“Whether they are on the hills or the city, no one will tell her who to hate.”

“She felt an enveloping happiness to be alive, a joy made stronger by the certainty that someday it would all come to an end. Afterward she felt a little foolish, and never spoke to anyone about it.
Now, however, she knows she wasn’t being foolish. She realizes that for no particular reason she stumbled into the core of what it is to be human. It’s a rare gift to under stand that you life is wondrous, and that it won’t last forever.”

The love for life, to be able to be alive seems so common an idea that we are used to take it for granted. While we celebrated love, the terrorist attack in Pulwama resulted in the death of several soldiers of the Indian Army. And now, in our desire for vengence we have lowered ourselves to denigrating an entire religion and brought upon ourselves communal hatred. We are doing exactly what “the men on the hills” want us to do; we are letting them decide for us whom to hate, and this is absolutely unacceptable.

I read this book last year, but some of its lines have been coming back to me for these past few days.

A man comes out of his apartment everyday at 4 o’clock, unfolds his stool on the spot where a shell had killed 22 people standing in a que to buy some bread, sits down and plays his cello. Regardless of the shelling, the ongoing war around him, he plays on and on. This goes on for 22 long days; after his last performance he drops his bow on the ever-growing pile of flowers near the indentation where the mortar fell, and breaks down. Revolving around this seemingly inconsequential act of defiance are the lives of the three protagonists – Kenan, Dragan and Arrow.

While the men on the hills are hell bent on wrecking their physical and moral spirit, the cellist, emerging from underneath the rubble, comes across as the sole guardian of hope, keeping alive its shaky flames from the forces of darkness. He plays Albinoni’s Adagio, sitting in the open, in the direct line of a targeting sniper. He tries his utmost to fight the deep dark despair and keep it, restrain it from engulfing whatever little is left of the city and its residents. While everyone and everything is fixated on the sole purpose of wringing out the last drops of humanity still pervading their senses, the 3 of them try and retain their wavering sanity, their ideals, the mutual love and respect they have for everyone.

The intense turmoil raging within them reaches a decisive end with the Cellist’s last notes. As the notes fade into the distance amidst the screeching of shells and wailing of the victims, it plants an idea in their conscience. The idea not to bow down to the will of the men on the hills, the idea that they would not be told by anyone about whom to hate, the idea to not loose the grip on life, the idea to be alive once again, they’ve “heard what there was to hear. It was enough.” All of their actions converge with this incident and sets rolling the ball of hope, faith, beauty, love and solidarity. Kenan sets off towards the brewery unafraid, Dragan crosses the intersection at a leisurely pace, Arrow refuses to target a civilian of the opposing side in spite of her superior’s orders. She lays down her rifle beside the cellist’s bow because she realizes – “She didn’t have to be filled with hatred. The music demanded that she remembers this, that she knows to a certainty that the world still held the capacity for goodness.”

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Book Review – Song of Life, A poetic retelling of Mahabharata by Anuradha Singh

  • Title – Song of Life, A poetic retelling of Mahabharata
  • Author – Anuradha Singh
  • No. of pages – 36

Blurb – Mahabharata, India’s legacy, longest written poetry, stories interlinked into each other, with so many characters, events and places. Each character has a role to play, which is vital for the story to go ahead. This Mahakavya, which is written by Krishnadwaipayana Vyasa is imprinted on Indian mind. It has been translated world wide, every region of India has its own narration, interpretation and connection with Mahabharata. In song of life the author has created poetry which can be read and understood easily by young generation who have not read or heard of Mahabharata much. Along with the young even the elders can read and relish the easy flowing poetry of the verve.

All of us are more or less familiar with the basic storyline of the great Indian epic Mahabharata. Since childhood I have read, heard, seen numerous retellings of the Mahabharata and every time it has opened up new vistas for me. The fact that this book, a magnanimous work both in scale and grandeur, curated eons ago, never fails to pique our curiosity even today because –

“It’s a song of love, compassion, loyalty and integrity

But not only that, it also has strains of politics, Law, vengeance and war

Families, brotherhood, nationalism, society,

Conspiracy and trust have not escaped its tune.” (Song of Life by Anuradha Singh)

And here lies the key to its ever heightening success. The fact that it enlightens the human mind with lessons on love, compassion and morality while it also reminds us of war, hatred, revenge makes it all the more relevant, provided the present socio-political scenario.

