Tuesday, December 22, 2015

THE MYSTERY OF CHRISTMAS: A Good Norwegian Book for Indian Readers

Traversing the length of the library I make a random decision. I will take a book home that is not connected to what I am doing presently in terms of my professional commitment, that of a researcher. Then I spot Jostein Garder. In fact, I spot Sophie’s World first. Then I move on to read the name of the author. What a delightful moment, to realize the author always stays at the second position in the ladder. First comes the work itself. This positioning takes away a lot of shameful inhibitions. As an author or artist, everyone has inhibitions at certain stages in life, like when you get too many positive reviews or none at all.

Sophie’s World was sold more than any other book before the Harry Potter era. Then Potter came and the depressed mom made the whole world go gaga about the boy wizard, and especially about his friends.

I opened Sophie’s World and found the fonts a bit unimpressive. Ariel or Calibri. These are a good pair of word processor fonts. I have my reservations regarding book fonts, though. Ariel or Calibri are not good-looking fonts on printed pages. Online, they work just fine. It was a paperback edition, of course. Perhaps, they make hardcover with a bit more affection. Adjacent to Sophie’s World was sitting a volume of The Christmas Mystery.
Image Courtesy: Pintrest

Never before had I read Garder. Sophie’s World grabbed my attention many times. I never had the chance to read any other of Garder’s works. I decided to take The Christmas Mystery too because it was Christmas time. For the past two years I have been pondering on spending the Advent time reading Charles Dickens’ Christmas books. One of my professors tells me that it was Dickens who helped engrave the essence of Christmas so closely to the hearts of people all over the world, especially of the Victorian England. Long sentences, craftsmanship, beauty... ah, Dickens.   

Factors of unknown texture and origin kept hindering my plans to read Christmas books during the Advent season. Advent is celebrated in the Catholic tradition as a period of awaiting the Good News of the Messiah’s birth. The birth of Christ Jesus was already known through many prophesies performed by messengers of God throughout the Old Testament. Therefore Advent also proclaims the period of expecting the Good News. The Christmas Mystery satiates the desire of a believer to read a freshly nit yarn garnered with Christmas themes.

The story begins with a boy named Joachim discovering a hand-made advent calendar in a bookshop. Advent calendar is a mystery in itself to readers from India and for that matter, many other parts of the world. Although a Christian population lives in India, many conventions differ from that of the European tradition. In Kerala, there is some first century Christians as well as a teeming population of Latin Catholics and Protestants. Advent calendar is incorporated into celebrating the waiting for the Good News of Christmas. The tradition began by German Lutherans in 19th century. The advent calendar has many flaps, each one of which would be marked with a number. Opening each flap may provide the person with images related to the Christmas story or something like that. The advent calendar one could find in The Christmas Mystery is bound to provide more than mere images. The Magic Advent Calendar Joachim finds reveals a mysterious story. This gives the book its name.

The mystery that Joachim resolves at the end of the book leaves one wanting for more from author Jostein Garder. This book reminds one of childhood mysteries and fantastic times we had during those magical days. Also The Christmas Mystery is an opening for a foreign reader to the nature, life, and nostalgia of Norwegian people. The book is originally written in Norwegian language and includes many substantial fragments of wisdom. The translation has come about as a unique blend of English language and Norwegian tradition. In order to achieve this, the translator, Elizabeth Rokkan has even spelled some words different from their English counterparts, especially names.
Image Courtesy: Google
The Christmas Mystery undertakes a uniquely fulfilling journey into time and through the magnanimous landscapes or Europe to Bethlehem. The journey into time proves to be a great lesson in history for any high school student interested in European and Middle Eastern history. Also the magical journey through continents irrevocably seals one’s affection towards the narrative strategies of Jostein Garder in taking us on a geographical ride to the birthplace of Christ. The Christmas Mystery is a book that nourishes the minds of its readers. “‘There are two ways of becoming wise. One way is to travel out into the world and to see as much as possible of God’s creation. The other is to put down roots in one spot and to study everything that happens there in as much detail as you can. The trouble is that it’s impossible to do both at the same time’” (55). The Christmas Mystery offers the chance to travel beyond time and space. It also humbles an individual reader to look around one’s immediate precincts and admire the magical moments around.

