Thursday, March 27, 2014

Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I completed "Palace of Illusions" by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni today. Its a narration of one of the greatest epic of Indian Mythology "Mahabharat" but from the point of view of its most famous female protagonist , who was somewhat responsible (read destined) for causing the greatest war that the Indian subcontinent ever had changing its landscape forever, Draupadi or Paanchali.
Although Sita , who was part of the other Indian epic Ramayana  is more revered and enjoy a stature of Goddess , I find more fascination in the character of Draupadi , more so because she is more humane. I have a little more inclination towards characters who have more human traits than to people who are God (except of course Sachin Tendulkar). Also I do have a inclination towards reading stuffs which are more of a  first hand account rather than some third person narration.
So ever since my friend told me that there are books which narrate the epic from a characters point of view and that too from that of Draupadi , I quickly jump to search for the same. Although I picked up this book reading its review and popularity on Goodreads , I somehow still hope that there is a even better book than this on this subject.
So as you can sense I am not that much impressed by this book and hope to come across a more well written and put forth one.
Draupadi was the daughter of King Drupad who was the ruler of Panchala . Drupad was humiliated by his dear friend and tutor of Pandavas Drona, after he refused to acknowledge a promise he made to Drona. So in order to avenge that humiliation Drupad organised a Yagya to have a male child who will kill Drona. From that yagya ,apart from the male child also came a female child, Draupadi, who was prophesied to change the history of the continent and thus will be instrumental for the epic war "Mahabharat"
Palace of Illusions is a book which captures all the events that happened in that epic and narrates it from the point of view of Draupadi. So right from the Yagya til she died , the book narrates what all part she played in it and most importantly what was her state of mind during all these times.
Since it is a woman we are talking about here, the level of emotions depicted are vast ranging from desires, love, lust, jealousy, happiness, agony ,humiliation, sadness, despair , affection and so forth and so many.
A war from a Man's point may contain more valor, courage and avenge but when you put it from a woman's perspective you add certain more humane emotions of sympathy and jealousy.
Whats good in this book ?
Well, since its written by a woman , of a woman and from a woman, it does provide you a more humane and emotionally rich perspective of the epic stories or legends that we Indians have so grown up with. The way the relationships are woven between Draupadi and her brother, with her Dai Maa, with her husbands, with her Mother in law Kunti, her elders like Bheeshma and more so ever with Krishna are quite commendable and believable.
One thing that makes me admire the humane quality of her is the fact is that I never found her suppressing the emotions or the desires that she experiences . In our Indian culture, woman are brought up to behave in a certain manner , with a certain second class citizen nature where they are taught that the male in their lives are their supreme commander so naturally the women feel oppressed and portray a fake character of as if they are contented with whatever their fate is but in truth all of them have many hidden desires. So in conventional terms you may call Draupadi rebellious but I find her "Real".
This book portrays her that trait beautifully , whether it is questioning the elders or harshly speaking her mind despite the norms saying that a woman should keep it to herself, working for to get what she wants , manipulating people and even playing the true MIL-SIL duels that's so common in our Indian culture.
Draupadi is depicted as Woman who is short of the regular emotional feelings that we Indians have known woman to have ,say for example a mother's love for her children. She had little or no contact with her 5 sons , Agreed that she had the situation to blame or plainly she was different that's why we are reading about her.
The story told is nothing new as most of us who live in Indian sub continent are well versed on it , so it was a kind of refresher too. One thing that this book mentions which I dint know was that even Draupadi was granted the power to view the battle of Kurukshetra from the tents that was sheltering the woman folks. As per my knowledge this power was only granted to Sanjay, Blind King Dhritarashtra's charioteer , so that he can narrate each day's happenings to the king.
Well what I did not like ?
First of all the comprehension is at times too dramatic thus making it sound more fictitious. Yes its a fiction I know but the art of good writing is to make you read a fiction as if its the most real thing. If I may, I will call  the writer the female version of  Amish (of the Shiva trilogy fame).
Second , yes it was a known fact that Draupadi adored Karna more than she adored her five husbands but in this book it has been played a time too many to my comfort. Ok I may sound hypocrite with at one time appreciating her speaking her mind and at same time not liking her overflowing love for a man other than her husband. For me it was a touch disrespectful to her but again going with the theme of Draupadi may be apt.
Third, in totality, the book was ordinary. I don't know what I was looking for but it fails to leave a mark. I felt despite the rich flow of emotions there was much more to touch upon. Especially since it was coming from a woman's point of view , there could be more. There was nothing that makes me think, oh that's why she did this or huh so bad on her.
Ok may be I am little over critical as Draupadi may have been different from a stereotypical  female and me having grown in this other culture may find it little unusual to digest and also I have read or heard of these stories so many times that somehow the level of empathy that I should feel on seeing her plight is subdued.
To be honest as I mentioned earlier that I admire her more than Sita , so I would like an ideal woman to have more of her traits and little of Sita's.
I will rate it as 3.5 out of 5 and although not highly recommended but you may read it just for the sake of reading Mahabharat again.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Eagle Has Landed