This huge mountain of a work has been retold poetically by the author Anuradha Singh and I want to commend her for undertaking such a daunting task. Compressing the entire thing into a 36 pages long poem is no easy job and this in turn has its own share of flaws. Putting this aside, the author has done a pretty good job; the simple, lucid tone helps the reader in absorbing the idea easily. I would recommend this to people who wish to know the basic idea of the Mahabharata and also enjoy the easy flow of poetry.

Click here to purchase the book – Song of Life: A Poetic Retelling of Mahabharatha https://www.amazon.in/dp/B07NCQ9HN7/

Book Review – Patna Blues by Abdullah Pandari

Title – Patna Blues

Author – Abdullah Pandari

No. of pages – 296

Genre – Fiction

Publisher – Juggernaut

Blurb – Arif is the son of a sub-inspector in Patna. His once prosperous landowning family has slipped low down the class ladder. Arif ’s sole ambition in life is to crack the civil service examination and become an IAS officer. He believes this will restore the family’s fortunes and works hard at his studies. Until his first glimpse of Sumitra, a voluptuous long-haired beauty. Married, Hindu and several years older than him, she is wrong for him in every way. It is the beginning of an infatuation that will consume his life.

“Sirf ehsaas hai ye rooh se mahsoos karo

Pyaar ko pyaar hi rahne do koi naam na do”

(This is a feeling and your soul can feel it

Let love be love, don’t give it any name)

I’m sure we’ve all felt this way sometime, wanting something we should not. But then how do you realize that it is something beyond you? How much of it is an excess? Do you rely on your own instincts and emotions or follow the voice of reason spearheaded by your society and surrounding? Seems to be a tough choice.

Debut author Abdullah Pandari has presented this conflict between emotion and reason through the protagonist of his book Patna Blues, Arif Khan. His dream of becoming an IAS officer gets interwined with his desire for Sumitra, a Hindu married woman. Their mutual love for Urdu poetry tightens this bond and builds a sense camaraderie between them. Keeping this as the main storyline, the author weaves an intricate tale which spans over a vast range of social and political issues – demolition of the Babri Masjid, hate crimes against both Hindus and Muslims, inciting people of one religion against those of others for political gain. This upheaval, engulfing everything, takes hold of Arif’s aspirations and also affects his family. He finds himself as a person bent beneath the burden of his own fate, whose hopes have been crushed severely and who is only on the look out for a means for survival. This turmoil raging in his mind and being has been portrayed brilliantly by the author who has divided it into four sections. Arif’s Dream has to cross the hurdle named Desire, undergo Grief and finally face Destiny. The entire process is extremely fluent, to which has been added the sheer beauty of Urdu poetry. The ending will leave behind a bittersweet tinge and you will be left grappling for more, hungry for a slice of the characters’ lives.

I would like to thank the author for providing me with an opportunity to read and review this book and also for bearing with me for such a long time.

Click on the link to buy the book – Patna Blues https://www.amazon.in/dp/9386228831/

Book Review – Trade and Grow Rich: Adventurous Journey to Successful Trading by Indrazith Shantharaj and Kirankumar Nayak

  • Title – Trade and Grow Rich: Adventurous Journey to Successful Trading
  • AuthorsIndrazith Shantharaj and Kirankumar Nayak
  • No. of pages – 172
  • Genre – Non-fiction
  • Publisher – Notion Press

Blurb –

Is it your personal quest to find out what has made some traders so successful?

Why do 5% of traders take all the money from 95% of losers?
The answer is nothing less than a revelation!
The authors of this book have formulated their journey of studying some of the most successful traders in the world into concise principles that, when acted upon, can help one achieve their dream to become a successful trader.
For over a decade, the authors have studied the world’s successful traders. Based on their learnings, they started practicing it and are now part of the 5%.
Trade and Grow Rich teaches not just concepts but also methods with the help of anecdotes. This book has to be read one chapter at a time, rather than just being a one-time read.
If you want to enjoy an adventurous journey to become a successful trader, then this is the book you are looking for!

