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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!!

Chetan Bhagat- Review of One Indian Girl

Chetan Bhagat- Review of One Indian Girl

Chetan Bhagat is truly the most loved or, the most hated author in the country. Surely, on one side we have a large percentage of readers who simply cannot stop adoring his books, and on the other side there is a larger number who simply dislike his books. Despite all the brickbats he receives for his featured columns in major dailies, or for his stint as a judge on a reality show, Chetan Bhagat’s books do sell and they rake in the moolahs!!

To me he is neither good nor a bad writer. He is average and yes, definitely over-rated. Reading a Chetan Bhagat is akin to watching a Karan Johar or maybe a Salman Khan movie. Loaded with emotions and relationship tangles, the plot may lack depth, with seldom any logic. Yet we all watch them once in a way. Chetan Bhagat books are no great pieces of literature, yet they appeal to the masses, and that’s why his books are ranked as a best seller and I do enjoy reading them once in a way.

Getting to his latest book- One Indian Girl…

Radhika Mehta is educated, intelligent and ambitious. She is a topper of sorts and after her MBA degree from IIM; she lands herself a job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. She heads to New York, to start her professional life, much to her parents’ dislike, who are more than keen to see her married at 21. New York is an all new world for Radhika. She lives her life and accomplishes on the professional front, earning a bonus her father seldom saw in his entire banking career. Her mother though doesn’t appreciate it and the pressure to “settle” down into matrimony is mounted upon her. Fighting away the stereotypes, Radhika, does well professionally, has a string of relationships that makes her move base, from New York, to Hong Kong and then to London. It teaches her life’s important lessons and gives her an insight into what she wants and who she exactly is.

She eventually decides to settle down into an arranged marriage, when the unforeseen happens. Her ex-es land up at her marriage venue. Radhika’s mind is in the biggest of turmoil’s. With her wedding just 24 hours away, she has her present and past all in one place. Who would she choose and why? What exactly is in the mind of this one Indian girl? Read the book to understand this as Chetan touches that one raw nerve- feminism.

The books delves into the deep lying patriarchy in Indian society. The restrictions that are not spoken about yet exist all around us. Radhika deals with an insecure boyfriend who cannot handle her earning more than him and later a married boss who becomes her lover, but seldom acknowledges that she could want to start a family too. Neither of the men she encounters understand that she could want to have both worlds- a home as well as a career.

The narration and content is candid and simple, filled with relatable incidents and connections. Chetan brings in the entertainment element with the dramatic Punjabi family, loaded with aunts and cousins galore, plus a wedding scene to top up the drama factor. I loved Radhika’s characterization, and her evolving from a simple West Delhi girl to a chick smart corporate woman. The narration in female first person is impressive, with the entire story conveyed as Radhika’s thoughts and views.

I liked Chetan’s view and stand on feminism. In a world where everything is almost a hype, and the true meaning of feminism lost somewhere, he brings out the choices that women are forced to make.

Yet, the book fails on many fronts. Highly predictable, it isn’t very different from his earlier ones. There is a degree of monotony in the tone and yes, you could comfortably skip a couple of pages. It also lacked that “spark” and humor that would have made the book otherwise a better read.

Surely Chetan Bhagat may be no great writer, but his Bollywood inspired writing does make him a fairly decent story teller.  Worth a one-time relaxed read ‘cause when you do finish that last page and close the book, you are left behind with a smile — and thinking.

Would it be a future Bollywood block buster? Well only time can tell that!

Book Review: It’s All in The Planets- Preeti Shenoy

Book Review: It’s All in The Planets- Preeti Shenoy

It’s All in The Planets!!! Is it really so? We do often find life shaping up in a way that’s almost beyond our control. I remember reading these lines from a Ruskin Bond book recently- “What are we humans really just absurd little creatures strutting about as though we owned the earth and everything upon it. An ill wind comes along and we’re finished…” Bond’s writing never fails to make me smile at life’s little inanities.

So are all things in life destined to happen? Preeti Shenoy’s latest book delves into these questions, taking a peek into the role of planets and destiny on the lives of Aniket, Nidhi and Trisha. She brings together yet another complex web- of human relationships.

Aniket isn’t those dashing, handsome hunks. He does not have a Mills & Boons kinda sex appeal. All of 90 kilograms, he is an overweight, average looking techie from our very own city Bengaluru. He is head over heels in love with the beautiful model Trisha, who well, isn’t really all that intrigued by him or his mannerisms. Yet, the two are in a relationship. Trisha wants him to change in many a way. This leaves Aniket confused and insecure. He would do just about anything to make the relationship work, and seeks Nidhi’s help in the matter.