Well I picked this because I simply loved "The Day of Jackal" by Frederic Forsyth and another of his book and my research of this book told me that Jack Higgins if not better than Frederic is in the same league and Eagle Has Landed surpasses The Day of the Jackal.
Unfortunately whenever you have high expectations from something it generally disappoint, even if if it has been good if not compared.
The story depicts how Hitler orders his General to plan to kidnap Winston Churchil from Britain so that it will turn the tide of the World War II back in favor of Germany and how one of his Major devises the whole plan in which 16 paratroopers were to land in a small coastal village of England where Churchil was planning to spend a quite weekend. The book narates how they prepared to carry out the capture with the help of an old lady who was residing in that small town and was serving Germany as a spy since a long time with the sole hope of causing damage to Britain and an IRA soldier Liam Devlin who reached the village early and made all the arrangements. Like Day of the Jackal this too unfolds a meticulously planned plot which some how fails due to an act of bravery and sacrifice by a German soldier for the people of that village.
Honestly I did not like this book as much as I loved The Day of the Jackal. Yes Jack Higgins is comparable to Frederic Forsyth but the content and execution comes just short off.
Before I come to why so, let me first list down the pros of this book
1. The subject of Adolf Hitler ordering the kidnap of Winston Churchil right in the fag end of World War II is indeed quite fascinating and attractive.
2. Naratives and the charatcers are really admirable and to an extent lovable.
3. Despite it being a war / assassination themed story, there is large scale humane touch in it. It characters make you think that everything is not black and white in war. Even in the enemy ranks there are people who are good and likable.
4. Like I mentioned for The Day of the Jackal, despite you knowing that its a fictious failed attempt you crave for it to succeed.
1. Well the fact that the Day of the Jackal mentions to you in the second page itself that assassination attempt failed ,you still till the last page hoped for them to succeed. But in this book that feeling was not strong enough and you somehow were hoping it to fail sooner than later.
2. The books could had a few more twists and turns :) It looked too plain and simple at times.
3. For me the book failed to keep me revited to it as can be seen from the fact that it took me almost 2 months to finish.
4. Some questions were left unanswered in the end which I would have loved to know about.
Overall I would have give it 3 and 1/2 rating.
I can't say if I would like to read more from this author but as they say you never know when you might fall in love with a book ;)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is 1925 novel by F Scott Fitzgerald
The book was recommended to me by my fellow blogger and friend Maverick and since recently a motion picture was released based on the same, so I was also eager to read it before watching the film.
The book is reminiscent of a classic with its elaborate and almost poetic rendition of nature and surroundings and is considered quite popular for creating and depicting the period before the constitution of the American Dream.
Its the story of an extremely rich guy Jay Gatsby, narrated in the words of his neighbor , Nick Carraway. Nick was a bond salesman who was trying to make his own on the East side of America and Gatsby was his next door neighbor who used to throw lavish parties, full with sea of people every day, which used to run till wee hours of next day. Nick too got invited to one of these parties , where he finds that most of the guests don't know Gatsby and have only heard unconfirmed rumors about his claim to fame and inheritance. 
Nick initially thought that Gatsby was friendly to him due to their common war background but later gets to know that his proximity was more due to the fact that Gatsby once had a small fling with Nick's cousin Daisy in past , who was now married with a kid to Tom Buchanan ; And Gatsby was still in love with her and Nick could be instrumental in getting them together.
So the book covers how their relation and past unfolds leading to intense drama and murder.
To be honest it cannot be termed as a great read but at the same time it had some uniqueness which makes one glued to reading it.
I liked the flow of the story despite the fact that the story has not much to offer. But as I said it had a classic sense of drama which narrates a simple period story at its own comfortable pace. 
The fact that its been told from the perspective of Nick Carraway instead of Gatsby gives an added punch to the book.
I will rate it as a light read and one that should be enjoyed by ardent readers.
Next up will try to see the motion picture to give visual to the imaginations that the book has created.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Black Dahlia

