex and difficult. He has been successful in implementing this form of story-telling where there is link between two different time-periods and how to shuffle between both of them in order to narrate the happenings. It generally sounds as if both the stories are happening parallelly which makes it exciting and mysterious for the reader to know about both the worlds and its respective characters at every point of time.

 

In the 1st book, I had felt that Pranay has narrated the story as if it’s a pitch for a screenplay adaptation rather than a novel. Thankfully, this time Pranay has drafted the story well where it gives the literary feeling in every sentence. Similarly, there weren’t much philosophical aspect in the 1st part whereas this time, he has been able to provide such insights in between wherever there was a scope to describe any response with the element of life.

 

Personally, talking about few scenes – I liked the chemistry between Kaal and Nandini a lot. I liked the whole relationship arc of Kaal and King Nandak. I liked the last confrontational scene between him, King and the secretary. All those moments where the dark figures keep returning back to Kaal are nicely planned in the story. It gives a great push to the story – the twists and turns just after that makes the book reach another level. The insecurity of Adhiram and Radha throughout the story regarding losing their son hits the emotional nerves every time they have a conversation between themselves.

 

Not taking anything away from the other characters, Rudra is given enough scenes in this book as well in the present timeline. What happens after all the devastation (mentioned in 1st book) is discussed and his chemistry with his folks and realization of his superpowers keeps up the excitement in the story. I am excited to know how Rudra is going to rule over the next parts of this series. Similarly, Shaurya, his group and his world are also discussed regularly to build the base for the clash that’ll happen in the present timeline – somewhere in the next book.

 

Overall, the book is a perfect page-turner. Pranay is a brilliant story-teller who knows how to keep you hooked. He is capable of converting a complex storyline into a smooth-read with his writing abilities. I gave the 1st book 4.25*; as this one is a notch better than it; I will give 4.5* to Kaal – the 2nd book in the series. And now I wait for the conclusion to be released as soon as possible.


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WRITING BUDDHA


Saturday, November 4, 2023

The Perfect Us by Durjoy Datta (Book Review: 1.5*/5) !!!

  

32nd Book of 2023


There are days when you want to spend time with your bookshelf – and during one of these special moments, you find a book you ordered online years back but couldn’t read it due to other books piling up in the To-Be-Read list. A month back, I found Durjoy Datta’s book named “The Perfect Us” in my bookshelf which was released 5 years back. I had pre-ordered it so that I could read it before anyone else and see, here I am, talking about it after more than 5 years when the world has already read it. Haha! The book was released by Penguin in around 350-pages.

 

We know how public figures are socially available for us these days due to which we know when they get into relationship, marry and have kids. We also know their social circle through Insta stories etc. Durjoy has this very cool implementation of writing fiction where he tries to draft it in a way which represents his personal life due to which his readers always feel that it’s his own story. It has been more than a decade now – I have read all his books – and yet, I get confused if the story written by him is his own or a fictional attempt. “The Perfect Us” also falls in the same category.

 

Secondly, Durjoy ensures that as he is aging, he must write books for the people belonging to his age group itself. Hence, the life and challenges that he portrays directly resonates with the people in the same age-category as him. “The Perfect Us” speaks about the couple – Deb and Avantika (on whom Durjoy has already penned many books earlier) – who have finally considered becoming parents but unfortunately, due to physical and emotional reasons, they face a lot of challenges and hurdles in the process. Author tries to shed a light upon the life and lifestyle of such couples and parents who are going through a tough medical procedure which don’t only challenge them physically but their whole life starts revolving around the subject.

 

Author ensures that he talks about the modern facilities such as IVF, abortion and other practices which helps parents fight through difficult pregnancies. He beautifully describes the relationship that gets developed between parents and doctor in the process where the latter starts considering the parents’ success as their own personal milestone. Similarly, author has been able to reflect upon parents’ emotions right from the phase where they plan to have a child in their life. How they get attached to this non-existent baby to a phase where they first experience them in scan and eventually during last pregnancy months.

