Friday, August 19, 2016

Glitter And Gloss



Misha is ‘garrulous, geeky, gawky and gainfully employed’. She works at a small M.A.C store in a mall and is a makeup artist who does models but aspires to do brides some day. She is funny, humorously portrayed; her reasoning will make you laugh out loud. Her parents are modern brained and divorced. Life changes for good when she falls for Akshay, after the many wrong relationships. It seems kind of a fairy tale twist. But she has to be accepted by Didi to be a part of the Agarwal family. So she behaves to be everything that she is not – idealistic Bahu material, pure vegetarian, and sanskari. She spews out so many lies in the process that it will make you as a reader cringe with embarrassment and humiliation and end up rolling over the bed laughing your stomach out!

Akshay is tall and handsome, heir to the Agarwal Jewellers. He is kind to Misha’s misdeeds and loves her to a fault. He is an orphan and regards his elder sister ‘Didi’ and her husband ‘Jeejoo’ as his third parents. I think he is a hundred times more sensible than Misha. ‘Chortle’ has become my favorite word after reading the book. Winks!! I am swooning over the endearments ‘Mishkin’ and ‘KishMish’.

Poulomi is Misha’s bestie. The perfect bestie that every one of us should have! I could relate to Poul a lot. She is caring and still can act badass when things go wrong. Sammy is Misha’s guy roommate owing to their modern living arrangements in Mumbai. He’s fun, kind of a house husband who has a knack for cleanliness and order. He’s a savior in many ways – when Misha needs a listening ear to tattle about her boyfriend issues, when she has nothing to eat, when she forgets to buy groceries. A perfect roommate indeed. Other characters like Didi and Misha’s mom too are quite fun.

I surprisingly love the narration. Yes, I say surprisingly, as I never thought chick-lit was my cup of tea. After reading a few books in the genre, I was almost convinced that this was not meant for me. Thank goodness I picked up ‘Glitter and Gloss’ – many thanks to the author Vibha Batra for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. I loved the way the events are narrated in the book, loved the characters, and the plot too. I enjoyed the Mom meets Didi scene the most. It was hilarious.

Besides the fun and entertainment, the novel subtly draws our attention to the stereotypes prevailing in our society, the mannerisms expected from a bride-to-be and the prejudices everyone has about a perfect family or life. That sends a good message, as Misha is a total opposite of what is expected of her. She accepts herself in the long run, instead of dwelling in others’ acceptance of her.


I would rate this 4/5 stars. 


Vibha Batra is a copywriter by profession and a popular fiction writer too. Her literary pursuits took off when she translated her grandfather Late Shri Vishnu Kant Shastri’s book on the Ishaavaasya Upanishad. Among her recent titles are Sweet Sixteen (Yeah, Right!) and Seventeen And Done (You Bet!), published by Penguin, Tongue in Cheek, a collection of poetry and A Twist of Lime, a collection of short stories. Another collection of short stories, Family Crossword, will be out in October 2015.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Memoir Writing - Family Tales 2



When I was about nine, I practically saw my grandfather’s sister jump into the well. I called her Nanima. I was brushing my teeth, and just happened to go outside, when I saw her take the plunge. I ran to my father and told him, nobody believed me. Then they came with me to check, on repeated forcing and prodding, and saw her swimming inside the well. A swimmer cannot drown. I thought perhaps they knew she was good at swimming and therefore hadn’t paid heed to my words. They wouldn’t take her to a pond (we were in the city, there were no ponds in the city, those luxuries only existed in the village), therefore she had jumped into the well – to swim. Then the entire morning was spent in fishing her out of the well, with everyone crying ‘mad woman’ out loud.

She was about eighty nine years old then, and wasn’t in the right state of her mind. She would quarrel like a child, throw tantrums and accuse all the family members of plotting to murder her. She had grown too sensitive with age. If offered pills for cough or cold, she would shout ‘Don’t give me poison,’ and cry out loud. My father and his brothers treated her well, entertained her whims and fancies, and played her imaginations- I salute their tenacity.

I remember a particular incident when Nanima went missing early in the morning, at dawn. She usually slept on the cot beside my bed. That morning she was not in her favorite cot. She had vanished- not in the bathroom, not in the kitchen, not on the terrace, not in the garden, nowhere to be found! My brothers had already searched for her around the colony and asked the neighbors twice. We panicked, and had almost called the police, when my sister shouted, ‘Here, she is!!’ She was hiding under my bed. We were just so frustrated, oh my god. On being asked why, she said she was hiding from us- I could never understand that reply.