Nidhi is free spirited and pursues her passion, working as a pottery instructor. She is in a relationship with Manoj, who seldom appreciates the nature of her job. A chanced meeting with Aniket on the train, gets them talking. They enjoy each other’s company and she soon finds herself becoming Aniket’ relationship as well as fitness coach. How successful would Nidhi be in making Anikets and Trisha’s relationship a success? Or do the planets play a totally different role in all their lives? That’s the book for you in a gist.

Characterization

Preeti Shenoy has her main characters depicted with perfection, believable in every way; they are people you would find around you, in everyday life. Her story brings in Subbu, a true buddy, honest and frank to Aniket when he seeks his advice on all matters related to the heart. She portrays Manoj as the abusive person, who believes in the might of the man in a relationship.

She brings in an element of sweetness in Aniket, despite him being no tall, dark, handsome kinds, making him a loveable character. Nidhi‘s carefree yet mature demeanor makes her the girl most men would want to fall in love with. Aniket’s love and attraction towards the beautiful Trisha has certain innocence to it.

Writing and Presentation:

I would give a thumb up for the cover design, layout and the zodiac predictions at the beginning of every chapter. The most unique thing though is the manner in which the story has been narrated. I have read many a books that narrate the story in first person- books where one of the key protagonists brings out the entire story in their own words. Now here’s something of a different kind in Preeti’s latest. The two key protagonists – Aniket and Nidhi- simultaneously in their voice narrate their version of the same story.

The big letdown was the way the book ended. The final unraveling was pretty clichéd and predictable. Spoiler Alert!!! There wasn’t any explanation on the mental state and turmoil of Trisha and her life. Preeti does bring in a suspense element, yet despite this, the end seemed to be all hurried up and rather inadequate too.

I wouldn’t really call “It’s All in the Planets” a disappointment! I have read an earlier book of hers, “It Happens For a Reason” (Read the review here) and wasn’t too happy with it.

But with this latest, Preeti has definitely managed to bring in a decent read. Not really a great piece of literature, but definitely worth a read.  A quick and light book that’s perfect for a lazy weekend.

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A Forgotten Affair- By Kanchana Banerjee

A Forgotten Affair -By Kanchana Banerjee

A Forgotten Affair -By Kanchana Banerjee

“Sometimes you need to forget everything to recognize what matters the most….” One of those lines that would linger long in your mind, as you read A Forgotten Affair.

How would it feel to wake up one fine morning to realize that you absolutely have no idea about who you are, or where you are from? Sagarika Mehta is in one such complex situation in her life. A victim of the Mumbai bomb blasts, she wakes up from a deep coma, in the hospital only to realize that she has no memory at all of her past. Who was she? What was she like and who are the people she knew?

Reeling under the pressure of getting to know herself and those around her, Sagarika, finds herself whisked away to an altogether new place- Gurgaon- by her husband. He insists she starts life afresh. But does this really give her the answers she is desperately seeking? On the contrary she is loaded with more questions- What has she forgotten?

A debut novel by Kanchana Banerjee, A Forgotten Affair is a face paced fiction. It is the tale of the young and vivacious Sagarika Mehta, who is trying hard to piece together her life that seems crazier than a jigsaw puzzle. Would she be able to? And in the process what more does she discover?

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After writing feature articles for various publications, PR firms and companies for nearly two decades, Kanchana Banerjee decided to pursue her long cherished dream – to write a novel. She holds a master’s degree in English from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. She lives in Gurgaon with her husband, son and two dogs, Archie and Casper. A Forgotten Affair is her first novel.

As important as it is to have an interesting storyline, it is also necessary for authors to be able to put that storyline across to readers in an effective way. And Kanchana Banerjee scores high in bringing out the best out of the story. Superbly narrated and well-paced, the book leaves you guessing and, as you flip through the pages soaking in every bit of the narration, you are left enthralled.

Kanchana leads you into Sagarika’s world, which is as much unknown to you as it is to Sagarika. You journey with her, meeting friends and acquaintances, getting a glimpse into what her life before the accident was like. With elements of suspense well blended, you are led from Sagarika’s present to past seamlessly. No over the top dramatization and as you near the end of the book you as a reader are convincingly ably to piece together the two worlds of Sagarika.

With brilliant characterization A Forgotten Affair explores the various dimensions of relationships. It explores the beautiful friendship between Roohi and Sagarika. It brings out what it is to be in an abusive relationship. It brings out real love in a relationship.

A well packaged book-not to forget the lovely cover design. If you love contemporary fiction, then this book is a must read. Definitely Kanchana Banerjee is an author to look forward to in the future days to come.

