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Black Friday: The True Story Of The Bombay Bomb Blasts by S.Hussain Zaidi

Black Friday: The True Story Of The Bombay Bomb Blasts by S.Hussain Zaidi

“Ten Explosions rocked Bombay that day, taking place with almost metronomic precision at short intervals. Between 1.28 and 3.35 p.m. bombs had gone off across Bombay, the first time any city in the world was subject to serial blasts…” -Black Friday

It was the blasts that shook the nation

The 1993 Bombay bombings on 12 March 1993, was a well-coordinated attack, and considered as one of the most destructive bomb explosions in India. This single day attack resulted in over 250 fatalities and over 700 injured. The mastermind behind these attacks is Dawood Ibrahim who controls the underworld syndicate D–Company. Two decades later, after a long judicial proceeding with over a hundred witnesses, the Supreme Court of India convicted those involved in the blasts. However, till date the two main accused Dawood Ibrahim and his associate Tiger Memon are still on the loose. The Maharashtra state government executed Yakub Memon (brother of Tiger Memon), on 30 July 2015, who was also found guilty.

Black Friday is Hussain Zaidi’s chilling account of these Bombay bombings. I consider it a one of a kind book that brings in the minutest of details- the blasts, the aftermath and the investigation that followed. Well-researched, it lays out authentic facts, woven into a gripping non-fiction piece to read.

The compelling read of the mammoth conspiracy

It was an exhaustive operation that spanned across countries. From the sketching of the plan, the resources, the training of vulnerable youth in Pakistan, the transportation, the confessions, the Bollywood angle, corruption and above all the religious fervor and insanity of the perpetrators. This crime diary brings out startling truths, leaving you angry. A striking feature of the book is the fact that it doesn’t have one central protagonist, yet, it manages to grip you. Well-paced, it brings out the magnanimity of the macabre and sinister plan. The detailed, yet subtle narrative is compelling and reads more like a novel.

Zaidi has succeeded in pacing out the episodes, in order of occurrences, in a seamless fashion. Black Friday is definitely a book worth reading, for all those who love the genre of crime, mafia and investigation.‎ Don’t expect any suspense elements; though the book does put you in an introspection mode post that last page!

Does religion really warrant killing of one another? What does it take to respect one another’s belief?

Me Before You-Jojo Moyes

Me Before You-Jojo Moyes

“Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes came as the much needed refreshing read, after I had completed the “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. I largely read soft romances, though I don’t truly consider myself a romantic person. Probably that’s why I end up picking up these books. But, Me Before You isn’t one of those books with oodles of romance. In fact, I wouldn’t even want to categorize it under this genre. Yet, it is one of those books that give an emotional tug at the heart.

Louisa Clark has no great ambitions in life. Nor does she have any great desires. She is pretty much content with the simple life she lives- a close-knit family, a steady relationship and her job at the café. But life surely has other plans for her, and when she loses her job, she is forced to work as the caretaker for a quadriplegic, to sustain her family’s living and expenses. With no experience whatsoever, Louisa is to handle the wheel chair bound Will Traynor, who is nothing short of being bossy, moody and snappy, at most times. Having lived an active life, Will is yet to accept his fate, and consider life worth living. Louisa has a tough task at hand-handling his regime, medical condition as well as his state of mind. Slowly as Louisa learns to manage, and tries to bring in more cheer, she learns of Will’s shocking plans for his life. And that’s when she sets out to show him what life is all about. Would she succeed in this endeavor? What’s their relationship destined to be? Me Before You is a beautiful journey between two distinctly apart individuals, who happen to cross paths in life.

Jojo Moyes has a touch of polish in her writing as she laces her story with the right choice of words, conveying emotions in an almost perfect way. I found the book a lot predictable though, towards the end. But the quick flow in the narration kept me going. Life is surely all about choices and the book touches upon one such sensitive topic – euthanasia. I however felt, Jojo Moyes could have brought in some scope for introspection on this topic in her story. Also, looking at the book from a disabled’s point of view, I felt it didn’t bring in any positive light in thought processes.

Me Before You is just a sweet tale. Not overtly touchy and not too fading either. You would find fun-filled conversations that bring in a smile and at the same time portions that would make you all sullen. If you are die-hard romance fan, then this book may disappoint you. Otherwise just enjoy the real characters, honest and well-sketched. Me Before You is not a tear-jerker, but the story of Louisa and Will would leave a lasting impression on your mind.

