Sunday, July 21, 2019

I THINK I AM IN LOVE BY DEVANSHI SHARMA: A Novel that Inspires



The art of the novel, in its serious and most fruitful form, deals with the questions of existence. This is one of the features of a good novel, I think. A novel should discuss in its unique way something about our life and the environment, the background of life.


I think I am in Love is a novel by Devanshi Sharma. This is her third novel. The simple and captivating title of the book reflects the spirit of the novel. It is written in simple English. The author's voice breaks into the narration of the novel on several occasions to exchange warm humour with the reader. When I say simple English, I mean the English that we use to communicate with each other daily in the streets, or market places or among our friends in college. Meera and Ishaan met as colleagues. Meera is a rookie in the office. She is also an aspiring blogger whose fashion blog has already found its audience even before she landed on her new job after graduation. Ishaan is drawn to her. But he only wants her to succeed as a fashion blogger. Meera, on the other hand, wants to have a life.

Devanshi Sharma's portrayal of characters is matchless. The moment you start reading this book, the relationship these two characters exhibit and the electric vibe between them pulls us into their story. All characters in this novel are portrayed so well that they seem very real to the reader. I think I am in Love appealed to me from the first page itself only because of the character sketch. It's a character-driven romance. Usually, formulaic fiction attempts to move its story based on a plot structure. They are often plot-driven. This, however, is not the case with I Think I am in Love.

Certain WhatsApp text chats are given in the book that takes place between the two protagonists. These chats are given in the form of style of real chats. This fulfils the postmodernist nature of the novel. I think I am in Love is a short novel. Its layout is good and is easy to read while travelling. This book comes in a weightless edition. It's easy to keep it in your bag suitcase for a long journey on road. It can be finished in a single sitting. I'd say that it's an ideal travel companion on your regular bus or train journeys to college or office.

This book is essential to every new writer in India due to two reasons. The first one is that I think I am in Love does not capitalize on a romantic story alone. It shows the inspiring story of a writer, Meera, the fashion blogger. The second reason is that this book uses the language of the common people. In India, writing in English might alienate several people from you. In I think I am in Love Devanshi Sharma uses the English language with a certain Indian twist.

The cover is pep and Srishti Publishers & Distributors have continued their good work in bringing out good quality fiction. While publishing a book like I think I am in Love in the Indian literary scene, the publisher's determination matters a lot. The author is just 23 years old. The subject of the book isn't an extraordinary one either. What is usually seen among publishers is an aversion to looking at books that are not sensational. However, Shrishti Publishers takes the risk and I think I am in Love proves to be a satiating read and a great entertainer.

Devanshi Sharma's previous books are No Matter What I Do and Imperfect Misfits. She hails from the city of Indore.
  

Thursday, June 13, 2019

THE MIND GAME BY DEVIKA DAS: A Guide to Be Fully Alive


Consider this not a book review but a suggestion or an advice article. Read The Mind Game by Devika Das, a passionate writer, theatre artist, and poet. and learn the strategies to master the emotions of the human psyche. It is of urgent concern for us all to take hold of our lives and succeed in our endeavours.

     The Mind Game brings to us a revolutionary idea. The idea that survival of the fittest should be rewritten as the survival of the one with the strongest mind. Devika Das, with her lucid language, uses her storytelling skills to place before us a set of scientific and innovative ideas to adopt.

    Adopting the strategies described in The Mind Game, one transcends oneself into the realm of the strong-minded. We are bound by the belief that our mind is something that exists within the body. Like this belief itself, we expect our mind to be limited and invisible. Therefore, we tend to overlook our emotional responses when faced with challenges in life. At every stage in our life, emotions are triggered due to various reasons. We tend to overlook the emotional reflexes when we consider the various environmental factors that influence us.

    "Emotions do not remain inside the human skin," according to Devika Das. This suggests that emotions do have a hand in transforming us physically as well as mentally. Filled with a detailed analysis of how our emotions affect us, the book opens our understanding into an arena of neurological and psychological phenomena that control us.

    The Mind Game is partitioned into six sections. Section one is titled "Five Ultra-Practical Steps To Emotion Mastery". This section gives a detailed analysis of the place and prominence of emotions in dictating our physical well-being we well as our psychological well-being.

    The second section is titled "Analysing People". This section delineates the strategies in deciphering personality traits and acquiring a proper understanding of human individual behaviour.  The third section is titled "Live Better with Less". The major focus of this section is the simplicity of living and the power of communication skills. This section also discusses the importance of the so-called first-impression.

    Section four is titled "Go Happy, Go Lucky." On the necessity to fight for happiness and establishing a stress-free living is the central concern of the fourth section of The Mind Game. Section five is titled "Angry? Don't Be!" This section offers a detailed study of the structure of anger and anger management. The author foregrounds the relevance of creative arts in managing anger in human beings.