Book Review- A Broken Man by Akash Verma

Book Review- A Broken Man by Akash Verma

What’s our country like? Look beyond the glitz and glamour of the metros, and you would find a nation plagued by discrimination, caste systems and political skirmishes. And bringing out these very shades of the country is Akash Verma’s love saga – A Broken Man.

Akash Verma, based out of Gurgaon, India has authored two bestsellers till now- It Happened that Night and Three Times Loser. His work has taken him across the country and this travel experience of his reflects in his writing.

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A Broken Man delves deep into the lives of Krishna and Chhavi- two young souls who meet in a politically charged environment of the Lucknow University Campus. From the upper echelons of society, Chhavi is the intelligent and pretty Brahmin girl who falls in love with the humble Dalit boy Krishna, from an obscure village in Bihar. Hardships and poverty are part and parcel of his life. But destiny brings them closer and nothing really can pull them apart. For Krishna, she is an inspiration to pursue his dreams, of writing. For Chhavi, Krishna is the simple and honest boy she has always been in search of. She propagates equality and is seldom affected by the caste and status of Krishna. But will the same destiny that got them together give them a future? A Broken Man is this quest of a poor and deprived Krishna who goes in search of hope, love and a meaning to his life.

A simple story, sans sub plots, sure does give A Broken Man an edge. Yet, it did seem to be yet another class based love story, which one has read earlier in books or seen in movies. What really scores for Verma, is the simplicity in his narration. It was raw and real. No superfluous language or out of the box characters. Chhavi and Krishna, the two main characters of the book are believable personalities – ones you would encounter anywhere around. I liked the fact that issues such as reservation, corruption and politics were addressed, blending well with the main story. Did notice a few minor glitches of editing though.

 Take a deep breath before you are born here, my child! You take birth in a land where I struggled; Gave it my sweat and blood. A land that I thought belonged to me..… Unbridled, uncompromising.”

-From A Broken Man

Love goes beyond boundaries- of religion, caste, creed and nations. But the pain of separation grows deep within. A Broken Man with its straight forward story line may well be worth a  read, if you enjoy reading about India, want a light read and

Book Review: The Extraordinary Consciousness of an Ordinary Man

Book Review: The Extraordinary Consciousness of an Ordinary Man

Genre- Spiritual Fiction

Gopal Banerjee is just like you and me. A simple man, he loves his profession, the money he makes and generally content dealing with the rigmaroles of daily living. Until… he encounters… the great “Maya Devi”…..

If you are keen on a soul-stirring book on spirituality and the thoughts that come with it, here is a new read – “The Extraordinary Consciousness of an Ordinary Man” by a relatively new author, Roy. I didn’t know much about the author until I picked up the book. On initial thought the name of the author by itself, seemed to carry a certain element of mysticism. Nevertheless, thanks to Google searches, I could get a decent dose of information about him.

Roy- The author, an advertising creative writer, has spent four long years penning this book.  From a quaint village in Goa, his quest to complete the book, made him revisit his past, dig into a couple of not so pleasant experiences and open up his Pandora’s Box of memories.  The Extraordinary Consciousness of an Ordinary Man is his first book, and answers some of the biggest questions which we have all asked at some point in our lives. Questions that are often mystical, which we seldom understand, yet they remain deep within our consciousness.

THE KNOWLEDGE WITHIN US AND THE KNOWLEDGE AROUND US FORMS OUR CONSCIOUSNESS.

The story begins from a simple question that is asked by a stranger to Gopal Banerjee on a flight from New York to Mumbai. And thus begins a fantastical journey for him.  An unknown Himalayan yogi mysteriously appears and teaches him an intense and forgotten yoga which he practices sincerely in the loud and bustling Mumbai city. But the yoga unleashes a power so profound that he plunges into a bizarre madness and falls into the clutches of the fabled Hindu goddess of illusion Maya Devi. His only way out of this mythical insanity is to dive deep into the knowledge and mystical lives of his Hindu ancestors who walked the earth in a very distant past. He is plagued by doubt, rattled by chaos and teased by hope. Will the young yogi be subdued by Maya Devi’s countless confusions or will she lift her veil and grant him a consciousness that is extraordinary?

Gopal is one of those individuals who is influenced by modern education and all that comes with it. He seeks a scientific explanation and proof for almost everything in life. Having grown up watching his mom perform staunch Hindu rituals, he detests them all, as most of it seldom made much sense to him. As the narrative unravels, Gopal’s identity as an atheist merges with the illusion of the fabled Goddess. He confronts his delusions, weaknesses and unaccountable desires. And thereby begins his journey of discovering himself.  