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak- Review

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak- Review

Heard of books that feed the soul? The Book Thief may well be considered one. Let me tell you at the onset, this book isn’t for those who seek a light and quick read. Nor is it for those, who like all things bright and happy.

The Book Thief is for you if you love to get right into the skin of the characters. It is for you if experimental fiction thrills you. It is for you, if you love reading about the Holocaust, even if it is something you have heard enough about.

Set in Nazi Germany, it is the unforgettable story of Liesel Meminger, who is left in the care of the Hubermanns by her mother, when she is no longer able to afford her care. Meagre existence, the times of Hitler’s reign, bomb raids and the lurking fear of shrouding a Jew in their home, young Liesel sees it all. Yet, amidst all this, she discovers something she cannot resist- her love for books. It all begins, with Liesel’s brother passing away, and she finds herself stealing her first book- The Gravedigger’s Handbook. She considers it her last link to her brother. Nightmares begin to haunt her each night after that, of her brother’s death. But slowly in the care of her foster father Hans Hubermann, she finds warmth, and learns to read.

Liesel begins to settle down in her new life on Himmel Street. Despite the fear filled times of Nazi Germany, she finds herself bonding with Rudy, stealing food from farmers and, books from the mayor’s library. The book traces the events of World War II, with loved ones joining the Army camp, attacks by the Allies, and bomb raids. Liesel finds life disrupted, strewn across, as she fights to pick up its threads and weave it back in place. But how successful is she? What does life have in store for her post the war? The poignant book would surely leave a lump in your throat, as you bring that last page to a close.

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Markus Zusak’s Book Thief is surely startling in many ways. However, be prepared to sink into its vastness. The book is big and expansive, all with is 552 pages. It could have been more concise. There are portions that stretch and make reading slow. But then, it gives you a better understanding of life in those fear filled years of Nazi Germany.

What stood out in the book is the unique perspective, with “Death” as the story teller. The story of Liesel, brought out in a philosophic way, from death’s point of view. Yet, this book is nothing about death and dying. The writing is elegant, with expressive metaphors. Zusak throws in fate and chance encounters, to make them collide in a seamless fashion.

It surely is yet another book about the Holocaust. I wouldn’t want to compare this with the masterpiece- Schindler’s Ark. But, The Book Thief does a fair amount of justice to the subject. I wasn’t soaked in tears when I completed it, but yes, did sit in pensive though for a while. It is no easy read, and it takes a while for the book to fully sink into you. You need to give this book that time, to savor and truly appreciate all the metaphors and personifications it holds.

The Mother I Never Knew By Sudha Murty

The Mother I Never Knew By Sudha Murty

Last weekend I completed reading Sudha Murty’s “The mother I never knew”. A collection of two simple novellas, the book gives a peek into families and their past secrets- and how important are they in the here and now.

The book presents two different men and their stories. Venkatesh the bank manager, accidently stumbles upon his father’s past and discovers an abandoned wife and child. On the other hand Mukesh, the son of a well-to-do man, discovers on his father’s death that he was actually adopted. Both men accidently uncover a past, to find a mother they never knew existed. How do both of them make amends?

The Mother I Never Knew is a poignant dramatic book, reaching into not only human emotions but also subtly touching upon various social evils exiting in our society.

Sudha Murty writes in her trademark style- simple narration sans superfluous words. Both the tales are humble, straight forward stories. I wouldn’t call them something new, ‘cause books and movies have portrayed similar ones before. Nevertheless, I liked Sudha Murty’s touch as she delves into social practices and evils that exist in our society.

After substantial amount of serious reading this book seemed a breeze to me. The first novella “Venkatesh” kept me reading as narration moved on to events in a quick pace. However she could have surely omitted a couple of dialogues among the key characters, which seemed a bit irrelevant to me. The second novella “Mukesh” was quite a letdown. The plot dragged on and moved towards being very predictable. I liked the fact that in both the novellas the melo-drama was kept minimal.

The Mother I Never Knew may surely not be Sudha Murty’s best of fictions. If you would love to get a flavor of North Karnataka and its ways, this book could give you that experience. Otherwise I would call it an average read, which could be completed in a single sitting.

Book Review: The Mask Diaries By Abhinav Goel

Book Review: The Mask Diaries By Abhinav Goel

Heard of the great Persian epic Sohrab and Rustum? It is that tale of the brave warrior Rustum who unknowingly slays his long-lost son Sohrab, in a single combat. A tale of valor, though it may seem, but this epic is not just about war, death and battle. It brings out the ironies of life. It brings out pride and anger – the masks we wear. It is about good and of evil existing within the protagonist and all around him too. Taking a cue from this great epic is Abhinav Goel’s The Mask Diaries. Profound and deep, the book is soul stirring, spiritual and takes you on a path of self-discovery.