 

I would always ask my mother how do mothers get attached to the baby even before their birth and how do they miss them in case something unfortunate happens – This book has given all those answers to me. Along with this primary plot, Durjoy has also tried to prioritize the importance of having siblings and friends close to us in tough moments as they are the ones who makes it easier for us to move ahead in challenging moments. Similarly, there’s another plot with Deb and Avantika’s parents where we get to know the changing dimensions in the way this relationship is changing where at places- parents are like pillars whereas in few cases, they are enough toxic to not even make you feel as if you need them. Through the dialogues and conversations between them, Durjoy has tried to send the message to the new generation on how to manage them and when not to.

 

Well, as mentioned above, the book speaks about a lot of events which also provides messaging with it but the real problem lies with the length of the book. This 350-pages book could have been easily summed up within 150-pages itself making it more impactful and without losing any of the elements I mentioned in the review. Unfortunately, author keeps the whole book focused upon the parents’ challenge with no chemistry between both the main protagonists which makes it tough for the readers to go through the whole story with interest. It took me a month to finish this book because the plot is dragged so much with over-explanation and unnecessary irrelevant talks in between.

 

Yes, there are entertaining sections with the scripts Deb and Shrey are working over and their interactions with their colleagues. Similarly, there are few instances where the book really makes you smile reading about the thought process of characters in some situations. But these are not enough to keep us interested and excited. The twists and turns are definitely shocking and astonishing but they are not able to generate the same emotions within us. It sounds too plain. Even in the emotional moments of the story, we are not able to find ourselves controlling our tears. I am quite surprised how Durjoy couldn’t create even 1/10th part of the magic that he is capable of. Something has surely gone wrong. I give this book 1.5 stars out of 5 – Unfortunately!


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WRITING BUDDHA


Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Didi by Nirupama Devi/Alo Shome (Book Review: 3.5*/5) !!!

 

31st Book of 2023

I recently got an opportunity to read a book which was written more than 100 years back in 1915 by Nirupama Devi named “Didi”. It was originally written in Bengali language and is known to be one of its modern classics. I have read its English translation currently which has been translated by Alo Shome. This 232-pages book published by Rupa Publications speaks about the society during that era when there weren’t many legal parameters for the society to maintain good balance with all the parties/genders/people.

 

In this book, Didi, Nirupama Devi talks about the kind of life few women had to lead due to the issues such as polygamy, widowhood etc. She also speaks about how boys were themselves confused about their personalities as most of them were governed by their father and did what was asked them to do. Author has used three major characters – Surama, Amar and Charu to make us go through the societal dilemma as well as the different state of mind that a human being goes through when they get stuck in a life which is not of their choice.

 

There are several other supporting characters also who gives story a nice push whenever it moves slow. The plot doesn’t have much but it is still unique as the circumstances keeps changing for all the characters due to unforeseen happenings around them in family and beyond. I liked the shades in the character of Surama – who is basically the protagonist in the story. The way she stays calm even after knowing that her husband is about to bring second wife at home gives you inner strength. Her rebellious nature once she finds another woman under the same roof makes you uncomfortable to see change in her demeanor. Then, the chemistry between both- Surama and Charu, the 2nd wife of Amar, is written so magically that it is what also gives the name to the title of the book- DIDI. I was surprised to read their conversations where Surama regularly guided and helped her on day-to-day basis.

 

The character of Amar is also dynamic as he ends up getting married for both the times due to pressure and circumstances. He has to deal with the changed attitude of Surama due to his decision of 2nd marriage but he continues to handle the situation without anyone’s support. He loses control on his emotions in between but realizes that he is doing wrong with people in his life. Similarly, the chemistry between Surama and her father-in-law is so beautiful that every girl would want to get married in a home with such an impartial and understanding guardian.

 

Author has also used the locales and aesthetics of the era beautifully. All those letter scenes are so nostalgic as someone who’s born in 90s, I was able to relate with the curiosity of sending and receiving letters. The temple scenes are nicely described which makes us imagine the whole scenario easily.