My reading The Christmas Mystery coincided with a series of train journeys undertaken for the purpose of keeping my spirit in alignment with my family. Every morning and evening I took train journeys to go back and forth about 90 kilometres, on a daily basis. By train this journey does not tax much on my physical well being. Because I get to spend my evening at home, I get to renew my spiritual and emotional self at home. If I were to convince you to the reasons for taking the daily train rides rather than taking lodging at the university itself, where I work as a Researcher, I may have to hide some of the crucial cones of the railway experience. The cones may be many, such as issues of hygiene to seating that lacks comfort in general compartments. However, in order to bring my point home, of the flouring spiritual and emotional comfort I receive at home, I must render other unfavourable aspects into an eclipse. This is the answer I learnt to the question that hasn’t been asked yet here, or perhaps will be asked quite evidently down below in the comment box as soon as you finish reading this review. Is Christmas the real birthday of Jesus?
Image Courtesy: Google

This question has been in existence for many years. I have come across the question many times in relation to the authenticity of my faith. If one were to judge The Christmas Mystery based on this unsettled dispute, this premise would push the story off hinges by default. The simplicity of The Christmas Mystery and its beauty is in the courage it takes in exploding the logic of reality and to burst free from the normal. Define it whichever way you want. Willing suspension of disbelief? The story takes you to places you have never thought you’d be able to traverse. The same is true about the real Christmas story too. Someone was born somewhere at some point in time. There is the psychological and archetypal evidence to that event in the hearts of those who believe and survive the brutalities of human existence. They fill their existential vacuum with the effortless grace of their convictions and believe. This is, the day we await during the Advent, the day of new birth, the day of hope, the day of courage to believe.

May this Christmas brings you clarity of thought, sincerity of purpose, and purity of action.

You can visit the following link for your Christmas and New Year shopping:

Saturday, November 28, 2015


What I am about to ask may appear rather controversial in terms of the business of cinema. Ultimately, that is what it is, a business where people follow the criteria they are sure to bring in a lot of favour. Some succeed, some don’t. What’s that mystery? Who knows?  

My question is... where is Jason Statham? Transporter trilogy has been branded in his image and style. Last time I checked, he was taking his time off on a fishing boat or something, I mean the Transporter. Where does he go when they ‘refuelled’ this series? Refuelled is part of the same franchise, but portrays a younger Frank Martin, directed by Camille Delamarre. In Refuelled, Frank Martin is played by Ed Skrein.
Image Courtesy: Google

Now, let us sit down and talk over a tea. No, not coffee. I hear Americans drink coffee. In India, tea is a trendy all-time beverage. When you discuss the Refuelled instalment of The Transporter tea or coffee is a must. Otherwise, you may miss the whole point. As per the rules of the profession of a reviewer, revealing too much information about a work of art would be considered immature. However, I cannot readily keep silence about some aspects of the movie, even if it belongs to the spoiler category. This concern is due to the concern over my authenticity as a reviewer. Here is the thing: Ed Skrein overacts in many places. Perhaps he overreacts. Due to my education in earlier Transporter movies with the reticent and masculine Statham streaks of overacting in places left me chewing black pepper.

Image Courtesy: Google
Even one of the ladies who played the girl who steals money in the climactic scene in the cruiser-the girl in a scuba gear, with a tablet device-staunchly follows Ed Skrein into the trap of overacting scenes. Other than this minor flaw, Refuelled is a “good thriller with a lot of action”. The brilliant presence of Audi car and the stunt scene performed by the machine are without doubt great market teasers for the car manufacturer.

Apart from great action and car chases one factor stands out in The Transporter: Refuelled. This factor has a name: Ray Stevenson. You may remember him from Divergent or if you have a sharp vision, Thor. But I remembered him from Divergent, a clear sign of how little I see in movies while they are playing. This makes me incompetent in commenting on several other factors associated with The Transporter: Refuelled.