    The final section is titled "A Happy Workplace" and nails the most important area of our daily existence. Although productivity and self-esteem are at the core of this section, Devika Das extols the role of emotional well-being and happiness on the experiential level as the key ideas that work in the direction of fulfilment in the profession.

    Published by Blue Rose Publishers, The Mind Game demonstrates a unique and effective attempt at providing the general public with the central theses of great achievement. The cover design is striking in its presentation. I also enjoyed the typesetting and printing of this book. The font size used for typesetting is apt to be read while travelling by train or waiting for your daily ride. Apt for academic institutions and libraries, The Mind Game should be on your reading list if you are serious about your career and life.  
     

Monday, June 3, 2019

ASHOK AND THE NINE UNKNOWN BY ANSHUL DUPARE: Hidden Layers of History




We say several years when it comes to testing our ability to remember accurately when a particular event had transpired. I too have to submit to the urge to say sweeping several years. Nothing can match my excitement when I held the copy of Ashok and the Nine Unknown in my hands. The book was a gift from the publisher Rupa Books and author Anshul Dupare. I do not mean they presented the book to me. I mean they have gifted the Indian literatures in English something new to cherish, a shining, sweet thing that pulsates with emotions and moves with time. My memory took me back to a time travel journey. It was several years ago that I first heard and read about emperor Ashok.

 The word emperor was new to me. The story of this emperor who had conquered most of India and had the power to transform kingdoms into dust taught me that power and victory could behave at a great price.

Anshul Dupare's book opens with Ashok's response to the slaughter at Kalinga, after the Great War. I remember, one of my social studies teachers told me that there are no great wars. War is always dirty and mean. There is no greatness in war. Ashok realizes that his victory is not a victory at all. He had caused thousands of people to be slaughtered.

The book takes us into an exciting chapter in history when Ashok realized the destructive power of knowledge. He entrusts nine chosen members of his court to guard his secret. They are known as the "nine unknown men". They are probably the world's first secret society. For any lover of thrillers and the grey areas of history, this book can offer a feast.

Going back to my first encounter with emperor Ashok, let me tell you that for the first time, I read about Ashok, not in my history book. It was in a comic book known as Amar Chitra Katha, the immortal picture stories.

Amar Chitra Katha was the best of the comic books ever produced in India. They were a visual treat with powerful dialogues and the support of great writing skills. Anshul Dupare offers you nothing less in his novel Ashok and the Nine Unknown. His writing style has a visual quality to it. The reader is able to see and feel through his words.

The cover design of the book follows the lead of present-day Indian books in the English language. The trend is to give serious attention to cover design, which was not the case in the past when nobody cared about how covers were designed. The book has an illustrated cover with a matt finish. This goes in harmony with my standard. I give it full marks. The cover complements the writing of Dupare. The cover illustration is done by Prasun Mazumdar and designed by Mugdha Sadhwani.

Anshul Dupare hails from Nagpur and currently resides in Dallas, USA. Ashok and the Nine Unknown is the first book in a two-part series. Can't wait to read the second part!


Sunday, June 2, 2019

THE STORY OF BEING A SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR: Interview with Kevin Missal, author of Kalki and Narasimha Trilogy

   
     
Narasimha is the first book in The Mahaavatar Trilogy by Kevin Missal, soon to be released by Harper Collins Publishers. He surprised the Indian readers with his thrilling mythological fantasies such as the Kalki books. His approach towards the presentation of books including the publishing and marketing is unique in its merit. He is not just an exaggerated market phenomenon. He writes well. He is good at crafting stories.


            So I decided to ask him my trademark six questions.

1. Narasimha' s story is known to me as a ferocious Avatar coming out of a pillar at the request of Prahlada. I have always wondered what happened to the Avatar after that and before that moment also. Is everything your story tells us fantasy like your version of Kalki? Or have you unearthed mythological subtexts for your book?

            They are in itself reimagining but if one digs deeper, everything is connected to the original mythology. For instance, Kalki's journey to Mahendragiri was not fabricated. It's from mythology. Hanuman helping him is from mythology. Many think that I just write fantasy, but it's not true. There's a lot more mythology in it. 

2. You seem to understand the Science of book covers. The cover of Kalki trilogy is fantabulous. What was the process of designing a book cover for Narasimha? 

            Just make it bright, beautiful and dynamic. 

3. What was your first communication to HarperCollins publishers like when you pitched Narasimha? Had you completed the novel by then? 

            I didn't pitch them. It was my agent. He sent it to the CEO on WhatsApp and Harper Collins wanted exclusivity on it. I had completed the novel by then. 

4. What's your writing routine?

            I write for 9-10 hours a day. 

5. Does your family support you in your life as a writer? Is the support of family important in this journey? Tell us how you introduced Narasimha to your family.