 

Overall, the book helps us understand the challenges of human beings when they are thrown into circumstances they weren’t prepared to handle. I feel that the translation might have taken away a bit of the essence from the story but still, it helps you understand the intent behind the creation of the tale. I give this book 3.5* out of 5.


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WRITING BUDDHA


Monday, October 9, 2023

Sridevi : The South Years by Amborish Roychoudhury (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!

 

30th Book of 2023

There are few authors who can chose to do easy work considering their immense knowledge base on a subject but they still choose to go ahead and write something from the same field of work which needs a lot of deep diving. Amborish Roychoudhury is one such author. I can say this with utmost clarity even when he is just 2 books old because I have read both his work. His 1st book spoke about the cult movies which shaped Bollywood differently. It was a very interesting book as author talked about movies which we don’t generally speak about.

 

This time, author went ahead and wrote a biography on Sridevi named “Sridevi: The South Years”. As the name of the title suggests, author takes us through the whole timeline of her journey in South movies about which most of us know nothing at all. He could have easily chosen to write about her Bollywood journey for which researching would have been easy but yet he chose to go the difficult path. This 194-pages book made me feel so small as it gives us such basic information about Sridevi’s formative years that we realize we know so little about the subjects we think we know everything.

 

Author’s research is evident in every chapter as he has to go through different languages in which movies are made in South- Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada. Author is able to provide us a clear distinction between her career in all these languages and it doesn’t become confusing at all. Yes, I agree that reading the name of movies and people from Southern India is tough for rest of us but it’s something about which author could not have done anything to make it easier for us.

 

The book is not only formative but motivating as well. There are few pointers that I would like to mention which were new and inspiring for me:

Sridevi started working in film industry right from the age of 4.

She never took any holidays or leaves for almost 3.5 decades and worked continuously until her marriage had to come in between to make her take a break.

She never took formal training in acting but learnt everything on set itself from renowned directors of South movies while shooting for her movies.

Her mother took most of her decisions regarding which movies to choose and she trusted upon her throughout her career.

She had become popular before Kamal Hassan and Rajanikanth. They became super star later. Hence, she can be called their senior.

She was able to play almost all kinds of relationship with the same actor in different movies such as- Mother, Sister and daughter as well. This is something not many actors can handle.

She had become Superstar in Bollywood where she was seen as a diva whereas in South industry, she was considered as an actor-material only.

She didn’t use to shy away from doing more than 20 movies with any actor. She was okay getting casted with the same actor in similar/different relationships across movies.

I wasn’t aware that Amitabh Bachchan’s movies used to get remade in South languages back in the day. Sridevi was part of few of them.

Rajanikanth was originally casted mostly as a villain. He turned into being a full-fledged lead actor only later when the audience response on his win against actor received more applauses.

Sridevi was able to play a child character as well as an adult role at the age of 14- both at the same time which is a rare phenomenon.

 

Collectively, the book is full of facts that we are not aware about this personality called Sridevi and why she was able to rule Bollywood as soon as she entered into it. It was because of the immense amount of work she had done in the South. Amborish is able to take us through her whole journey very smoothly. He makes it an easy read with small chapters – each of them focusing on one aspect or phase of her life. I am glad he didn’t touch Bollywood much to excite readers but stayed firm on his intention towards writing this biography with a purpose. Overall, this is an enjoyable read. I give the book 4.5 stars out of 5.


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WRITING BUDDHA


Thursday, August 3, 2023

The boy with a broken heart by Durjoy Datta (Book Review: 4.25*/5) !!!

  

29th Book of 2023

 


I started reading books in my early 20s. Unlike many readers, I started my journey with Indian authors. They have impressed me enough as I have been able to relate with every emotion they wanted to express. All the authors I read initially have become like a family for me. I never miss reading their books even if I get a chance after years due to other reading schedule in pipeline. I just completed reading Durjoy Datta’s “the boy with a broken heart” which was in my bookshelf since last 6 years. It’s the 2nd book in “The Boy” series- the 1st being “the boy who loved”.