For more: Watch the movie yourself and come back. Participate in discussions in the comment box below.  

More: Saturday Flick

Monday, November 23, 2015

THE FIFTH WAVE BY RICK YANCEY: A Good Book with Powerful Characters

If this book review turns out to be an unusually positive one, please do not resort to thinking I received financial benefit from Rick Yancey. To be honest, I felt an emotional connection with the author, because of an interview I watched with him. I watched one of his interviews in YouTube and in it he said something that piqued my attention. He said before being a full-time author, he was a government employee, working strict schedules for an average pay-scale. Nothing is wrong with working tight schedules or receiving a meagre pay cheque at the end of the month.  Perhaps, one should work on ways to come to terms with these ideas if one has a dream to chase and a light to follow.

I was writing at the time, and I thought, “Well, I need something to pay the bills, and I’ll just hang on to this until my writing takes off, or I actually get off my butt and get a master’s degree in English and maybe teach somewhere.” Then twelve years later, I was still there,” remarks Yancey in a detailed interview given to http://www.lightspeedmagazine. com/.
Image Courtesy: Google

Every human being goes through a set of affirmation techniques in one’s course of early adult life. In The 5th Wave, a Young Adult novel about alien invasion, Cassie Sullivan grows out of her worst fears through affirming her humanity, and this existential event is at the centre of the book. Evan Walker, the protagonist is an alien being in human form. His mission is to kill Cassie. She names his kind of killers Silencers. Cassie lives through the fifth wave of alien invasion. She lost her parents and young brother in the previous four waves.

In some uniquely uninspiring way, The 5th Wave does not hesitate to copy the tension between Bella and Edward from Twilight saga, where the male counterpart had to kill the female partner in order to satiate the mission bestowed upon him by the centre of his origin. It is some original commitment that Evan Walker and Edward Cullen are struggling with in each of these novels. Then there is the sexual tension. Although Twilight saga explored the sexual tension between the two characters, the driving force in The 5th Wave is the existential question of the encounter with the Other.

Image Courtesy: www.the5thwaveiscoming.com
Symbolically speaking, the Other could be anyone including the culturally, socially, and politically marginalized people. The 5th Wave asks the question of facing a ‘global’ Other. The 5th Wave works within the frame of sci-fi literature. It utilizes the same theme that one may see in H G Wells’ novels as well as in countless Hollywood movies ranging from Independence Day to to the cinematic representation of War of the Worlds. What makes The 5th Wave different from other stories on alien invasion is its tenacity in supplying alternative possibilities for the scenario. It’s not surprising if you found the book a bit spooky. The 5th Wave shares the knowledge of how insecure we ought to feel in our ordinary existences. An electromagnetic pulse, just as the one that appears in the book, could cut down almost all our technological implementations, in all walks of life. For example, patients will die on operation tables in hospitals, airplanes and vehicles may crash onto one another due to lack of any human control, libraries would be shut down and computers just won’t work any longer.

The 5th Wave follows the narrative style for a Young Adult novel. That does not mean there is an accepted way to write YA that is approved by the Committee of letters in the Indian Parliament. But there is always expectation from the reading community. In a YA novel, there should always be a young female protagonist, in search of something; sometimes identity, sometimes family members, as it happens in The 5th Wave. Cassie searches for her little brother Sammy. Look how important the notion of journey is in today’s literary super hits. The Alchemist has one, The Hunger Games has one, although this one is not through a longitudinal plane. The Games, still invokes the sense of a journey in all its grandeur and challenges.

Image Courtesy: Google
The 5th Wave is a good book that thrills, provokes thoughts and asks some simple yet elegant questions on life. In the beginning of the story, Cassie accidentally kills a soldier, who she identifies as the crucifix soldier. This accident changes her state from a ruthless killer to a caution human being caught in the web of several ethical and emotional concerns. This is the point where the story really begins. The beginning of The 5th Wave is located at the spot where Cassie is transformed by the weight of the act committed by her into a human being. After losing her father and little brother to unknown forces, Cassie creates the self-identity of the sole-survivor of the alien invasion. This brings up the issue of staying alive not for a personal reason, but for the entire human race. The only way Cassie could achieve this feat in an alien infested planet is to attack and kill anyone or anything that moves bringing thoughts of insecurity to her mind. Cassie uses her M16 Luger to perform all her early killings.