Here’s another. It is a super hit memory of Nanima that even today, our extended family members talk about in almost every gathering, and laugh all over again. Every single time. The memory is of the time before my parents’ marriage. Certain superstition prevailed then in villages that it was very ominous to even accidently see crows mating. You are sure to die in three days. The only way to nullify it was to spread the false news of your death for one day, and reveal the truth the next day. Ridiculous!!

And Nanima did just that. She had her house help send telegram to all the family members posted in different parts of Odissa that she was no more and they were to mourn her death. My father along with his brothers were stunned by the news. They thought how it could happen to someone so hale and hearty. They nevertheless made all the arrangements for the cremation and the funeral procedure. They arrived in the village with friends and family, in jeeps and buses, with loaded fruits and other essentials.

The climax was yet to occur. My father pressed the calling bell. Just imagine who had answered the door. Nanima herself. I can’t even imagine my father’s reaction then. He was pale, stunned, as if he saw a ghost. Hillarious! Then when the entire story was revealed and out to scrutiny, some rolled over in laughter, some shouted ‘I won’t return to the town without cremating you! Die, now!’ and some were just so frustrated by all the futile efforts they made in the purchases and the hectic journey.

Linking this memoir to Write Tribe.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Four Patriots By Sumit Agarwal



Book Blurb:

If you have ever fallen victim to the system, been humiliated, felt helpless… this book is for you.
Varun, a NRI software engineer, loves Alisha. Salman , CEO of Coffee Moments, loves Mahi. Raghav, a virtuous politician, loves Neha. Aditya, an altruist businessman, is married to Prachi. Destiny invites them to step out of their comfort zones and fight the devil that holds their country captive.

Will they choose country over love, comfort and success? Will they enter the Chakravyuh, intricately laid down to ensure their destruction? Will they come out of it alive and win back our lost pride?

Buckle up for a roller-coaster ride into the lives of these four young men who are out to change the system which could not be changed in the last 70 years of independence. A story fraught with romance and patriotism. Also pick this book if you are a patriot and do not believe that ‘is desh ka kuch nahin ho sakta.’ If you do, all the more reason to read it!


My Review:

I thank the author for sending me a copy of the book in return of an honest review. I must confess here, that I did judge the book by its cover, and didn’t expect the plot to interest me so much. And I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was amazed by the brilliancy of the plot that engaged me so easily and heightened my curiosity in bursts through quick and sudden turn of events. I do applaud the writer and the team for bringing forward a book so relevant to our times.

The book deals with all the problems our country currently faces – corruption, poverty, terrorism, naxalites, the Olympics, the taxation, the almost deplorable educational and legal scene, etc. This work of fiction has our country’s facts and general knowledge for public awareness at its core. One will learn a lot from the novel, from Contempt of the Court to the life and cleanliness in Singapore, from the political campaigns and elections to the Indian army. Remember what you felt while watching the Anil Kapur starrer movie Nayak? You will feel the similar kind of euphoria and pride while taking on the journey with the four protagonists.

The prologue is a big winner- it will pique the interest of even the most unlikeliest reader, or the non-reader. The Independence Day terrorist scene propels you directly to the climax of the tale. You just can’t NOT read further.

The Characters:

Aditya worked in an NGO that had ‘clean and green Varanasi’ as one of its main objectives. He uses his engineering knowledge and saves the day by helping prevent any disaster in their Chemical manufacturing factory where chlorine leaks occurs accidentally. This instantly wins you over. Raghav has plans to revamp the education system of the state, especially the primary education. He plans to do something through the country’s political scene by influencing the education ministry. Salman lives with his foster parents in the chawl, whom he loves dearly. His winning streak is when he blatantly opposes the campaigning MLA for his falsely laid promises. Varun works in a software company but is not satisfied in his job. He is a part of an NGO Kalpvruksh, questions the legal system of the country where the poor prisoners’ files are never brought up, while the rich are roaming out free. ‘What is stopping our government, the Law Ministry from creating new posts against the shortfall of judges in our system, and ensuring that none of the existing posts remain vacant?’  Winning streak, indeed!

Fast forward a few years, the four heroes are working shoulder by shoulder with Dr. Sabbarwals, as the core team and cabinet. There’s many more twists and turns- temple funds misutilization, controversies and media coverage, a terrorists scene, my favorite Olympics episode, and many more. A very interesting and riveting read.