The Mask Diaries- The fascinating story of Sohrab

He is cursed with a troubled and painful childhood. But his gift is enormous and overwhelming in every way. Blessed with the ability to read and influence minds around him, Sohrab is all set to journey around the globe. As a mind reader, he finds immense success, yet, he finds himself torn between the good and the evil. And that’s when, unable to conquer over his alter ego, Sohrab destroy all that he has- the fame, the adulation and the love received. The book is his journey as he lives life over five decades. Sohrab sees the world and takes you along with him on a journey, with him across the Himalayas, all the way to Paris and Hungary, towards self-acceptance.

“How beautiful this day is, how replete with the perfection of life! On days like these I wish to tear the Mask off my face for good, for I have everything that I ever aspired for. Yet, as I aspire to do the unthinkable, I realize that the Mask hides the skeletons of my past beneath it and the moment I tear it off, I will become naked in front of the world…” – excerpt from The Mask Diaries.

Truth of life- In a whole new avatar!

The narration surely stands out.  Very often books that belong to the genre of experiential, psychological or spiritual tend to become quite a heavy read for me. However, The Mask Diaries was quite the opposite. What appealed to me was the way the story line was dealt with. Crisp narration, a neatly laid out plot and characters etched with perfection, the book was indeed a pleasure to read.

The story is narrated in the voices of the protagonist, his mask, wife and son. The multiple voices did seem to confuse me in certain parts, but the story line gripped me and its flow soon cleared the cloud. Characters are easily identifiable, those we bump into each and every day of our life. The book is decently paced too and incidents are relevant in every way to today’s world.

I loved the way Sohrab’s childhood has been described. The vivid descriptions played on my mind and stayed well after I had closed that last page and had put the book down. It got me into a sort of introspection mode. I smiled with the book, fell in love and was also moved to tears. I lazed on my arm-chair book in hand, closing my eyes, drifting away in thoughts.

My Take 

Love self-realization books? Then The Mask Diaries could well be the one for you. It would prove to be a perfect thought-provoking read on a lazy afternoon. Oh well, otherwise too. It has the power to heal your soul. It teaches you to face your fears, and inspires you in many a ways. Along with the spiritual journey of the protagonist, the book leads you too, towards self-acceptance. From the depth of your mind, it churns out your darker shades and guides you towards forgiveness.

An interesting read!!!

Weekend Read- Jeffrey Archer Kane and Abel

Weekend Read- Jeffrey Archer Kane and Abel

“Fortune favours the brave”
— Jeffrey Archer (Kane and Abel)

After a string of average reads, I finally read something that made me say WOW!!!! Jeffrey Archer surely has woven magic in Kane and Abel (The story has nothing to do with the Biblical Cain and Abel). This book has it all- History, romance, suspense and drama. Kane and Able is a masterpiece, all with its well-developed story line that draw you right into each page.

The story of William Kane and Abel Rosnovski

They were both born on the same day in different parts of the world, totally unrelated. The two are distinctly apart, yet similar in many ways. Where William is the son of a Boston based Billionaire, Abel is a poor Polish immigrant out in the world seeking fortune. And when fate makes their paths cross, there is hatred, and an all-consuming rage to build their empire. Who succeeds? Do they learn to survive or is it the inevitable-of destroying each other?

 A must for enthusiastic readers

Kane and Abel is a beautifully carved saga that would mesmerize you at every stage. I first read this book when I was in high school, and just couldn’t resist reading it a second time. Some books indeed are captivating and the story would linger on longer than you think. What stands out is the brilliant characterization. Two strong minded individuals, from completely different backgrounds, yet are essentially similar, deep down in their hearts. They may be despicable, yet scratch within and you would surely find that spot of compassion and warmth. I have read other Jeffrey Archer books but nothing has come close to Kane and Abel, I must say. With a compelling story, it touches on a range of subjects, from the times of World War 1, till post World War 2 times. I struggled to put down the book.

The sore point

The book is voluminous and there are sub-plots crammed into each of the pages. Major portions of the story are purely descriptive without much of dialogues. I found a few of the chapters to be stretched. And with the narration oscillating between the two characters- “Kane and Abel”, I was a bit lost. Quite forgot what had been happening with the other character when I returned to him in subsequent chapters.