When she realizes that the soldier she met in the abandoned utility story is putting his hand in his jacket, Cassie pulls the trigger. That was part of the rule that she created as a defense mechanism. That was her special way of surviving. She was partly following her intuition and partly her wisdom. But she was wrong this time. The soldier she met at the utility store put could not react when the bullet from her M16 Luger separated his life from body.
Image Courtesy: Google

The lifeless arm of the soldier came out. It had a crucifix in it. Perhaps, that was his way of keeping himself alive; perhaps, it was his prayer. But this time, it didn’t work either. Cassie realizes that this was not an alien in human form, one of the Silencers, but just a man. Just a moment back, contrary to what she had thought, she was not alone in this blue planet. But she had just killed that last unknown partner in the death-game.

Throughout the rest of her battle, Cassie finds herself struggling with this moment. Can she even think about overcoming the impact of this moment? Well, if you want to know the answer, you must read The 5th Wave. It’s a good book. I am not saying this because Rick Yancey’s humble beginning appeals to my situation also. The 5th Wave is a good book because it delivers a good story in a readable language with powerful characters.   

Happy Reading.                     

Thursday, October 29, 2015

I Met Prabuddha

Blessings of Virgin Mary, Mystique Rose, Mother of God.

Today, I met Prabuddha.

Yes, if you have read the book, Prabuddha: The Clear-sighted, you may know who I am taking about. I told you in the beginning of the book that you will learn who Prabuddha is. You learned, right? Yes, you did.

I met someone like you.

He said, one of the stories that appear in Prabuddha, “The Dew Collectors,” which also appears in Wall of Colours, resembles a real life experience he had. He said he enjoyed Prabuddha so much that he is eager to read my next book, Mount Sermon.  

He said that once, he went to attend an interview, just like the protagonist of “The Dew Collectors”. As the events unfolded in the story, this young man also came across a ‘mysterious’ old house, a friend’s in the real life story. The old mother of the friend serves the two young men lunch. During lunch, the man who told me this fascinating story of real life experience drank a mug of water that was on the table. In a sudden fit, the old woman, his friend’s mother was infuriated.

The young man was baffled for a moment. He did not know the cause of the woman’s unexpected rage. She shouted at him, telling him he did the wrong thing.

As the truth became clear, the young man realized that the water was kept there for the woman’s elder son. He had died at an early age. She keeps food and water on the table for her dead son, ever day.

After listening to this story, I told this individual, who is perhaps my age, that I never really thought this story could be real. While I was working on “The Dew Collectors”, I doubted if readers would believe what I had written. Apparently, the story was never told before in Indian literary scene, although these events and the belief systems that form the basis of such events are real and in existence here in Kerala for many thousands of years. So when I was writing this story, my only concern was its believability. Today, when I heard what my reader had undergone in his personal life, I felt a mysterious, yet firm hand guiding me. I believe that this hand is of the Blessed Virgin Mary, because the previous day, I had urged her for guidance.

When in self-doubt, one is in darkness as to which way is the way. It is not as much taking one road among many others as taking any road at all. I needed a guiding light so my future would not go directionless.

Another individual sat next to us while we were having this conversation. These two men work at the University where I do my Doctoral Research. They work at the administrative section. The person who listened to the two of us talk was a senior offical. He intervened and asked me, if I had read the Gita. “You have quoted from the Bhagavat Gita in Prabuddha,” he said.

The younger person had suggested Prabuddha: The Clear-sighted to the senior officer. The book was with him and he had already flipped through the pages.

“I haven’t read the Gita yet,” I said. “But I am convinced that the Gita has come to me in various ways.”