            They do. They always have. When I told them, I wrote on Narasimha, my dad really liked the message I was trying to show. 

6. This question is a fossil question. But I have to ask this anyway. What's your advice to writers who are new in this industry?

            Save money for marketing. Don't be egoistic. Learn. Make mistakes. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

SNAKES IN THE MEADOWS BY AYAZ KOHLI: A Saga of Kashmir



The biggest question any student of Indian writing in English might want to avoid is Kashmiri literature. There is a vast collection of folk tales and oral literature in Kashmir. There is poetry, songs, and novels too. However, A thoughtfully crafted serious fiction on Kashmir is rare. Snakes in the Meadows by Ayaz Kohli is a serious novel about the life in Kashmir valley. The story is settled in the background of the Pir Panjal region. A small village in the region named Pathri Aali is one of the characters of the story. 

The novel opens with the life of Haji Mir, the patriarch in the village. Through Haji Mir we meet a world of characters with their own individual voices, ambitions, life, and preferences. It is a wonderful feat to assemble all these characters within the purview of a single novel. The story moves and turns like a river through the lives of these characters. One of the characters that impressed me was Aslam who ran away just before his marriage. His actions are not heroic. However, there is a hero in him.

Ayaz Kohli's writing is full of empathy and directness. He displays in front of us these many faces of characters, their lives, and their dreams. The reader can take sides if he or she wants. It is great fiction in action in Snakes in the Meadows.

Snakes in the Meadows is published by Rupa Publications, one of the finest publishers in India. The cover design is attractive. I liked it. I liked the fact that it is custom created. The cover looks like it designed with a few drawings. I have a special affinity for book covers that are either created from a drawing or are custom made designs or patterns.

It's available at affordable price. The typesetting is apt for a library space. The reading would be comfortable if you sit down in a suitable position with enough light on the pages.

The arch of the story in Snakes in the Meadows is a large one. However, the large story arch is broken into smaller units of micro tales that cover every small and big aspect of each character adds more depth to the novel. It's a commendable achievement to gracefully piece together these tales as part of a larger tale of sacrifice and betrayal. Militancy is one of the themes of the novel. However, Snakes in the Meadows is much more than a novel on terrorism. It tells the tale of human existence in its varying seriousness and depth.

The blurb of the book carries endorsements by Dr Shashi Tharoor, author and Kuldeep Khoda, Ex DGP, Jammu and Kashmir. Ayaz Kohli is a 2007 batch IAS officer. He currently serves as the Joint Commissioner- GST Mumbai. He was born and brought up in Poonch District of Jammu and Kashmir. He is the first person from the community and region to qualify for civil service. Snakes in the Meadows is inspired by his real-life experiences in Kashmir. Undeniably, Snakes in the Meadows is a remarkable debut novel and the birth of a promising writer.  


Monday, May 13, 2019

REWIND AND PLAY BY TARUN GAUTAM: A Different Approach to a College Story




Rewind And Play does feel like it's inspired by real events although the author does not claim any such thing. It's a story about survival, homecoming, and the importance of friendship. The novel is written in a humorous and lucid language. A reverberating college story is at its centre. However, in its nature, it far exceeds the limitations and clichéss of all other college stories available in India. Tarun Gautam sketches the life of Raghav who lives with his wife and two children in the US. His only focus is to expand his career.
Raghav is at the pinnacle of growth in his career when we meet him for the first time. Gradually, we see how a turn of fate turns his life upside down. His family had to be flown back to India. He had to embrace the hard realities of living a life in another country.
However, an invitation for a get-together from his old college mates finds him disinterested in any such activity. Due to his recent tragedy, Raghav is not in a mood to accept such invitations as a get-together with friends from college. He even wonders how so many of his college pals are in the US, either working or living in this country.
This becomes a reminder of how the present youth of India visualizes their lives. Most of them dream to be a part of the great American dream. One will see Tarun Gautam subtly making manoeuvres through the grey areas of the Indian reality.
Reluctantly, Raghav meets his friends, Harpreet, Venky, Nafisa, and Francis. They meet in a restaurant. One of them proposes that they should play a game in order to make the gathering interesting. One by one, each individual starts narrating an interesting incident from his or her college days. Through the unveiling of these stories, we are able to see a very interesting narrative that involves living in an engineering college.
Many books tell us the same story. Mostly, stories in colleges are overwhelmingly romantic in nature. Another scenario is that they might be outright humour. Tarun Gautam made an interesting approach in this novel. He is not giving us a romantic sage or mindless humour. 
In Rewind and Play, Tarun Gautam gives us a uniquely positive story with nuggets of wisdom and motivation in every episode. With his humorous writing style, he inspires while inviting us to share his philosophy of life, which like the protagonist Raghav, we are also reminded of at the end of the novel.
Tree Shade Books published Rewind and Play. The book is small in size and print legible. It can be read in a moving train and can be taken out while waiting for the long queues to end.  I liked the cover design also.
Tarun is an IIM Lucknow alumnus working for a leading technology firm as a Regional Sales Manager in international markets. He is very much interested in environmental issues and social initiatives. He was part of the "Let's Do it Delhi" campaign, which shared awareness about cleanliness in the city. He recently shared a proposal with the Delhi government to implement Work-from-Home across companies to reduce vehicular pollution and traffic in the city.