 

This 327-pages book published by Penguin Random House is one of the most difficult books I have ever read. I had never imagined Durjoy getting so dark in his writings. There was a time I would write reviews complaining about the amount of sex he would add in his stories. I am just unable to comprehend how can the same author write something so deep which happens in such parts of India which isn’t exposed to many of us who have lived life in better cities/localities.

 

The book is again written in the form of diary entries – but this time from the girl’s perspective by the protagonist, Advaita. The initial part of the book is about her introduction along with complete detailing of her family. The initial pages describe the kind of life she and her sister, Divya, have spent since childhood. It is really tough going through the events. It makes you shift uncomfortably while reading as it becomes tough to relate and imagine a human being going through such bullying and violence since childhood.

 

Durjoy tries to explain how few Indian families have been under such patriarchal influence that they just don’t realize the kind of crimes they commit on daily basis. The book goes deep into making us realize how one human being can be so merciless towards another. Almost every character around Advaita except her parents are wild and wicked. Each one of them have a distinct type of evilness. I have felt lump in my throat so many times while going through this story that I wished to take action against any kind of bully I find in my life. That’s the impact this book has left upon me. I don’t know if that’s what Durjoy wanted to leave with his readers after they finish the book but this is how it has affected me.

 

There are various social issues about which Durjoy has focused upon ensuring that he doesn’t sound preachy at all. The book talks about how mean not only men but women of the family can also be. I am glad Durjoy took this stand as it’s only men who are being blamed in the name of patriarchy whereas the author tries to emphasize upon the point that even women can be equally harmful as men in a family. How the birth of boys is treated against girls is described very well in form of Advaita’s cousin brothers. Even their worst mischiefs are accepted and celebrated whereas Advaita and her sister are blamed and punished for just being themselves.

 

Through the character of Meghnad, we get to see the consequences of how few Indian families nourish boys that all they know about their existence is that they can tease and molest girls physically and emotionally without any fear and boundaries. The scenes where he forces Advaita to be with him are really tough to read and imagine. The story also throws light upon the way gay community in our country ends up living without ever letting anyone know about their sexual orientation. Durjoy also gets into how few Indian families never get to speak for themselves just because the man of the family is not powerful enough to take stand against others who try to oppress them.

 

Along with all of these concerns and many others, the book is also about friendship, hope, dreams, change, love, luck, redemption, belief, ambition etc. It is a fine read to experience the evolving relationship between Raghu and Advaita. The commitment that both of them shows towards each other – not exactly in respect to love but affection is nicely portrayed. The love between the sisters- Advaita and Divya reflects how few siblings always take stand for each other without being jealous or wicked.

 

The pre-climax is something that finally brings smile on the face of the readers who have gone through the trauma and pain for the first 300-pages. I liked how the whole sub-plot has been drafted by Durjoy. Finally, climax is something that doesn’t look relatable as, otherwise, the book feels like a real story whereas, here, it gets little Bollywood-ish. I wished Durjoy hadn’t gone on this path right at the end of the story which takes away the personal touch from the book. The last page of the book ensures that there could be a 3rd part of this series as well even though the synopsis mentions that this is just two-part romance series. But anyway, book ends at a very interesting turn where we can comprehend that the story can go in any direction and we might get to read something very magical again from Durjoy.

 

Overall, I must say that be ready to feel disturbed and shed few tears and relate with the trauma of the main characters if you are thinking of picking this book up. It will change you as a person forever and you won’t hurt anyone even a bit after this. It teaches us empathy in a very rare manner. I give this book 4.25 stars out of 5. I had to take away 0.25 stars just because of the Bollywood-ish end otherwise this book is a recommended read for sure if you have strong heart to bear the pain of the characters.


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WRITING BUDDHA

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Love in the Time of Affluenza by Shunali Khullar Shroff (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!