“Yes, I understand. The Gita will come to us in ways we may not foresee,” he said. “It’s the essence of Indian spiritual tradition. And this consciousness that the Gita could come to us even without us knowing is the clear-sightedness one requires.”

I said, I agree. Our conversation took off from there. We talked about spiritual traditions of various denominations. He told me about the sages in the Himalayas. We suggested books back and forth on spirituality, life after death, and reincarnation.

At the end of our conversation, the senior person stood up. “You must continue on your path of enlightening people. This is what people must to read, books like Prabuddha,” he said. “Before working on your next book, I recommend you to read the Gita. You may find in the Gita what you may never find elsewhere.”

“I do not have a copy,” I responded.

“I have one here,” he said.

“No, thank you sir. But I prefer to purchase a personal copy, because I may need to refer to it frequently,” I said.

“I am not asking you to return it,” the senior official said. “You can keep it.”

And he handed over a thick volume of the Complete Bhagavat Gita to me, as a gift.


True story: occurred on 29-10-2015  

            Thank you. 

Monday, October 5, 2015


Author Khushwant Singh allegedly said in an interview that “there is no point in writing if you are not honest” (56). I took this advice and carried forward my spiritual act, my conscious affair with coming to term with who I truly am. The ‘I AM’ presence in me is joyous with what I write and when I write. It does not matter what I write, I have discovered over the years. Although I began with a strange fear that I must confine myself within a genre like poetry or fiction. But I kept coming across one answer to this dilemma.

Whatever I write, the only thing I need to do is to open myself to the Source of all being. And I will be given what I am to write. I need not worry about the format or form. That suits me well. But that does not suit the market. It requires you to confine yourself within a certain form. Market as such does not have a say in what you do. It is the people or rather simply put it, it is what you think people are going to like about you that makes you confine yourself within the limitations of a format. It is not a bad move either. Sometimes, confinement can bring art to flourishing heights.

My newest book is Mount Sermon. I would like to share some personal information about the book with you. Just like a human being every book has its own personal story to tell, other than the story that it offers you within its soul. There is another realm that you must explore, the realm a book shares exclusively with its author. Mount Sermon keeps such an exclusive space with me.

I will not prolong this post further. I would like to share some information about the title Mount Sermon. Mount Sermon may mean a mountain named sermon. What is a sermon? Any ideas? The word Sermon means “a talk on a moral or religious subject, usually given by a religious leader during a service,” according to Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries. A Mountain names sermon may mean a challenge posed in front of an individual like a mountain to be conquered or to be understood completely. The sermon that you require to cross or to mount to be understood completely is mount ‘sermon’. It’s not just a usual affair. It is a special and peculiar part of existence that one needs to look into in order to decipher its complete meaning.

Here is an old man, bringing his enemy’s son to throw him over the edge of a cliff to a waterfall.

The old man, Kathik- the storyteller, deserves your ears. He must be listened to. Then only one can understand his true agonies and existential dilemmas.

Mount Sermon also means the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus of Nazareth that one may read in the Gospel of Matthew. I would like to quote what author Kushwant Singh says about the sermon. “The strength of the sermon...lies in its simplicity and directness” (162).  

One may wonder why it takes us generations to work through all the varied levels of meaning in the Sermon on the Mount. One cannot criticize those who wonder why the Sermon has been interpreted in as many ways as there are people who read the Gospel. The Sermon on the Mount literally appears to be mount ‘sermon’ with its majesty, weight, purpose, and level of achievement.

“The sermon...is an assurance that those who suffer will, by God’s grace, be comforted” (Khushwant 162) adds India’s great son. So is my book Mount Sermon too. Hope you will enjoy reading it. Order your copy here. Happy reading.

I will get back to you soon with another personal story about Mount Sermon in my next post. Until then, Take care, good bye.   

Books I quoted from:
Absolute Khushwant by Humra Quraishi (an interview with Khushwant Singh). published by Penguin Books. Get a copy here: Absolute Khushwant

Mount Sermon: A Novella (Book-2 Hope, Vengeance and History Trilogy edition-1) by Anu Lal. Published by BW Publishing