Roy has a convincing style in his narration. Most of us understand logic pretty well in life. But what about  beliefs? Roy considers this a subtle force and explains the extraordinary co-relation between logic and belief. If logic is right, you will believe it and if the belief is right you will find the logic for it. The book flows with this thought. The writing is simple, with light humor strewn between the lines.

However, despite this, I wished he could have kept the storyline crisper. The book could seem a bit lengthy with its 380 odd pages.

The Extraordinary Consciousness of an Ordinary Man is a book with a one of a kind perspective on ancient people and ideas. Soul- stirring that would help you connect with your inner self. Pick it up if you wish to have those mystical questions in your consciousness answered.

Fiction Fondess #AtoZChallenge

Fiction Fondess #AtoZChallenge

fFiction and fiction writers in India are the kinds who are always popular. Apart from the numerous fiction readers the country proudly boasts of, the recent past has also seen a gradual rise in the number of English fiction writers. But if there is one writer from among the long list of Indian writers, I had to pick, it would be the much loved Indian author Ruskin Bond.

Predominantly known as a children’s author, Ruskin has a great number of novels, short stories and poetry that would appeal to the young and old alike. His writing is as fresh as the mountain dew, and is a kind of reflection of his love for the Himalayas. Ruskin’s profound love for his own birth place-Dehradun- and his passion for literature are the treasure of his life. So powerful is his pen run that they could carry you away to far of lands, give you the pleasure to feel the morning mist, and smell the wet sand after the rains. That’s Ruskin bond bringing in nature in every bit of his writing.

I was introduced to the world of Ruskin Bond through my class 8 English Literature text book. I still remember “Thembu”, the little mountain boy in the story “The Tiger in the Tunnel”. So intrigued was I by this little story, that by the age of fifteen, I had practically read all of Ruskin’s short stories. I have preserved the entire collection till date.

And yesterday, as I sat reminiscing through the pages of these books, something fell out. It was a letter I had received from Ruskin Bond himself in the year 1999, in response to an appreciation I had sent him. Such a blissful feeling to read it even today.

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Have a look.

So who is your favorite fiction writer?

This is a part of my journey exploring 26 lesser known shades of a country called India, with the #AtoZChallenge 2016!!!

It Happens For a Reason-Preeti Shenoy

It Happens For a Reason-Preeti Shenoy

Preeti Shenoy- Yes, she is an author I have been hearing a lot about. Her books are being discussed in the online circuit, she’s been nominated for the Forbes List of the 100 most influential celebrities of India since 2013 and, she is a blogger-turned-author. Ah ha! Now this last bit of info made me sit up.

And I read “It Happens for a Reason”! (Yawn Yawn Yawn….)

Let’s get to Vee, aka Vipasha. As a single mom, Vee juggles between her home run centre- “Paw Factor” for canines, and her job at the gym, to take care of her boy Aryan, born out of wedlock.  Way too simple, Vee seldom pays attention to her dressing, or looks (or the smell of dogs). Yet her pushy friend Suchi seldom gives up on her, and tries to fix her up with “eligible” men, to settle down in life. Vee on the other hand, isn’t too keen, given her busy schedule and the bitterness left behind by the man in her life Ankush. When on a bad day, over a few glasses of wine, Vee pours out her heart about her past life to Saurabh the quirky vet, she secretly develops an uncanny fondness for him. That’s when out of the blue, Ankush comes back into her life….

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The plot sure doesn’t seem to be breath taking or fresh. Infact, to me it was just another run-of-the mill Bollywood styled writing. Did I find some likeness to the erstwhile hit movie Julie? But anyways, a simple plot as it may seem, writing a love story/drama about the life of a single mother, involves bringing in greater depth to the characters, to their thought processes, their approaches to life and their other relationships and perspectives. Preeti’s book has practically done justification to none. What were Vee’s apprehensions about her future and life? Did she have lonely moments? Did thoughts of Ankush come up often? Emphases on these points have not been adequately done.

After a considerable number of pages with pointless narration and sub plots, Preeti brings Ankush back into Vee’s life. The chemistry between the two during the second half yet again has been completely ignored. Infact Ankush’s characterization seems to have been given least importance. Who was Ankush? (Apart from his professional background) What was his predicament, to walk out on Vee? The climax of the book too is a total let down. Very predictable.

I always feel when an author is writing a love story, he has to make readers believe in it. Readers must be able to relate to it. And this is where Preeti has failed in the book. Plain narration, in a typical school essay style, the writing does not keep you hooked for a long time. I ended up yawning quite a bit and flipped through most pages with extreme ease.

There aren’t many reasons to pick up the book “It Happens for a Reason”. Not a great work from a popular/ bestselling author. One might as well pick up a glossy magazine instead.