“The number one reason most people don’t get what they want is that they don’t know what they want!” – T. Harv Ekear

Trade and Grow Rich by Indrazith Shantaraj and Kirankumar Nayak elucidates this point with great emphasis and prepares the reader from the onset for the “big bad world out there”, where one needs to rely more on hardwork than on mere luck for success, both professionally and financially.

The author duo have indeed done a commendable job with the way they have blended the hard facts of the super-competitive world of trade with just the right amount of fiction and little tidbits from the lives of some famous personalities in this field. This helps to make the reader feel at ease and encourages him/her, since we usually have the tendency to galvanize more towards the world of rose-tinted tales (even if they are representations of reality) than face the ground reality. Some of the informations provided have neen substantiated by graphs and charts and this really helps one to understand the basics and also perceive the importance of the situation. A tremendously important point that the authors constantly harp upon is the clear distinction between sheer determination, hard work and downright gamble. Moreover, they alert the readers who have their eyes set wholly on the money and warn them that without the passion and perseverance all their effort would fall flat on its face.

Written in an extremely lucid manner, this book will be a great help for both the old players and also the aspiring traders learning the ropes of the art. All the techniques and strategies, the pros and cons of the business have been laid bare before the reader with such simplicity that even the amateur is bound to be left satisfied. Anyone preparing to “Plan the Trade, Trade the Plan” should definitely pick this book up and give whatever it has to say serious thought.

Order it now from – Trade and Grow Rich: Adventurous Journey to Successful Trading https://www.amazon.in/dp/1948032201/

Book Review – Elephants In The Room by Suraj Laxminarayanan

  • Title – Elephants in The Room
  • Author – Suraj Laxminarayanan
  • Publisher – The Write Place
  • Genre – Fiction
  • No. of pages – 600

Blurb –

A ragtag group of friends are planning a bank heist to end their cash crunch. Novices to crime, they are driven more by emotions than skill – their plan seems fool proof, or so they think.

In another part of the city, a gang of seasoned dacoits has botched up a job and now owes money to the local crime lord. They have to either pay up or pay for it with their lives – and time is running out…

In a bizarre twist of fate, both these groups are brought face-to-face. Trapped in a situation beyond the realm of their planning and experience, they must think on their feet, form quick alliances and rally behind an unlikely leader.

Set against the backdrop of Chennai, where men sing gaana songs in kuppams (fishing hamlets) nestled against swanky glass-fronted buildings and life-size cut-outs of film stars and politicians, a story of love, greed, friendship, fate and the absurdity of the human condition unfolds.

The first impression you might have on picking up this book has to be completely altered once you reach the last page. Although it might seem to be a simple story about a bank heist and robbery, it is multi-layered and can be interpreted on several levels. Dealing with some serious issues like extreme poverty and what it impels a person towards in the present society, Elephants In The Room borders on being humorous and witty and has a sarcastic note. There is also a ring of freshness attached to it.

Though it seems to be a crime novel, it delves deep into the human psychology and leaves you unsettled with some pretty interesting and unforseen turn of events. At some point it appears to be a guessing game wherein the author keeps baiting you. The author has indulged in a lot of descriptions which provide a perfect picture of the situations and the characters. The writing style is crisp and has the ability to arrest the reader’s attention.

The cultural references sprinkled throughout the story by the author adds to the flavour and enlightens you with some terms and traditions of Chennai. In describing the events the author brings out the different shades of Chennai and the way it has been interwined with the daily lives of the people. Divided into four different parts, the plot moves sequentially and has been presented intricately by the author who captures the minuteest of details. However, being about 600 pages long, sometimes it seems to drag on a bit and wavers your interest from the point.

Order the book now from – ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM https://www.amazon.in/dp/9387282422/

Book Review – ENDURER A RAPE STORY by Kapil Raj

Blurb – Life was a fun fed roller coaster: New found love, drugs, cat-fights, patch ups, crushes, night hangouts, and unplanned trips. Like any girl, not in the wildest dream, Palak could imagine that after attending a Rave Party, she will wake up to the horror of finding herself raped.