  

28th Book of 2023

With this one, I am done reading 3rd book in row written by Indian female authors. After Koral Dasgupta and Preeti Shenoy, I tried my hands on Shunali Khullar Shroff’s “Lovein the Time of Affluenza”. This 292-pages book published by Bloomsbury is a wonderful take on the life of riches living in the prominent societies of Mumbai. It is always a fascination to know what happens with people who live in abundance of money - how is their life different from ours and what kind of struggles they go through. This book talks about the protagonist- Natasha and all the other characters closely associated with her.

 

Shunali, through her protagonist, speaks about the challenges that every person has to deal after marriage. We always discuss about how divorces have become a regular phenomenon and don’t take a minute to blame it on the rich society living around us for making this as common as having babies after marriage. The book discusses about how Natasha falls into a dilemma when she finds her best friend, Trisha, cheating on her husband. She wishes to break the news to Trisha’s husband- Nakul as well as to her husband- Varun as both the men are friends as well as business partners. She decides to maintain silence but the whole scenario makes her question about her own life and marriage. Here onwards, Shunali has been able to make us relate with her at all twists and turns. Natasha takes almost the same decision that any person would have taken but its impact makes us think about our own perception of what we had done in her situation.

 

Shunali makes us think about why marriages become boring after a point of time. She speaks of how women are expected to take efficient care of both – home and work together without faulting whereas men, conveniently, choose to be busy at work without giving much prominence to their family. She also raises a concern about how parenting is expected to be a full-time job for a mother whereas father is unapologetic for not being in touch with his children and their basic needs. She highlights how a man is always sandwiched between his wife and mother and has to balance off the situation between both of them. She has also highlighted on the responsibilities of a man to be a good-earner which is often taken granted by housewives.

 

I am glad the way Shroff has discussed about extra-marital affair in her story. Initially, it does sound immoral even from the way the protagonist of the book perceives it but author makes no mistake in signifying how it becomes the only choice for the person who is not even receiving bare minimum from their partner. This part of the book makes us a little uncomfortable but makes us question the reality of our modern lives where it’s so easy to find a new person to enjoy the missing part of our marriage with them or even end up falling in love without any guilt or shame. Authoress has also managed the Natasha’s part here onwards and didn’t let the story end up on the predictable path but gives it a good turn and make us feel good as a reader.

 

Shunali’s writing style is interesting which is filled with appropriate ingredients of detailing and specifications that helps us understand the ambience and aura of a scene and imagine everything as it’s happening with one of our acquaintances. The characters are nicely crafted as it helps us relate with all the protagonist’s friends and family members. We are able to understand their mindset and personality quite easily to know how they would interact in any scenario. This helps the book become a perfect page-turner as we wish to read how they’ll react and respond to Natasha when she’ll discuss certain scenarios or happenings with them. I wish if author could have avoided mentioning few characters in the initial pages of the book who didn’t have much to do with the story as it consumes our mind in remembering their names and references.

 

Shunali’s humour and sarcasm are the USPs of her writing as it is really wonderful and heartening to read about certain self-talk that the protagonist does with herself and her expressions when she deals with moments where she finds herself not responding in an idealistic way. Even the dialogues written while the characters converse with each other in light and tough situations are scripted mindfully as it makes us smile while reading them. I am impressed with the way Shunali has spoken about a married woman’s ordeals who belongs to a rich society - without being preachy or imparting modern woke feminism which is thrown everywhere these days - where even wrongs of a woman is always right whereas a man is wrong even for raising his voice on a legit concern.

 

Overall, this is indeed an entertaining book. I will rate it 4.5* out of 5.


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WRITING BUDDHA


Thursday, July 20, 2023

When Love Came Calling by Preeti Shenoy (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!

  

27th Book of 2023

 


Some books are like those feel-good movies where you know what will happen in almost every scene yet you like watching it because the director has shot those scenes in a way that it tells you a lot than just the scene itself. The last book I read named “When Love Came Calling” by one of my favorite authors, Preeti Shenoy, is exactly that. It speaks so much between-the-lines that you feel a life coach is talking to you. This is a simple love story about two individuals who are brought up in two different countries – India and Britain, meet on one of their solo projects and eventually fall for each other. The story then speaks about their individuality, their love for each other, the challenges that arises in their life, their separation, perception and a lot more.