I completed reading The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy.
Its a fictional take on the 1947's still unsolved brutal murder of a young lady in Los Angles. The lady was christened as Black Dahlia because of her customary black outfit seen in her file photos.
The story revolves around two detectives Lee Blanchard and Dwight Bleichert, who start as boxing rivals, then becomes best friends when they start working as partners and then get overly obsessed with the Black Dahlia case which eventually leads to destroying both their personal and police life.
Although an engrossing book that makes you read it till the end, every time you pick it up, but somehow it falls short of creating the suspense and passion that one expects with a crime mystery.
No doubt the book is full of twists and new disclosures every now and then but somehow it fails to stir any awe or shock within me.
The description of the dead body and how the murder was conducted is quite brutal and violent and the flow of the story too is well paced.
Not a highly recommended book but you can give it a try if you feel like reading crime novels.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lajja by Taslima Nasreen

Photo of the copy I was reading

Finally I completed Lajja by Taslima Nasreen and honestly this time it wasn't me but the book and author herself to be blamed for the marathon reading.
Lajja is the story of Dutta family who are Hindus living in Bangladesh thus part of the minority population who once thrived in those parts of subcontinent before it was partitioned.
These people were true believer of homeland before religion and thus kept on clinging to their country even after lakhs of people migrated to adjoining India during partition in 1947 and again whenever riots broke across those regions.
The story starts the day after Babri Masjid is demolished by Hindu fanatics and as expected Muslim fundamentalists in Bangladesh blamed innocent Hindus over there for such an act and thus resulted in widespread riots across Bangladesh resulting in Hindus being butchered , looted , raped and forced to leave their country of birth.
The Dutta parivar being the leftist they were, did not believe in these religious doctrines especially since they so actively fought for the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 from Pakistan. Dr. Sudhomay, the father, who once was quite rich and prosperous but had to sell everything and relocate to Dhaka due to pressure from Muslim extremist, always taught his children that this land is as much theirs as is of the Muslim people . His son , Suranjan, who followed in his footsteps of being a liberal social activist filled with same passion and principles about his motherland as his fathers. Then their is the mother, Kironmoyee , who is a typical Bengali housewife, whose life is devoted to the care of her husband and children. And lastly , Maya, the daughter, who unlike her father and brother does not want to struggle or oppose anything and just wants to live her life in that world even if she has to convert to Islam or has to marry a muslim guy. She takes refugee in the Muslim family when situation worsens and her brother decides to do nothing at all.
With due respect to the atrocities suffered by people , I am really disappointed after reading this book. I appreciate the grim and inhuman suffering that Taslima Nasreen so aptly portrayed in this book but portraying that only in each and every page and chapter somehow makes it a dull and boring read. Every page you read, you crave for something more to happen but in the end you are left disappointed.
The book is written in sequence of days in the life of Dutta family starting from Babri Masjid demolition to the day when they finally decide to leave. Their struggle to keep believing in their rights and despite the constant fear, trying to justify that this is their homeland too. But all hell breaks when the daughter is kidnapped and they could not do anything and thus result in Suranjan challenging all his beliefs and finally asking his father to leave to India.
I always wanted to read this book in order to find out why Taslima Nasreen is subject to so much atrocities from the Muslim fanatics. Although after having followed her for a while on Twitter I could understand the reason some what owing to her constant rebellion of the religious doctrines and dogmas. And perhaps I did not need to read this as it showed the same feeling of her tweets repeated on every page but nevertheless I believe you should read anything and everything at least once, thus helping you to decide what not to read again :-D
Have been an admirer of Taslima Nasreen and somehow consider her an example of what to have once we manage to remove the boundaries of inequalities between male and female from our society. But let me keep that to another post as this post has anyway became quite long.
What Next ? Well , till I get the next book "And the Mountains echoed from Khaled Hosseni", I am fighting to read FountainHead..lets see how it goes..

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Past ..

Just yesterday I heard this dialogue in the sitcom "Criminal Minds" that I am seeing now a days; Although I cannot recall the exact words but I want it to be the below
"You cannot make peace with your past  till you again sit with it".
And here today I was made to sit at the same location in my bus where I have spent endless months a year and so back. I was made to relive the same cutting yourself off from the whole world by plunging your ear phones tight in your ears as far as they could go, listening to high pitched songs , staring expectantly outside with occasional glances at the book I am reading.
Of course it was different this time, with having a more relaxing and in control experience instead of the agonishing one months back.
I did not question the reality of the quote but for sure did not expect it to be actually happening so soon.
The best thing I love about life is that its always unpredictable and thats why it hurts more when you try to preempt things and they don't go that way. So its always good to stop trying to predict it when you know that it will take its own unpredictable course :)

Friday, May 31, 2013

I so wish....

Feeling so sorry today....I simply don't have the authority to tell you that Go ahead , do what you want to do..... In fact to be honest more than the authority I don't have the will power to stand against it and fight for it...... I can't see them frustrated everyday ...longing for you to come back , get married asap..even when they see that there is such a high probability that this might result in you foregoing everything that you have achieved so far... I just don't understand why our society is so hell bent in getting everybody married... why they don't see that this sole purpose of their life so prevents them from enjoying life...
As I told you, the only thing I can do at present is hope that the path that they are forcing on you should eventually lead you to the path that you want to follow...hope that your life partner not only let you take that path but whole heartedly supports you on that....
Right now I can do anything for that  to get fulfilled..

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wish 1 - To learn surfing...

Ever since I have been to the beaches of Bali and have seen the might of Ocean as a fierce and powerful force of nature, I developed a fear of the same. 
The mammoth volume of water that is contained by an ocean and the tremendous force by which that volume moves in the form of waves especially during high tides simply gives me goose bumps.
Honestly having seen just buckets or at max tanks of water in our daily life , and then have to look and compare  the amount of water that an ocean contains in itself, it makes you realise how insignificant humans or for that matter land mass is compared to water bodies.
I just get too intimidated when I am looking at that massive amount of water. Personally I feel that no other natural element can stand up against such a gigantic force.
When I was in a boat over the ocean or was skiing on a jet ski , I was scared with the thought that this huge mass of water won't take a second to drown me if I fell into it.And since then I have developed a faint wish to overcome that fear and take on the Might of that natural force.
I feel the most fascinating way  to do so will be to surf on its waves. Although even the thought of it is nerve wrecking at present but seriously I want to do that. I just want to take a week off and go to a beach where they teach surf and learn it.
Its just my dream to do so. To ride fearlessly on these waves, rise and fall with them , get splashed , almost drowned  but then emerge from it unscathed.
Taken from
But somewhere I know it won't be possible to do in immediate future and with marriage to happen in a year or two it will be next to impossible after that :(. Thats why I initially thought to title this post as Goal 1 but then reality stuck.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mom oh Mom ....

We humans at times can exhibit a charmingly strange behavior. And I prefer to call such human beings as "Characters".  And among those species one of the most common people who show such character are Mothers.
Yes no doubt they are quite charming and innocent when do such antiques.
When I was a kid , like most of the kids in India and probably across the world, I used to carry my lunch from home and being the naughty kid that I was , most often when my Mom used to keep the packed lunch on the desk from where I was supposed to take it, I used to forget taking it  and have to have Dad drop it at school :). And needless in the evening it would have resulted in heavy scolding from both of them.
That happened countless times in my childhood and biggest concern of my Mom everyday , apart from ensuring that I don't spill milk on my shirt, was to ensure that I have taken it from the desk.
And now if we fast forward to the present , there were times when I used to carry breakfast from home to office and during those time when I could have missed the box at home and still could have eaten a sumptous breakfast at office, she used to put it herself in my bag.
I mean when in childhood if she had put that in my bag then it would have saved both of us from the pain, her mental and mine physical .
When I mentioned this to her that why during school times you used to keep it at desk for me to pick and pack and now when I am grown up you yourself ensure that its going to office with me ? She had no answer, she just said she does not know why she used to do that.
The answer I could think of is that she wanted me to be responsible at that age and now she is just concerned of my well being and no longer needs to teach me anything :)
My Adorable Mom
This picture was taken at a bus stop in Seoul, South Korea, during our visit last year. This is so typical of the adorable character she is :), wearing those Goggles from 70's and wearing a customary scarf so characteristic of a Bengali in a cold place, all wrapped up. Love you so much Mom :)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Oath of Vayuputras and Others...

I completed Oath of Vayuputras. And I don't know if you will call a book a success if you expected it to disappoint you and it succeeds in doing so?
There are few reasons why it disappointed
1. It came quite a while after the second installment of the trilogy, so you tend to have a vague remembrance of the characters and incidents. And it takes a while for the flow to restart.
2. There was a lot of scope to play and demonstrate the passion and compassion especially the part where Shiva destroys the city (spoiler alert). There was so much opportunity to show the Rodra roop of Lord Shiv, his Tandav ( Dance of Destruction) , his anger , probably his Trinetra etc. The only passionate part I felt was the depiction of Kartik as the warior lord. The way he deployed his War tactics and the intensity with which his battles were depicted were commendable.
Rest like his previous book was mediocre. Surprisingly I came to find that he is an IIMK alumnus.
Ok I may sound hypocritical of him as I dislike his writing so much but at the same time I ardently read through his novels unlike those of Chetan Bhagat which I just labour through. I agree with his content and masala rendering he appeals to masses but I personally feel he could be more articulate. But having said that I will recommend people to read the triology and also awaiting to read his next series which he hinted to be on Mahabharata.
The next bunch of books ( I like to read couple of books at I time) I have picked are quite popular, kind of modern classics, that everyone who is into reading must have already read.
The Alchemist and The Fountainhead.
I was kind of avoiding these for the reasons that one they are popular , second I am a non fiction lover and last the font size of the copies I have seen have been too small to be comfortable.
Luckily this time I got a copy of Alchemist which is decent and I have already read most of it and should complete it by today. To be honest I find it quite simple but of course appealing. With its plot of chasing your dreams and proverbial lines ,I can see why it is so popular.
Having read few pages of Eleven minutes and then failing to proceed I had my apprehensions about Paulo Coehlo but now I am glad that I picked Alchemist and now again want to pursue Eleven minutes.
Coming to Fountainhead ,I have purchased a second hand copy long time back but never had the courage to read it, so it was lying packed as it is in my cupboard. But recently with having nothing else to read I took the plunge. With its minuscule writing I could manage few pages, I liked it and have made up mind to read at least 10 pages daily.
Having started so late to read novels is something that I regret about my life and is one thing I would like to change if given an opprotunity to start life again :)