In traumatic conditions and struggle between sanity and hallucinations, she is compelled by the circumstances to leave her world. Already fighting a war within, her stances take a toll witnessing horrifying tales of women and girls. Little did she know that this catastrophe was not enough for one lifetime, and a storm – was just cooling its heels.

Will she be able to carve her path while facing the rapists, her tyrant father, appearances of her passed away mother? Should Palak let her life to be decided by people, society, and taboos? Would justice return her life or revenge lend her peace?

A heart-rending story of a girl, whose beliefs and honor has been battered, stands up to make choices, rediscovering the meaning of life.

Written in the first person, Endurer A Rape Story is an absolutely realistic portrayal of a bubbly young girl who is pulled down to face the harsh realities and has to go through severe ordeals to seek justice (revenge) after she has been raped. Added to that is the emotional baggage that she has to carry around owing to her farce of a family. Yes. This is the most basic summing up of the book. But, don’t let yourselves be deceived by this exceedingly straightforward account.

A huge thank you to the author for giving me a chance to read and review this wonderful book. The gorgeous front cover itself is quite promising. Author Kapil Raj weaves an engrossing tale that is pretty well laden with implications and invites the reader to relate with the letters on the pages and he simply nails it. The purely personal tone of the narrative never fails to amaze the reader, while it strips off all pretensions and presents the bare hard hitting reality. The daily life of a teenage girl who is slowly stepping into the threshold of adulthood is painted vividly with all the characters built up in bright splashes. It raises a whole lot of pertinent questions that are someway or the order hushed up in the world all around us and once again points out the ever tightening noose of patriarchy that treats women as nothing but meagre objects.

Though at some points things might seem a bit cliched (after all that is the way reality is), this is indeed an engaging piece of work.

Book Review – Dead To Them by Smita Bhattacharya

Blurb – Moira Madhwa is the typical young, beautiful and successful urban woman until the day she goes missing. Her friends start looking for her, but quickly realize nothing is as it seems. Moira had kept devastating secrets—secrets that could wreck their lives if revealed. As days roll by, one by one, skeletons tumble out of closets, and each of Moira’s friends’ looks guilty. But did one among them hate her enough to do the worst? A nail-biting, psychological suspense thriller, Dead to Them weaves a web of deception, lies, and paranoia in the city of Mumbai, where every face hides a dark story and uncovering it can lead to disastrous consequences.

You wake up one fine morning only to learn that your best friend, the very person who is/was pivotal to your existence, the one to whom you disclosed every hidden secret and who is party to all of your darkest desires and fantasies, has disappeared into thin air. Yes. You heard me right. It seems she/he has disappeared into thin air and all trails lead to dead ends, which in turn points out that such a person does not exist. What would you do? Would you go on sniffing up trails in vain? Or, will the person be dead to you?

Firstly, I would like to thank the author for providing me with an opportunity to read and review this mind-boggling book. About 6/7 pages in, I was hooked to it and this went on till I reached page 268. Well, this is certainly not your average whodunnit.

This tightly packed psychotic thriller succeeds in presenting a well chalked out story of friendship, love, betrayal, deception where everyone is different than what merely meets the eye. The characters are equally well drawn, sometimes vibrant and highlighted by a fiery streak, while they attempt to stash away their secrets and keep them well concealed. The author has built them up with such care and detail that all of them appear to contribute heavily in the weaving of this intricate tale. The narrative, yielding the power to draw you in and turn you into a confidant, leads you on to cul-de-sacs and all the while you are left guessing. What amused me to some extent was the partly humorous partly downcast tone adopted by the author to relate the events. Halfway through the book, you might start finding it a bit predictable, but there lies the fun and the final events turn out to be something pretty far removed from all that you have been building up. Although the cover page, with the picture of an ominous gravestone, appears to mislead you in all of your assumptions, the title seems to hint at an unnatural turn of events.

Dead To Them dwells a lot on the fact that loneliness and inhibitions might compel you to strike up a camaraderie with unlikely people and how they might be playing on your fears and insecurities, while it also treats you to the visuals of a rain-soaked Mumbai. The last line, in all its tongue-in-cheek glory, succeeds in sending shivers down your spine.