 

This 270-pages book is published by Srishti Publications with whom Preeti started her career as an author more than a decade ago. The story is spoken in the first voice of the main protagonists and whenever needed; author has also made the other characters speak directly to us. This is one of the best ways in which Preeti is able to narrate her stories. This time, again, she has been able to weave magic by letting us know what each of the characters were feeling at every moment they shared with each other. This helps us to understand both- Arush and Puja as much as we know about our best friends. Both the characters are very likeable and even in the scenes where one of them is not being pleasant with their responses, we still support them knowing what they’re going through in their mind.

 

Preeti has a rare skill of philosophizing in her books without actually philosophizing. You navigate through the story but there’s so much spoken between the lines that you start relating everything with your life and realizations start hitting you. When I started reading, I felt young the way protagonists explored their life. Gradually, I could sense the difficulty around the phase in life when we aren’t doing great in academics and get confused about how to lead life ahead – majorly in our 20s and 30s. Lastly, the book made me think what kind of a person I am and what do I exactly need personally, professionally, socially, spiritually and in almost every aspect.

 

Author throws light upon the young phase when we find the person and feel genuine love for the first time in our life. Preeti also emphasizes upon the fact that how tough it becomes to maintain the love-relationship considering the challenging educational and professional scenario in our country along with the strictness of our parents. The parent-child relationship is spoken about descriptively on how parents never try to understand what their child is as an individual. She also focuses on how children are forced to be a certain way just because their parents think that’s the right way to live even if the child is dying inside every moment. The modern family set-up where all the members are ambitious is nicely explored which tells about the mental challenges for a child who is not able to do great in life like them.

 

Preeti also displays how siblings who are meant to be a moral support for each other can become the biggest hurdle in someone’s life due to their cold behaviour towards the other or regular comparisons between both the child by parents, neighbours, relatives, teachers and everyone around in vicinity. Love is also described beautifully and makes you feel romantic. If you have a partner, you will start giving them more time and importance and if you don’t have them, you will want to have a companion to share the emotions generated after reading this story. I liked how Preeti has balanced the immaturity of the protagonists along with the matured insight on the effect of love and relationship in one’s life. She describes wonderfully - majorly in the end – on how someone’s presence in our life can lead to value-addition in the way we see and perceive ourselves and our thoughts.

 

There are many instances when the book made me feel lump in my throat and by the time I reached the last 50 pages, I just couldn’t stop shedding tears. Preeti should apologize to me for making me feel embarrassed in the Mumbai local train for wiping my tears in front of all the people who take the same coach daily. The way pre-climax is treated is one of the most powerful aspects of this book considering that every sentence has enough power of directly reaching our heart. That section made me think a lot about how I would have responded to a cold behaviour after doing something very dramatic and out-of-my-league for someone. Shenoy also gives a very big lesson on forgiveness which will stay with me for a long time through this story.

 

The climax eventually gives a good and perfect closure to this book without disappointing anyone- either the characters or the readers. The book also taught about accepting someone being very different than us or even a complete failure in life. It tells that eventually some key moments impact a person and it might happen at some point of time with everyone. Until then, we should be supportive of our loved ones and stand by them rather than ridiculing them every now and then. This book is also a very big lesson on modern-day parenting regarding how to handle kids when they are struggling with their relationships, competitions, failures, confusions etc. along with their own career and ambition. This is one of the most emotional and heartful story I have ever read. Preeti Shenoy has always been on top of my list and will stay there forever. I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.


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WRITING BUDDHA


Monday, July 17, 2023

Summer Holidays by Koral Dasgupta (Book Review: 4*/5) !!!