Monday, May 6, 2019

DIVYASTRA BY NIMISH TANNA: On the Astra and Shastra of Ancient Times



"You need to understand the two types of weapons our ancient warriors used, astra and shastra. Shastra is defined as any physical weapon such as the likes of an arrow or a spear. An astra, on the other hand, is not a physical weapon but, if put simply, a bundle of frequencies."- (99)

Recipe fiction's most enticing resource these days in India is mythology. By recipe fiction, I mean that kind of novel that pulsates with the help of the plot. It does not give a lot of concern about establishing the mood. It cannot risk the loss of attention of the reader. This doesn't mean this type of formulaic writing serves to endanger the dignity of the writer in any way. Quite the contrary, the writer of the recipe fiction should be given more respect as he or she is constantly battling the urge to plunge into the most beautiful sentence construction and scene description either to create a mood or the extra satisfaction one deserves after long hours of battling with imagination. It's s risky proposition to make to a formula writer if he'd choose to write in a way to sway the reader's intellect just to leave the playing with the emotions for a time being. Reading Divyastra would give you the idea that Nimish Tanna is neither a formula writer to be questioned at the scaffold of literary fiction nor is he a complete maverick with words who creates a world without a beginning middle and an ending.
One of the many pleasures of reading a book written post-2010 in English with Indian mythology as its theme is that they remind entirely of the Amar Chitra Katha, as well as the many mythological works, read during school days. Thanks to the many comic books that served me well.
Apart from nostalgia, reading Divyastra would readily make you believe that the chants given in the book have magical power. The supernatural and the natural blend in. The mind craves to rest upon the shallow running streams of digital reality just to prove the world inside the novel a nonexistent one. It moves. It fills one's heart with fears about the hidden possibilities of ancient wisdom.
The multi-layered narrative encapsulates the very notion of divyastra, the three powerful celestial weapons namely Pashupatastra, Vaishnavastra, and Brahmastra. Shankar, the protagonist has to go back to meet his father with whom his relationship is not very smooth. Shankar did not expect to be blown apart by the events that transpire in his father's house.
Yet, Shankar finds himself wanting to listen to one of many tales told by his grandfather after a devastating turning point. Tall tales of demons, angels, and celestial weapons unveil in the oral narration of the grandfather. After facing the inevitable, it is in his grandfather's bedtime story that he tries to find solace. Contradicting his expectations once again, Shankar realizes that the story told by his grandfather is not just an exercise in imagination. Finding himself part of the story, he decides to confront the odds and makes atonement for his previous self, the self before he faced the first inevitable tragedy, his father's unexpected death.
Storytelling, as a tradition as well as a narrative technique, stays at the centre of the novel. The theme of the novel evolves from a realistic story of an existential crisis in the life of a young man in India to an inquiry of mythological wisdom. The author structures the ending shatteringly different from the expectations of a reader as the story evolves. This twist in the story concludes the book. Nimish Tanna does not use the strategies of a formula fiction to write the twist. The twist comes radically sprouting up from the oral narrative that was serving the purpose of moving the plot forward.
Divyastra is presented through three layers of different narrative strategies. The first one is the existentialist drama of a young man's identity crisis. The second is the oral telling performed by the grandfather, which in tone defies the first narrative paradigm and ushers in the awe for the writer's versatility.
The third and final layer is set up in a great hall where a presentation on modern weaponry goes on. All three narratives move parallel to each other. One layer does not have to end for the other to begin. The 'presentation' episode welcomes the readers into the novel, from the starting itself. It moves until the end of it while connecting several unrelated dots in the story into a meaningful whole.
Divyastra is published by BecomeShakespeare.com, a foremost post-millennial publishing company. The cover does not favour the Amar Chitrakatha image from a nostalgic past. That favours my argument in the beginning that Nimish Tanna is a unique voice neither following the formula fiction nor executing the style of literary fiction. With a powerful language, a unique style and originality, Nimish Tanna is an author to look forward to. The job of the publishers with the cover and the layout of the book is commendable. The typesetting is large enough to read on a train as well as under the dim light inside the bus or railway station.
Nimish Tanna works in Auckland, New Zealand. His first novel is Moments of Truth

Purchase your copy at a great discount here: