Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A CONVERSATION THAT SPREADS LIGHT: Sree Narayana Guru: Paragraph Notes Part- 1


Readings on Kerala (1A02ENG)
I Semester UG Common Course

This section is dedicated to the Under Graduate students of Kannur University. The discussion topic here is the common course text for I BA/B Com/BSc/BCA courses. The syllabus is newly installed and therefore faces a dire shortage of materials from which students could make notes to prepare for exams. These materials are shared here in the sincere hope that students would be able to make use of the materials while preparing for their semester examination.

1
A CONVERSATION THAT SPREADS LIGHT: Sree Narayana Guru
Paragraph Questions:

1. What are Guru’s instructions regarding the code of conduct for the pilgrims? 

Vallabhassery Govindan Vaidyar and T K Kittan Writer visit Sree Narayana Guru on 19 January 1928. The purpose of their visit was to request Guru to declare Sivagiri as a holy place. Vaidyar and Writer suggested that once the place is declared holy people from the Ezhava community and other downtrodden communities may visit Sivagiri once in every year. The idea was to establish a new pilgrimage centre that permitted people who faced discrimination from the upper caste Hindu society to worship and come together without any restrictions. Guru argues about the relevance of yet another holy place when the nearby Varkala Janardhanam is already a place of significance. However, the followers of Guru convinced him of the relevance of the new pilgrim site. Later, Sree Narayana Guru instructs his followers regarding the code of conduct for the pilgrims. It was Kittan Writer who engaged Guru in a discussion about the methods to be adopted while making the pilgrimage. Guru suggests that people, today, are not inclined to follow long periods of abstinence and are reluctant to take austere measures to perform a pilgrimage. He suggests that observing ten days of abstinence along with Sree Buddha’s five Ideals of Purity would be enough. Upon asking, Guru also suggests yellow garments as the dress code for Sivagiri pilgrimage. He instructs his disciples not to be extravagant during the pilgrimage. Guru even points out that the yellow garment prescribed for the pilgrimage should not be made up of silk or expensive clothing. Instead, the casual white dress can be used after colouring it with turmeric. This way, a pilgrim can reuse their yellow garments. Thus, Sree Narayana Guru prescribes a relevant set of codes for every pilgrim who makes the yearly pilgrimage to Sivagiri.

2. What are Guru’s strictures regarding the need to maintain thrift and discipline during the pilgrimage to Sivagiri?

Sree Narayana Guru (1855-1928), philosopher, poet, and social reformer was approached by Vallabhassery Govindan Vaidyar and T K Kittan Writer on 19 January 1928 requesting him to establish Sivagiri as a holy place for pilgrimage. Guru listened to their request and by asking various questions, tried to test their willingness to keep the dignity of the pilgrimage. Once he discovers that his disciples have no further questions regarding the complexity of conducting the pilgrimage, he takes on the role of a reformer. Guru elaborates on the necessity of keeping the pilgrimage free of extravagances and noisy celebrations. He suggests that the dress code for the pilgrimage to Sivagiri shall be the yellow dress worn by Krishna and Buddha. These need not silk garments. According to Guru, a casual white dress can be used after colouring it with turmeric. It can be laundered and used even after the journey, the teacher points out. He suggests that the journey should be marked by humility and lack of luxuries. Hymns can be chanted with piety. Noises, revelry, and extravagances will debase the whole enterprise. Sree Narayana Guru stresses that the pilgrims to Sivagiri should not waste a single penny. He goes on to calculate the expense for a pilgrim travelling from Kottayam to Sivagiri and back. It’s only three rupees. Guru’s intervention in the conduct of the pilgrimage is focused on the reformation of the Ezhava community. Guru suggests that the Ezhava community incur debts by spending more than they earn. This is not a healthy practice. This habit should be changed. Guru’s proposition brings home the important message of practising a disciplined life. Such a practice should begin with the pilgrimage to Sivagiri.

3. “Every deed should have a purpose.” Explain.

Sree Narayana Guru asks his followers what the purposes of the pilgrimage to Sivagiri are. Kittan Writer is quick to answer that they have already heard Guru spell out the objectives. However, Guru objects to Kittan Writer’s statement by asserting that what he had already mentioned are just methods adopted for the pilgrimage. Objectives of a journey are different from methods adopted to complete the journey. Guru seeks the answer to his question from his disciples. However, none of them can give any response. Guru declares that by simply wearing a yellow garment and travelling for days and incurring a major financial expense nothing could be achieved if there is no purpose for the journey. It is in this context that Guru makes the remark: “Every deed should have a purpose.” He instructs his disciples to note down the aims of the pilgrimage. According to Guru, the aims of the pilgrimage are 1. Education 2. Cleanliness 3. Piety 4. Organization 5. Cultivation 6. Trade 7. Handicrafts 8. Technological Training. He recommends that people should listen to it with utmost discipline. The aims of the pilgrimage should be put to practice by the pilgrims. Guru’s vision of prosperity stems from a disciplined and purposeful life. According to Guru, prosperity must not be limited to the Ezhava community. Prosperity should span the entire society and include all human beings. He suggests that the Ezhava community should be role models to others and this should be the main purpose of the pilgrimage to Sivagiri.

(To be Continued)

Monday, August 19, 2019

TATA VS MISTRY BY DEEPALI GUPTA: The Clash of Titans.



The millennial generation in India, of which I am a part, is well aware of the Tata Group. We consume everything, from cars to tea supplied to us by this business empire. Every Indian must have at least once used one of their products or services. And Tata does own a software company. This is one rare achievement by any business owner, not just in India but across the whole world. From Tata Steel to Tata Tea, the common man's life is touched by the Tata Group. Shapoorji Pallonji Group is well known in Mumbai and among the business people in the construction and real-estate sector. Although, in Kerala, where I am from, Tata is more of a household name than Mistry, apart from Rohinton Mistry, the novelist.

Ratan Naval Tata is the chairman emeritus of the Tata Group. Cyrus Mistry is the second son of Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry, a legendary construction and real estate businessman. The story I am going to tell you revolves around these two personalities. The Shapoorji Pallonji Group is divided between the two sons of Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry. The group owns 18 per cent shares in Tata group. Naturally, Cyrus Mistry is in the director board of Tata Sons, the main company in the Tata Group. There is a lot of history of the growth of India's industrial and economic sector attached with these names.

In 2012, Cyrus Mistry was nominated as the new chairman of Tata Sons on the retirement of Ratan Tata. This retirement is also the tip of an iceberg. Deep-seated in this event lies the many changes that affected not just the Tata group but the Indian economy in general. After taking the post of the chairman though, the relationship between Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry strained to an irreparable extent. The clash between these titans is a chapter that could keep you mulling over some serious multilayered discourses for the rest of your life. It will haunt you for certain. Here is a book that reveals it all in a highly readable, lucid, clear, and well-thought-out language.

Tata Vs Mistry: The Battle for India's Greatest Business Empire by Deepali Gupta is a well-researched monogram on the historic rift between Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry. The gap that formed between the two stalwarts attracted various changes to the market in India, as did their association in 2012.

Deepali Gupta's book foregrounds the complex events that led to the fall out in the Tata Sons company. In the process of telling the story, the author weaves in the interesting accounts of the industrial and commercial growth of India. The reader can take glimpses of the many multinational and national success stories of various business owners, their failures, the unending court cases that some of these failures give rise to.

Tata Vs Mistry is a book that offers a satisfying account of some of the large enterprises in contemporary India, their history and current state. Due to this reason, this book is a must-read for any student of Commerce, Management, and entrepreneurship. Anyone dreaming for establishing a start-up should certainly go through this fast-paced, research-oriented nonfiction.

For anyone pursuing a career in general writing or academic writing, I would certainly recommend this book. Tata Vs Mistry tells us how to handle investigative writing, keeping it interesting for the common reader while providing all the necessary facts and information needed to pin the story to reality. The absence of any fictional element in the book did not make it dull for my tastes. Let me remind you, I mostly love reading fiction. This shows the author's uncanny skill in writing readable non-fiction. I have read only one other nonfiction writer who kept my attention to the end cover-Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone.

Published by Juggernaut Books in 2019, Tata Vs Mistry is priced at Rs 599 and gleams at the reader with its pragmatic yet sensational hardcover dust jacket design. The layout of the book is reader-friendly as is typeset. You can read this book on a bus or train. The words in the pages stand out as does the charts and other details. The final pages contain an Appendix and a References part. The latter is a treat for any researcher into the contemporary trends in the entrepreneurial culture in India. As I completed reading the book, one thing that nagged at me was that I was compartmentalizing this book into the business section alone. I felt that this book has a wider cultural perspective to offer. To argue that a student of Cultural Studies would certainly be able to glean ideas of significance as well as a student of behavioural and organizational psychology is not at all irrelevant.

Tata Vs Mistry is Deepali Gupta's debut book. She was the former senior assistant editor at the Economic Times. Many of the articles and inside information on the Tata/Mistry controversy comes from her previous work milieu, I presume. She has been a financial journalist for fifteen years and has worked with many national and international media.






Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Hidden Secret behind Hrithik Roshan's Comeback? You'll be Shocked to Hear this



In a major newspaper, I read an article about the new Hrithik Roshan movie Super 30. The article celebrated the fact that the film had reached one hundred crore club in just ten days. However, the article slammed Hrithik Roshan's presence in the film and blamed him as a misfit for the role of Anand Kumar, the protagonist of the real-life story of Super 30. At first, I was engrossed by the title of the article that openly states the inadequacy of the actor playing the role of the protagonist.
After reading the article, the conclusion that I derived was that perhaps, the article was influenced by some PR agency that works to tarnish the image of Hrithik Roshan. The main argument of the article was that Super 30 should be seen as a comeback movie for Hrithik Roshan, in which he fails to make a comeback. Does that make sense?
A comeback movie in which he fails to make an effective comeback! This hypothesis has a charm of its own, by the way. The article consciously undermines the element of reality in the story of the movie. Super 30 is about the life of Anand master, the teacher who helps children from backward economic circumstances by teaching them, to qualify for admission in IITs and other high profile institutions in India. Anand Kumar started his Super 30 programme in 2002 in Patna in the state of Bihar. Many of his students, the fellows of Super 30 have already in top positions across the world, who became leading forces in the growth in of economy and technology.
Anand Kumar was attacked many times by those who wanted to curb the movement of free education to worthy students irrespective of their financial background. Those who wanted to thwart the force the knowledge are still on the prowl, I think. The attack on Hrithik Roshan's movie and the attempt to slam the actor is just another chapter in this historical movement.
According to Anand Kumar, the news about Super 30 first appeared in international media, like the New York Times. Only afterwards, did the Indian media noticed this redeeming educational mission.
Personally, as an educator myself, I feel connected to the story of Anand Kumar. From what I understand, his idea of education is not just a classroom experience that culminates in a board exam. Anand Kumar uses education as a powerful tool to fight poverty. The power that he gives to his Super 30 is the antidote to the chains of poverty.
I came to know about Super 30 through a documentary produced by Al Jazeera Television. I found it on YouTube. I shared the documentary with some of my colleagues and when the movie came out, I located an interview with Anand Kumar and shared it with them again. I think it's a sacrilege to discuss Hrithik Roshan's comeback with a movie like Super 30. This movie is the rise of Anand Kumar into the collective consciousness of the Indian psyche. Hrithik Roshan can make his comeback with his next Krish movie. That's not a problem at all. For the faceless and largely ignored community of educators who are serious about their work, Super 30 is the beginning of a new era, probably. It must be. It is important not just to those teachers but also to those students as well. What Amir Khan did with Tare Zameen Par, is repeated on a larger scale with Hrithik Roshan's Super 30. These are what I call the 'eye-opener movies' of India.


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

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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: New Anthology of Short Stories

Deadline extended to 15 June 2019

Themes: Eclectic (Any theme)

Criteria: One can submit any number of stories. If all your submissions qualified the criteria, we will publish them all. All submissions should be previously unpublished. You must also state the same on the submission email. The works should be in the English language.

Word length

Short story: 500-2000

Submission guidelines:
But most of all, selection depends on the quality of your writing. Once we accept your work for publication, it will undergo editing. We will let you know of the changes made if any.

Copyright of the work shall remain with the author. He or she can submit the same work(s) for any other publication.

Email for submissionkdhyan33@gmail.com

Subject line: submission short story

Submission should be attached with this mail in .doc format.

A Second person bio of the author should be included on the body of the email. Also, attach a photo of the author with the email in .jpeg format.
No PDFs. 


If your work is selected for publication, you need to pay a participation fee or Rs 500 per story.

BENEFITS:
You'll receive a 50 per cent discount on all author copies. (For any number of copies, which you are allowed to resell in bookstores or to readers, friends, and colleagues), ISBN, National Distribution, and social media promotion
Deadline: 15 May 2019

Note:
The body of the email must contain the above-mentioned statement regarding the publication status of your submission.

The photo should NOT be on the body of the email.


Saturday, April 27, 2019

SASSI BY RAJVEER SINGH PRAJAPATI: A Journey to be remembered with Closed Eyes


Sassi is a Hindi translation of the novel written by Rajveer Singh Prajapati titled Destined Lives - Journey till the Start published by Leadstart Publishing Private Ltd. in the year 2013. The Hindi translation titled Sassi published in the year 2016 by Redgrab Books followed the success of the English title.

After reading Sassi, the Hindi translation, it is difficult to say if it's a translation at all. One may wonder if Sassi, the Hindi novel is the source that was translated to English under the title Destined Lives - Journey till the start. The only criteria I adopt here to differentiate the source text and the target text or translated text is the chronology. Only after the publication of Destined Lives did they release Sassi. So if you find me addressing the Hindi title as a translation, the publication date is only to blame.   

In Sassi, the author uses nostalgia with skill. From the cover, which looks classy to the yellow cream-coloured pages of the book, to the literariness of the language, the book plays with the art of nostalgia. Sassi reminds us of the great writers of the Hindi realm like Premchand and Suryakanth Tripathi in the use of language and tonalities.

Rajveer Singh Prajapati 
This novel would invoke those forgotten memories of strong women who we know exists amidst us though unnamed. The titular character is a young woman named Sassi who journeys through the peaks and valleys of life and shines through all her pain as an admirable hero of the story of her life. She is just nine years old when the story begins. She is from Darjeeling. More than her family, it is Mohanty Babu who becomes the pool of solace for her at her young age. However, the story of her life changes when she is sent to live in a hostel. Mohanty Babu vanishes and never returns. Sassi promises herself that she will forget her past of lumbering pain. However, she couldn't help but sketch his face but in vain.

Sassi had lost her beloved one. The pain of loss captures Sassi. She is a slave to the memories of her past. How could she ever dream about overcoming the chains of painful memories? She had to consider these chains as her comforters when it was their time to rule over her mind and body. But before long, Sassi realizes that the chains that bind her are not there to protect her.

As part of a student exchange programme, Sassi goes to Sikkim. There she meets the charismatic young man named Veer. He is an army officer. His manly voice and demeanour attract Sassi. However, they were never meant to be together. With grief still in her heart, Sassi's life takes her to Delhi. In Delhi, Sassi finds herself lost to the multitudinous concerns of the city. Raj enters her life. There, in the city called the heart of India, Sassi realizes the true meaning of the many events in her life.   

The story of Sassi is narrated with a sad undertone. Melancholy marks every turn in her life. However, there is hope in the end. Rajveer Singh Prajapati's skill as a writer is evident in the way he structured the novel. He uses ample Urdu expressions in this Hindi classic. His passion and love for language are evident from every page you read in the book. Every sentence is lyrical and feels like a quote deep with the multilayered meaning of life. Sassi's journey is a memorable one, a journey that needs to be remembered with closed eyes.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

RAIN DROPS AND CATERPILLARS by Anuradha Prasad: A Book on Millennial Indian Urban Neighbourhoods



Anuradha Prasad's collection of six short stories under the title Rain Drops and Caterpillars evokes some first-time moments and their significances. Her characters hail from different backgrounds. Consequently, these stories have unique perspectives to share. Each of them is different from one another.

If you go by the urge to locate rarity, a short story collection would certainly match the intention in the Indian literary scene. Short story collections are rare in a world ruled by novels. Rain Drops and Caterpillars inspires one to think of the weight of a short story in comparison to a novel. It feels like looking at the legendary scene of David and Goliath. The dwarf had a final victory over the giant. Rain Drops and Caterpillars includes stories about first love, love breaks, heartaches, dedication, and commitment to one's country, an inspiring story on parenting, moving on from an abusive relationship, and homosexuality. The stories are told in a language charged with emotions.

The stories in Rain Drops and Caterpillars are told in such a way that they appeal to one's emotional sensibility. The first response of any reader would be to have increased heart rates. The intellect would be triggered only secondly. Rain Drops and Caterpillars proves that to intellectualize an idea, the heart is the best route.

Anuradha Prasad is an artist, speaker, and author. She has worked with and published thousands of articles for top newspapers and magazines. She has a PhD in English literature from Mumbai University and was on the cover of Times' 'West Side Plus' and several notable publications. Her previous books are Two Winters and 365 Days and Coming Back Home, which exceeded 10,000 downloads on Kindle. The major themes she writes on are, internal transformation and self-discovery.

The first story in the collection, "Sublimity" reminds us of how important it is to be open-minded as parents. The challenges that Roushni faces in her life are not able to stop her. The moment her parents, Sakshi and Harshad came to know about the biggest challenge in their daughter's life, they are shattered. The prose of Anuradha Prasad etches a picture of pain in our mind. However, the two parents do not stop there. This is my favourite story in the collection, a powerful narrative with creativity, love, aspirations, and family at its centre.

The second story is titled "Acceptance". A gay couple strives to finds their space in a society that is blind towards sexualities that are not part of the norm. The story takes place in Mumbai. Two young men, with their relationships, taught like a bowstring struggle to express their identities. A tragedy takes one of them. The darkness of death would not keep life its prisoner for long. There is hope at the end of the tunnel. There is "acceptance." I am positive that you'll remember Sam long after closing this book. The subject matter of this story may seem highly political. Still, the author has given it a tender touch with her skill in bringing up human emotions at its best.

In "Courage," we meet Raghav and Soumya. They had been married for five years. Theirs is an abusive relationship. Often relationships are forged on habits. Individuals have a difficult time breaking habits. Soumya also finds a light at the end of the tunnel. Courage accompanies her to the end of that tunnel.

The fourth story "Compassion" is a heart-warming tale of affection among Narmada, Popsi, and Deep. Narmada and Deep are brother and sister. Popsi is their pet dog. One day, he goes missing.

In the fifth story, "Devotion" we meet Priya who wants to honour her husband's memories. Her husband was in the Indian army and was martyred while facing a terrorist attack.

"Deceit", the final story in the collection is also the most complex. In "Deceit", Nilesh realizes the true purpose of his life. He is in love with Sudha. His love is deep and blind. Inevitably, he suffers. What is intriguing about this narrative is the author's skills to bring out expressions of even the most subtle layers of the human psyche. For any budding writers, reading this story shall give perspectives about the craft of writing a romance. Although the story is short, the varying levels of fancy, ambition, desire, and infatuation are touched upon skilfully and in detail.

From Sakshi and Harshad along with their talented daughter Roushni in the first story, to Nilesh and Sudha in the end, every character in the story neatly touches upon something - an event, an experience, or a transformative force- for the first time in their lives. Consider Sam in the second story, for example. He has never had an inkling of the tragedy that would befall his lover Jess. Yet, he faces that phase, for the first time. Facing pain for the first time, all her characters show courage. From their courage, we derive hope, as readers. In Rain Drops and Caterpillars, Anuradha Prasad writes about people facing existential questions, from grownups to children. It is also noteworthy that all her stories are set in Indian urban background, post-millennium. Still, each story is about people from different strata of this millennial Indian urban society.     

Published by Ink State, an imprint of Leadstart Publishing, Rain Drops and Caterpillars is clothed in a colourful cover, which aligns harmoniously with the message of hope and survival shared in the book. Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd. is the publishing company that gave author Anand Neelakantan his big break by publishing and marketing his books such as Asura and Ajaya. Rain Drops and Caterpillars has readable typesetting. The size of the book also helps to handle it in small storing spaces like your backpack or luggage. It's an easy read and you'll find yourself enjoying these stories while you are travelling by train or plane. 

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