  

26th Book of 2023

 


After letting the pages of this book turn yellow, I finally picked up Koral Dasgupta’s “Summer Holidays” after four years. This is the first time I read a book where the pages have turned yellow but the kind of story I got to read made me feel completely nostalgic and emotional. This 250-pages book published by Rupa Publications is a plot based out of a family and the love-hate relationship that goes hand in hand with it. The story talks about two cousins who are separated from each other for 16 years due to a feud between their parents. Rishi’s mother and Mira’s father are siblings but due to a rough argument and ego clashes, they don’t communicate with each other. After few years, when their children grow up and find each other on social media, they meet and share a great camaraderie with each other. As obvious, they plan to bring their parents back together and repair the damaged relationship.

 

This is the first time when I have picked up Koral’s book after knowing and regularly following her book updates for years now. I liked how she has been able to make us feel a part of this story because all of us have seen our parents distancing themselves from their siblings due to some or the other issue. More unfortunate are the incidents where the cousins who share great bond between themselves have to get separated from each other for life. I have personally gone through such events where I have not met my cousins since more than 1.5 decades now. Reading this book brought back all those emotions and memories back. The way Koral has captured the essence of both- sibling love as well as cousin love is beautiful. She is able to highlight the love and distance both these kinds of relationships endorse.

 

The narration is perfect where we are able to flow with the story without getting disturbed with the multiple characters the story has. There is a suspense throughout and as a reader, we keep on reading the book in fast pace to know how the siblings would meet each other eventually. Even though the plot makes you know what’ll happen in the end, you still want to go through the process of reading 250 pages. This speaks everything about the kind of justice Koral Dasgupta has done with the story. Even the other characters such as love interest of both the protagonists and other characters from their childhood whom they meet later again are given good backdrop which makes us connect with them as well.

 

There are many philosophical aspects that Dasgupta shares about life, love and relationships which actually makes us think about our opinion about the same and realize if the broken relationships in our life are justifiable or our ego has killed it prematurely. There are several conversations between the characters of these two different generations which leaves you teary-eyed. There is innocence, truth, realization, love, liking, acceptance, regret and what not in the words characters speak in their vulnerable state with each other.

 

Author is able to make us understand the importance of love that we can feel only with family. She makes it clear that even if separated, fought or never met for decades, blood relations still find just an excuse to get back with each other. This book is relatable to all the generations because of the set-up and premise Koral has created which is relevant with everyone. Also, this is going to be a great gift you can share with your cousins and siblings and make them realize how important they are for us. The only drawback that made my excitement drop has been the pre-climax and climax. I was expecting some drama in the end but author keeps things quite underwhelming without extracting plethora of emotions, tears and love from her characters and their reactions and loses a great opportunity. That’s the only reason why I have to take away half star away from what I had decided to rate the book. I rate it 4 stars out of 5. Recommended!


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WRITING BUDDHA


Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The Lion of Kashmir by Siddhartha Gigoo (Book Review: 2*/5) !!!

 25th Book of 2023

I generally avoid reading books based on Kashmir as I remember reading Basharat Peer’s Curfewed Night when I was about 20 years old and couldn’t understand anything about the state. I was too na├»ve to understand the complexity of this place which has recently been removed from its special status – a journey which has not been very easy from country’s point of view. Somehow, I believed that after all these years following news and current affairs, I must have got aware of the complete situation and picked up a fiction book named “The Lion of Kashmir” written by an award-winning author, Siddhartha Gigoo.

 

This 260-pages book published by Rupa Publication is typically about the relationship between a father and daughter who are primarily from Kashmir but staying far away from each other. Unfortunately, one day the father goes missing and from here onwards, the daughter Zooni’s character has been developed giving us a bit backdrop into her past so that we can know her better. Author has been able to keep things easy in terms of making us become friends with the characters and understand their rare emotions which we might have not gone through it personally.

 

Author highlights the difficult situation in the state and tries emphasizing on the fact of how the local people are divided in two ideologies – where few are pro-India whereas few have taken the opposite and unfortunate path of destroying the people favoring Kashmir being a part of India. The book has been divided in three different parts where I personally liked the 1st and last part. The first part is more about Zooni whereas the last part is more about her father’s emotions about his state and love for his daughter.