Nevertheless Kane and Abel is a masterpiece and a must read. The book is today considered an international success. Despite over 30 years of its release, it is still among the top on the New York Times best-seller list and among the top 100 list of best-selling books in the world. The sequel to Kane and Abel is The Prodigal Daughter, in which Florentyna Kane is the protagonist.

Kane and Abel is available in e-book format for Kindle Readers and paperback format on Amazon.in

Book Review: Before We Visit The Goddess By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Book Review: Before We Visit The Goddess By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

“What is the nature of life?
Life is lines of dominoes falling.
One thing leads to another, and then another, just like you’d planned. But suddenly a Domino gets skewed, events change direction, people dig in their heels, and you’re faced with a situation that you didn’t see coming, you who thought you were so clever.”
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Before We Visit the Goddess

If ever you feel like reading a fiction, that holds within its pages a deep tale, with elements of profoundness, pick Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Her writing surpasses all, and the stories never fail to grip me. Here earlier books such as Palace of illusions, Oleander Girl and Mistress of Spices, have been bestsellers and portrayed human relationships and its complexities in a unique way. The latest, “Before we Visit the Goddess” is yet another brilliant book from Divakaruni that recounts an unseen tale spanning across three generations, between mothers and daughters.

The storyline

“Before We Visit the Goddess” opens with Sabitri. Frail and stricken with old age, she has never met her American born granddaughter Tara. When she hears her granddaughter considering dropping out of college, she begins writing a letter to her detailing her own life, reminiscing the past. She was the daughter of a poor sweet meat -maker in rural Bengal. As a young girl when Sabitri falls in love with a boy from a rich household, little did she realize she would be discarded from her own community. Her life takes a turn when she seeks refuge in a professor whom she eventually marries.

Years later, she finds herself yet again staring at an uncertain future, as her husband dies, forcing Sabitri to take charge of life and her daughter Bela. Fighting all odds she sets up Durga sweets making it into a successful enterprise. Over the years, life and fate take her on a roller coaster ride. Bela, haunted by her mother’s choices, flees to America with the one she loved. But destiny had other plans and Bela is forced to search for her own path. Disconnected from her country and culture, she passes on much more than the bitterness of her life onto her daughter Tara.

Portrayal of characters

Emotions well portrayed, the tale describes a mother as she tries to save her own child from making the mistakes she had made years back. Yet she is unable to do so, generation after another. Sabitri is ambitious and resilient. Bela is talented and strong willed, yet lack’s the enterprising skill and ambition her mother possessed. Tara, disconnected from her roots, grows into a rebel. Her relationship with her mother remains rocky, as she throws away an education to find herself a monotonous job instead. All three women are distinctly apart, yet none crumble despite the agony and pain of betrayal they encounter. As relationships fall apart, its pieces are more difficult to gather. Yet the three generation attempt to find respect and purpose in life, trying to put as much of the pieces back together.

What I liked…. and did not too!

I loved the seamless integration of the three women and their lives across the years. Divakaruni’s characterization is a masterwork indeed. So is her prose. There were lines in the book that stayed with me much after I closed that last page.

However, parts of the book seemed to drag on with meaningless references. There were several loose ends that hardly had any conclusive narration. The book does open on an interesting note, but the climax doesn’t really do justice to the prose and closes on a rather hurried note. And yes.. The title of the book is quite a mystery to me. I can’t really fit in its significance.

Nevertheless Chitra Divakurni’s prose steals the show. Worth a read!!

The Very Best of R.K. Narayan (Timeless Malgudi)

The Very Best of R.K. Narayan (Timeless Malgudi)

Two decades ago, as a little girl, I was mesmerized by Malgudi days. The program was telecast on Doordarshan with a new RK Narayan story every episode. I loved RK Narayan then, and I still love his stories. There can be no better author who can describe the magic of everyday life, the common man, his pains, joys, and his zest in life.  

RK Narayan may not be amidst us today, but his writing career that spanned over seven decades still speaks volumes. His fictitious town Malgudi, and its host of unforgettable characters sure do win over hearts even now. For me, RK Narayan lives on, fresh, and his stories never fail to give me joy.

“How can two living entities possessing intelligence and judgement ever be tied together for a lifetime?”
― R.K. Narayan, Malgudi Days

The book “The Very Best of RK Narayan, Timeless Malgudi”, is a selection of his best- both fiction as well as Nonfiction. It has the timeless short stories such as A Horse and two goats and Astrologers day. The popular fiction The Guide charms you with its wit and humor. The compilation offers a good variety of tales. Each of the stories present everyday life with elegance, and with a humorous twist at times. And probably that’s the reason why I love RK Narayan so much.

Read one story a day at bed time and see the magic these tales weave on you.

If you love RK Narayan short stories, this book would surely not disappoint you. The book is available as a free read under Kindle Unlimited for e book readers!!

The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk-Sudha Murty

The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk-Sudha Murty

Reading real life stories are often so much more enjoyable than fiction. Sudha Murty’s “The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk” is one such book. The pages bring out Sudha Murty’s experiences as she lays down her learning on humanity and life.

It may seem to be no great literary work; yet, this book will surely win your heart over. There is absolutely no use of complex words; with the most simplistic form of narration. The book is a collection of 23 short stories and each one of them would leave you taking a peek into your inner self. The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk captivated me from its first page right till the end.

“It is very difficult to earn trust. It takes years to build and it can be destroyed in an instant by one bad deed. Trust requires an enormous amount of integrity and you have to prove every time that you are worthy of it. I am very grateful to our society and community.”
― Sudha Murty, The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk: Life Lessons from Here and There

What sets the book apart is that the stories aren’t fiction but real life experiences. Sudha Murty takes you on journeys across India, from Bombay, to Bangalore, to Orissa, places where she has touched lives through the Infosys foundation.

I loved the story of Vishnu, who achieves material success but knows not what happiness is. Another tale that gave me a sense of optimism, is that of a young girl who runs away from her step mom’s home, to be later found on a train bound to Bangalore. That journey changed the course of her life. All of the stories are about people, the kinds we all bump into every single day, in our office, home and neighborhood.

A light inspirational read with an amazing takeaway that would linger long in your mind. For those who don’t like voluminous books, and seek some quick food for thought, this book is a perfect read.

Book Review- The Spy By Paulo Coelho

Book Review- The Spy By Paulo Coelho

The Spy is Coelho’s account of the accused World War 1 double Spy – Mata Hari. He places his story close to the real facts; well of course in his own style. For those who aren’t familiar with who Mata Hari is, this book could be an eye opener on who she was.  I wouldn’t call it a spy thriller, but a historical drama pre-World War 1, written in an autobiographical style. Not a very bulky book, I managed to complete it in a single reading.

The Spy- Story of Mata Hari 

Mata Hari was executed by a firing squad in Paris on Oct. 15, 1917. Born Margaretha Zelle to a bourgeois family in Holland, she was raped by her school principal at the age of 16. Desperate to leave Holland soon after, she marries a Dutch army captain and moves to Indonesia. However, the officer abuses her physically and sexually for years. After attending a military function, where she witnesses another military wife’s suicide and a performance by Javanese dancers, Margaretha is inspired to rebel and return to Europe.

She soon makes her way to Paris, and reincarnates herself as Mata Hari, to become an erotic dancer where she combines Java-esque dance moves and strip tease. With her titillating performances, she quickly catapults to fame in the priciest nightclubs and becomes the toast of Paris. At a time when tensions among nations build up, Mata Hari is invited to perform in Berlin. Oblivious to the approaching hostilities of the War, she goes only to find that she is being recruited as a spy for the Kaiser.  What follows is a twist of fate for Mata Hari and she is caught in a web of political Vendetta.

Mata Hari as she was!

“Love is an act of faith & its face should always be covered in mystery. Every moment should be lived with feeling & emotion because if we try to decipher it & understand it, the magic disappears.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Spy

Narration style

The book traces the entire story of Mata Hari through two fictional letters- one written by Mata Hari to her defense attorney, M. Clunet; and another written by Clunet to Mata Hari. I liked this style, where Mata Hari narrates her own story, unmasking her persona, life and desires. The helplessness in Clunet on not being able to save her from the firing squad is well depicted too. Through this narration, Coelho has brought out facets of Mata Hari, as a deeply flawed woman, and whose sexuality helped her gain power and favors. She has the skill to influence men, having her own inflated sense of power, very often behaving recklessly.

What failed in the book

Despite bringing about a sympathetic feel to Mata Hari, I found her depiction pretty sketchy. The book breathes and speaks Mata Hari. Yet, I felt an element of inadequacy in the story line. There seemed an abruptness in the way the book saw its end. 

Take away from the book

Not really Paulo Coelho’s usual, but surely worth a one time read. If I had to pick out one thing that lingered on after I closed that last page, it is the fact that Mata Hari defied male expectations of her time and dared to live an unconventional life. And that’s one reason why her story deserves a read.