Characters are likable, well portrayed through back stories, childhood settings and their own vision. The supporting characters are from different walks of life, add greatly to the story-line. The narrative is good, easy to read and follow. It connects India in a very real sense, from one end to the other, length and breadth. I liked the euphemism used in the names of political parties –Bharatiya Janhit Dal and Naya Bharat Dal.

Any passionate countryman would love this book.  

My Rating : 4/5 stars.


 About the author:

Sumit Agarwal is an IIT-K graduate who is now managing a group of chemical manufacturing industries in Kanpur. He is also a music composer, lyricist, singer and writer. He runs an NGO, Prerna, which is dedicated to the development of a stronger India. He can be reached at:
Facebook Page: sumitsvoice
Twitter handle: sumitagarwal17

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Story of A Suicide - A Review

http://www.storyofasuicide.com/


It is overwhelmingly sad that suicide seems the easiest option to end the humiliation and the sense of being a failure in life, while a helping hand seems so distant. We are losing so many beautiful and deep people every single minute. They might have just needed a tight embrace, a listening ear, and a caring shoulder to change their decision to end their lives. Someone to understand them, instead of mocking or thwarting their decision; to make them realize that the future is more than the pain they see, and death is not the peace or gratification they seek.

The story of a suicide has explored the various reasons behind these hapless self-inflicted deaths. Someone is a jilted lover, someone a gay, someone needing a bit more attention to stopping feeling negligible, someone who feels fake or not successful enough, someone who confuses her worth with perfectionism - giving us a peek into their lives through small chapters, so we can understand them better and empathize with them. No problem can be solved if we do not delve deep. You cannot make a person change his mind unless you yourself dare to wear his shoes to understand him. It is daunting, yet the only way. “You are a wonderful person, dear! Never dare forget that!” a simple thing to say, yet effective enough in boosting one’s self-worth.

So I sit and read the chapters one after another, trying to find an honest understanding of the situation, without judging. I must say this is a totally new kind of story writing by Sriram Ayer.

Plot and Characters:

Sam and Priya are in a relationship that has long lost its essence. Sam keeps busy in his tweets every single opportune minute while Priya craves his attention. She has started to feel stifled in the relationship where her boyfriend has time to be with her but no time to listen to her. She breaks up with him finally, with much difficulty, and pours her heart out in her blog. Meanwhile, Sam is shocked, can’t forget Priya and tries to get along in his new college new academic year.

Hari is adopted by Mr.Hegde’s family- everyone loves him in the family. He is close to his elder sister Anju who  loves him, tries to understand him, price out his deep secrets without judging him. He is gay and has a problem in accepting it. He attends seminars to understand himself and the prospect of any happy future that he might expect.

Sam’s new muse Charu is philosophical- she is awesome in playing the role of Draupadi who meets Caesar- she too has a back-story. Mani who tried to commit suicide hanging himself in his hostel room and was timely saved, too, has a tumultuous past. Each one of the characters does have past demons, which refuse to leave their minds. Mani has memories of physical and emotional abuse by his own father; while Hari hides his own nightmarish flash-backs of sexual abuse suffered as a child.

Sam and Charu grow close, Alex peeks in between. Drama happens. Tweeterati is full on for Sam, the tweeter addict. Charu feels wronged by Sam and makes an audacious Facebook post humiliating Sam before his entire college. Sam seeks his revenge, installs a Trojan app named ‘Jarvis’ in her phone. Cyber crime and climax happen. Hari reveals his traumatic childhood to Mani and seeks solace with him.

I am confused about Mani’s character. I did like him at first, but the sudden gloomy and dark turn of events didn’t leave a good impression of him. You cannot trust anyone, even the seemingly nice person. Sam turns out to be a jealous weird possessive freak. I don’t understand his rapid change of heart multiple times. Hari’s family comes to know that he is gay. He is depressed. His father doesn’t accept him and says that he might need to commit suicide because of him. Sad! Mindset causes such havoc in lives.

Narrative:

I like the different styles of narration that some chapters have. A series of facebook comments, or tweets, or messages. It feels recent and has a college-goer’s touch. I like how the national geographic channel’s commentary, or certain anecdote, or a newspiece are used as analogies to the character’s real life situations. Some chapters have great dialogues, one of them is ‘Caesar meets Draupadi’- it was very enjoyable theater experience. ‘The dance of Death’ has a very elaborate dream sequence. Loved the description. The queen bee episode was horror story cum sensational crime scene. I loved the quote -‘Keep searching, you achieve nothing by staying put, even if you don’t find what you wanted, you would have at least had a journey’ – it almost sums up life.

It has just 26 chapters and one can read it in just a few hours. The story is engrossing and well written. The art accompanying the descriptions in the site also adds essence to the story. It also has an audiobook, one can find it easily on the website. The story has accompanying 'how to..' articles for every single chapter, which are great indeed- realistic advice. 'How do I deal with harassment?' 'How do I help other victims of abuse?' and many others. Do explore. It's quite a creatively interactive storytelling site. 

I think it’s important to surround yourself with positive people, positive facebook newsfeed and draw your own daily dose of inspiration. Life can be messy at times, we need to keep going. We are all here for a reason, so never underestimate your worth. The universe has secret plans for you.



A Story of a Suicide- Family Tales


I haven’t really seen suicide from close quarters. My mother has, though. Her first cousin from Grandma’s side had committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling fan in his room two years back. His life was tough, yes, but nobody had ever guessed that he would take such a drastic step. He had seemed to be accepting his condition and his life.

About five years ago, he was fatally injured in a motorbike accident. His brain had suffered a life threatening hit, and it was almost a miracle that he had survived. Everyone in his family had prayed non-stop for his life, throughout the period that he was in a coma. He had got back his senses after two days, but couldn’t talk- even when he managed to talk, he couldn’t hold a conversation. His brain couldn’t handle more than a few sentences coherently. He couldn’t process things told to him with rapid succession. His speech had become slurred, yet he didn’t realize till many months later. It was as if he talked with a half paralyzed tongue. Relatives started pitying him, he could sense it. They talked to him differently, not because they enjoyed doing so, as was the case before the accident, but because they wanted to comfort him. He was not let to go alone anywhere, except the backyard of the house. The family members offered him constant vigilance. His elder brother became a vegetarian, as he prayed for his betterment perpetually. He felt stifled. But nobody knew the extent of it, till the news of his self-inflicted death reached all.
He had started sitting in a shop that his brother bought for him, doing the finances of the products in the shop. Everyone hoped he could have a life. Years went by. His brother married, his sister-in-law was very loving and caring. Everyone was frank with him now, and made him realize through compassion to accept reality that he couldn’t have a family. His career should be the purpose of his life now. He seemed accepting it, with sadness, but vigor, going about in his chores to the shop to make his day’s profits.
 
Then one day, he told his sister-in-law that he was going to take an afternoon nap, and not to disturb him. Three hours later she was heard banging the doors to wake him up, but found the hanging body instead.
My mother was stunned by the news. She kept up a brave face but crumbled inside. I didn’t know how to react. After a few days, things came to normalcy, but the suddenness of it all still makes us sad.
 
Yesterday I heard another news. It was an old one, about six months old, yet no one had the courage to let me know. It’s about another cousin of my mother, he is about my age, so he is more close to me than he is to my mother. He had one day poured the entire jar of kerosene on himself, and asked for a matchstick from his younger sister after a few minutes since he couldn’t find any. She is about thirteen but was quick to realize why he was dripping wet, and smell so pungent, and timely shouted out for help. They live in a large joint family, so help arrived immediately in guise of fathers who slapped him, mothers who dragged him to the well in the backyard and washed him with lots of soap and water, and siblings who consoled him to make him realize that death is not the answer to every problem in life.
He too has a story that perhaps no one knows till date. He was saved that day, and made a few visits to the psychiatrist, and is almost recovered now from that dark phase. He is preparing for an alternate career now, once again, with focus and dedication. His weird behavior started a year earlier when he was staying in Delhi preparing for competitive exams. He started visiting the railway stations and gazing the incoming trains continuously. Perhaps he was planning to jump in front of one. His friends suspected something amiss and informed his family in Odisha. His brother went and brought him home. Everyone was tensed about what might have happened, he didn’t share anything even after too much prodding, so they just let him be. Today they are just so thankful that he is safe, and that moment of wrong decision didn’t turn out to be tragic or irreversible.
 
Being surrounded with such family stories, and reading thestoryofasuicide has made me want to be vigilant to minds plotting their own doom. It is sad, very sad. I hope this story reaches all those who need to read it.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Are You a Sponge- Just Like Me ?



I can perhaps pick up vibes and aura of the people around me- as if I am a sponge. I just tend to know who thinks what about me. I just know who dislikes me, disgusts me, hates me, likes me, loves me, bears contempt for me, is jealous of me, is surprised/ intrigued/ annoyed or disappointed by me. I hate it. I hate this knowing. It makes me so uncomfortable. It is to my advantage, I know, but still, it is so uncomfortable and sad.

Every time I get that look from my current teammate, I can sense his mocking dislike and absolute ignorance of me, even from the farthest end of the floor. It makes me question my own identity, my importance, and whether I am that negligible. This feeling of a fleeting moment enlarges inside my mind and results in an entire day of discomfort. I don’t know any way of detachment, other than ignoring it altogether, which is very difficult. A cry break does me good, but the chain of events repeat themselves again some other day.

Maybe it’s because I am too quiet for a corporate professional, even though a fresher. I am almost always quiet; perpetually afraid when talking to seniors; and almost a social sabotage in team parties where I just smile, listen, and laugh. I am so much overwhelmed by the number of people that I just can’t seem to add anything valid or interesting to the conversations going on.

But then, only when you are rubbed you discover your own strengths. Only through discomfort and tension can you improve, when your patience and resolve is tested.


Here’s hoping everything goes well in the end. Everything happens for a reason. When I look back after years, I hope I can connect these dots.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Book I Couldn't Finish



I like reading Classics, now-a-days. So this June I tried reading ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte. Almost halfway through the book, I realized, this is a weird one. I am not able to pinpoint the kind of emotions and feelings this book seems to have burdened me with. Yes, ‘burdened’ is the word. And mind you, this is the review for the half of the book that I managed to read. I left the rest unread; not every book you start is meant to be completed and this is one of those.

First, let us cover the positive aspects of the novel. It is a very passionately written book. Every dialogue oozes with passion; every scene or situation, however lovely or wretched, throbs with unparalleled passion. There’s passion in hate; passion in holding onto grudges; passion in blame, in regret, in murderous revenge, in spiteful words, in bewildered sentiments, in love that peeps in and out amidst all these.

I didn’t like the female protagonist, Catherine. Neither did I like Heathcliff, the male protagonist. Well, on further analysis, I think there are just no protagonists in the story, just antagonists. But, surprisingly, they both managed to make me almost addicted to the story. I read on out of sheer curiosity, just to know what happens next, and what the fate of the characters ultimately becomes. The setting is gloomy, gothic, sad, dark, and tragic. It is a tragedy from the beginning to the end.  
Catherine is always ‘extreme’ in everything- fierce in love, furious in anger, and self-destroying in sadness and lament. I disliked her- this is perhaps the first time I disliked a character, that too in a classic. She’s a brat, throws tantrums, wants the world to revolve around her and disregards her own heart(feelings for Heathcliff). Her death occurs halfway through the book. It’s tragic. She succumbs to her own madness, irrational grudges, and unquenched rage towards her fate. She is a mad, enigmatic character- a despicable one, the uncanny one, the unlikely protagonist.

Heathcliff is mad as well. He is always bent on revenge. His life is dark, and gloomy from the very beginning when he is adopted by old Mr.Earnshaw (Catherine’s father). The entire family treats him like an outcast or a servant except Mr. Earnshaw and Catherine. Her brother Hindley treats him rashly, without any regard. Heathcliff bears seeds of hatred and revenge towards Hindley since early childhood. He is disappointed by the way people looked down on him. One day Catherine confesses her love for him to Mrs. Dean (their housekeeper and our narrator) and also her unwillingness to marry the outcast for the fear of the society. Heathcliff overhears this and is hurt beyond repair. The heart-wrenching fate of the characters begins from this very moment. He left Wuthering Heights for three years.

After three years when Heathcliff returns, Catherine is married to Linton. He stays at Wuthering Heights with Hindley and starts with his long overdue plans for revenge. He visits ThrushCross Grange often- Catherine is always pleased to meet him, but this creates a rift in her married life. But again, owing to the madness streak in Emily Bronte’s characters, Heathcliff runs away with Isabella- Catherine’s sister-in-law, and marries with her- even though he solely loves Catherine. Reason? To spite her. Weird!


I left off the book a few chapters after baby Catherine was born, and mother Catherine was dead. Dark. Dark. Gloomy. Tragic. I could almost feel that the tragedy and initial madness was about to repeat itself. And I left it off. Not all books are to be swallowed. Though I am still confused whether I liked the taste of this one or not, I just couldn't swallow it.