 

Gigoo has become philosophical at many parts and I am glad that he made full justice with this opportunity that the story provided him. I liked few paragraphs a lot where you start thinking about life and the raw emotions shared regarding what one goes through in their tough moments.

 

Talking about the drawbacks, I must say that the book lacks twists and turns. It could have also given book a completely different shape but author doesn’t explore the thriller aspect at all. The book is lengthy and I believe it could have been summed up well in around 150-200 pages itself. Thirdly, the middle section of the book where the character of Zooni imagines things and few characters is such a boring write-up and I had to push myself in not keeping the book aside. It just takes you away from the story and drops you in between of a process which has nothing to do with the tale. Also, multiple to and fro in the timeline confused me as a reader. Author has good writing talent but unfortunately, there are few good points about the book but the not-so-good are many hence I am going with 2 stars out of 5.


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Sunday, July 9, 2023

The Fixer by Suman Dubey (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!

  

24th Book of 2023

 


I completed watching the first season of Inside Edge on Amazon Prime just last weekend. Co-incidentally I also finished reading a book named “The Fixer” written by author, Suman Dubey, almost at the same time. I was comparing both of them and I was surprised to realize that even though both the works are based on the same topic/theme but the execution is so very different. I am glad Suman took a completely different perspective while telling a story which speaks of something that’s equivalent to religion in India- Cricket. Moreover, as it has concept similar to IPL on which the match-fixing etc. has been based upon, I am glad that Dubey speaks in a manner that it still makes you feel excited and curious to know what’ll happen here and how.

 

This 290-pages book published by Rupa Publications is a perfect page-turner. It is a wonderful thriller where you wait as a reader to know what’ll happen with each and every character of the story. Author has not talked specifically about the world of cricket - but its more about how members of a dysfunctional family are trying to survive against each other and secure their future. It also dives into how a business family thinks about their business and what are the challenges that they have to go through not only professionally but personally as well. Later, the book explains how when such business gets into a completely new zone such as Cricket, the ideological shift is tough to adapt with which creates more feud among all the family members involved in the business.

 

Hence, Cricket is a by-product of the above themes which are majorly spoken in the book. The character of Neil Upadhyay is so perfectly written that right from the 1st page, you are with him and his thoughts. You feel for his loss every time he fails at proving himself. His role in the 2nd half of the book makes it very interesting and you keep on cheering for him every now and then. The way his conversations are drafted with all the characters are a masterpiece as they give you a sense of how the story takes a new shape as soon as the talk ends. His passion for Cricket and his firmness for his morals and values teach a lot in hindsight. His chemistry and topsy-turvy relationship with Kanika give the story the much-needed glamour and mind-game.

 

The match-fixing part is dealt in a very distinct manner than what we have already seen in movies. All the narrations related to fixing, dressing room, field action, post-match scenarios and the changing dynamics between characters are nicely executed and does justice to the cover page and title of the book. We get an overview on how different kind of Cricketers such as legends, new-comers, out of form players, in form players etc. see their game as. We understand the psyche of why few players go the wrong way without thinking of the future opportunities and after-effect. Similarly, author tries to give us a glimpse of how club Crickets which involves entrepreneurs in the game as well can never be as clean as international formats where countries play against each other. We get detailing on how money and popularity comes over the game in such Club formats.

 

Overall, the book is a power-packed story which keeps you glued to it. The second half gets more fascinating as compared to already interesting and over-the-top 1st half. The way author tries to give a backdrop and importance to every character involved in the story is a brilliant execution. We are able to empathize and understand the mindset of every character. Similarly, author doesn’t confuse us with multiple characters considering that even the players are a major part of the story. Somehow, we are able to remember their role in the story even if we read the book in different sessions. The struggle of a rich and insecure family is given prominence where reading about siblings and their view about each other makes you understand how selfish we, as human, get at times. The pre-climax and climax are a good closure to the story. Suman is a wonderful writer and I am wondering why he has still not come out with another book yet. I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.


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