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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Book Review : 'Songs of the Cauvery' by Kalyanaraman Durgadas



Kalyanaraman Durgadas's 'Songs of the Cauvery' takes place in India, between the 19th and 20th centuries. It happens in the South India, and has a mixed take on the happenings, at that time. The story begins when we are treated to a marriage and the death of a young girl. 

Newly married, the girl’s thoughts are around her horoscope. Mangalam had realised that her horoscope spoke of nothing good for her, and her not having a rebirth. So, she commits suicide and wishes that her husband marry her sister in a letter. Sambu, her husband remarries Bhavani, as per his wife’s demand. 

And so, we have Janaki and Panju, who are their children. Growing up, a determined girl, Janaki fights with the boys to protect her brother. Panju takes up wrestling after this incident. Janaki, who grows up learning English, is keen on completing her education and only then, would she consider marriage. But her mother falls ill and it falls upon Janaki to take care of her. However, after this, Janaki becomes the first woman to become an English literature graduate.

Meanwhile, Panju is married off early, and his bride is sent off home again, to return only after attaining puberty. Panju finds himself in Kumbakonam, studying. Panju is good at Tamil, Sanskrit and English and lands a job at a press. He is away from home and learning the ways of the world, lands up in the arms of a prostitute, devdasi Ranjitham and then towards the freedom struggle. But Ranjitham, who is a determined and brave woman, ends up doing Panju some good. How will this end up coming through?

Panju ends up becoming a revolutionary. Fighting the British, he puts his wrestling skills to good use. Meanwhile Janaki, who is at Tanjore finally studying, ends up falling in love with Arul, a Christian boy. Here, a lot of discussions with the Church authorities take place, during which Arul seems stuck between becoming a Father and marrying Janaki. How will this complicated love story end?

Kalyanaraman Durgadas from dkalyanaraman.com
Firstly, it is the horoscope and the suicide. Then it is the girl who wants to stand up for herself and her family. Then it is the boy, who is learned, but lands up, as a revolutionary. How it ends is a wonderful and twisted story. How the two of them manage around the times, and end up living their lives sometime in tears and sometimes with laughter. The parents are old and ill. Panju’s wife has now come of age and stays with them. Panju is wanted by the police. Janaki has no option but to become the person, who would take on the responsibility of the house.

Kalyanaraman Durgadas does a wonderful job with his debut novel, yet in some parts; he probably mixed it up too much to give it a proper end. He gives us the Vedic rituals and the Christian customs in an extraordinary mixture. He also gives us the traditional mix and the contemporary style in the book to provide us a good concoction of the old and new, but remember the mud at the end the coffee. That is how this book ends...


You can Buy the Book, right here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Author Interview : Ravi Subramanian, author of ‘In the Name of God’



Ravi Subramanian
Read up, the Interview with Ravi Subramanian, author of ‘In the Name of God’. This interview consists of how the book actually came about, what the kind of research was it that went into it, what the core idea was, what made him take up a genre different from his usual books, today and much, much more, Folks...

How did ‘In the Name of God’ happen?  Could you describe the journey? 

Well, a few years back the story of Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Kerala made newspaper headlines, when the wealth in the temple vaults made a subject of national debate. A lot of discussion centered around the temple being under private control and the wealth in the temple being in excess of the wealth of possibly even the Vatican

And of course, stories of pilferage of the wealth started doing rounds. I had been to the temple a few times and hence the subject intrigued me. That’s when my criminal mind got down to work. Temple, religion, wealth and murders is a potent combination. I added a few sub plots, and presto the story was ready!

What kind of research did you put into the writing of this book?

Quite a bit. I visited the temple a couple of times, spoke to people in  Thiruvananthapuram, read books on the history of Kerala and the royal family and read up scores of articles on the temple and the stories behind it. A lot of help came in from the journalist fraternity.

A cab driver told me the story of the murder of an auto rickshaw driver whose body was found in the holy pond of the temple  a day before the devaprashnam (A ritual carried out to find the will of God). It was an exciting journey for me.

What according to you is different about your book and why?

The book is the first of its kind thriller set in the backdrop of a very popular temple. And for me this book is different from my earlier ones because this marks my foray into mainstream thrillers, away from the regular banking thrillers that I normally write.

There is much religion and history… How did you manage to separate the two of them?

Neither is my book about religion nor is it about history. Though, there are parts, where I make a reference to them. It is a thriller set in the backdrop of the temple. That’s it.

However, I feel the best way to deal with religion and history, if one were to write a story about it, is to deal with it respectfully. Religion is an emotive subject in our country and hence one needs to deal with it appropriately. There are people at every corner waiting to take offense.

How did you come up with the core idea and develop it?

Whenever I write stories, I write about topics which interest me. Be it the bitcoins in ‘God is a Gamer’, or the academia in ‘Bankerupt’ or the Maoists in ‘The Incredible Banker’. I don’t choose plots, I choose a backdrop and build a story in that backdrop.

It was the same with Padmanabha Swamy temple. When I read about the stories surrounding the temple, I knew it had to be the backdrop of my next book. Once that decision was made, the rest followed.

Dan Brown

Which book are you currently reading?

Origin’ by Dan Brown.

What made you take up a new genre, i.e. more of a thriller, as most of your earlier writing was based on banking, insurance and the like?

Well, I firmly believe that an author who doesn’t experiment and boxes himself in a genre is not doing justice to his craft. I write because I want to explore. And unless you move away from your comfort zone, you will never be able to do that.

In fact over the next few years, I will continue to experiment with new things in new areas. ‘Children’s books’ is one area that I want to explore. 


You can Read the Review and Buy the Book, here as well.  

Friday, November 10, 2017

Author Interview : Neha Singh, author of ‘Moongphali’

Neha Singh
Read up, the Interview with Neha Singh, one of the authors of 'Moongphali'. In this interview, she tells us, how the entire book first began, what according to her was different about the book, the most challenging part of the stories, what she thought was different about her book, which particular story, she felt most close to, her favourite authors and books, what she does on a daily basis, and much, much more, Folks…


How did 'Moongphali' happen? Could you describe the journey?

It was a two year long journey. Mukesh Chhabra and I have been colleagues and friends for many years and have worked extensively with children.

Mukesh came up with this idea of writing a book of stories for children together and we met on and off over two years to brainstorm and write our stories. 

What according to you was different about your book?

It deals with very realistic, relatable themes for Indian children. It does not shy away from the realities of living in India where class, caste, privilege, lack of education, religion and gender are still glaring issues. Children witness these things on a daily basis, but seldom do children’s books talk about these things.

Moongphali’ weaves these everyday realities of life in India in all its stories, while maintaining the fun and adventure elements too, making it an unusual and unique book.

How would you relate the lives of characters to the lives today? Any similarities?

Yes, absolutely. The children in the stories are not all black or white, but just as human as the readers. They have their virtues, their faults, fears, desires, prejudices, dreams and a sense of mischief. The characters in the stories face situations that the readers might face in real life, and have to make choices that will affect not just them but also those around them. 

The characters in the stories hail from different parts of India, some are urban, some rural, some from the South of India, some from the West, some privileged, some underprivileged. It’s a mixed bag that everyone will connect with.

What was the most challenging part about writing this book?

Balancing the fun and quirk with subtle messages, while keeping the stories firmly grounded in reality. We steered clear of fantasy, and stuck to everyday themes.

Which particular character did you feel most close to? Why?

I feel closest to Lalita in ‘Lalita’s gift’ because she chooses a gift over her friends, since the gift is new and shiny and she feels her friends will spoil it.

But she slowly realizes it is no fun playing with a gift all alone. This has happened to me as a child, when I was gifted a Barbie doll and I refused to share it with my friends. Soon enough, I realised that playing with a doll all by myself was so boring!

Enid Blyton
Agatha Christie
Who was it that told you that you could become the author you are today?

No one. It was all the wonderful authors, I read as a child, like Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, RK Narayan, Agatha Christie, etc that inspired me to write for children.

When will you next book be out?

My next book, which is being published by Puffin, should be out by March, 2018.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Who are your favourite authors and why?

This is a very difficult question, because I have so many favourite authors and there are a million reasons why.

But if I have to pick a couple I would say Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Vijaydan Detha, and both for the same reason. 

Because they told stories of their own countries, neighbourhoods and people, making thbriaeir tales so visceral, believable and magical at the same time. Incidentally, both were nominated for the Nobel Prize in the same year, 1982!

Which are your favourite books and why?

Again, so so many! Some are, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ‘Alice's Adventures in Wonderland’, ‘The God of Small Things’, ‘Swami and Friends’, ‘Dohri Zindagi’ and ‘Deewar Mein Khidki Rehti Hai’ to name a few.

Which books are you currently reading?
Amrita Pritam

I am currently re-reading Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens and reading Amrita Pritam’s autobiography ‘Raseedi Ticket’.  

What else do the both of you do on a daily basis?

I don’t do anything on a daily basis. I do something new every day. I am a theatre actor, writer, director, producer, activist, drama trainer, author and cook.

I have just returned from a six show tour of my play ‘Dohri Zindagi’ across Delhi - Gurgaon - Noida - Sonipat - Meerut. I have recently begun work on a new play as a producer/director/actor, I am writing a new book for children, and am learning how to bake! 


All the pictures in the above article are from Wikipedia.

You can Read the Review and Buy the Book, here as well.                                                                                              


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Book Review : 'Yama’s Lieutenant and the Stone Witch' by Anuja Chandramouli

Anuja Chandramouli’s ‘Yama’s Lieutenant and the Stone Witch’ talks of Yama’s most trustworthy Lieutenant, Agni Prakash back to work, again. This time, he has been told to get rid of the Stone Witch, Nayima. Now, Nayima wants to create a whole new world, all for herself. The idea behind it is that she would use the demons, spirits and even humans to achieve her true purpose. 

It is now, Agni’s job to find these brutish creatures, and destroy them. These sets of demonic beings have been ordered to destroy the worlds. Meanwhile, everything is uneasy and disturbed, as inmates and the poor are being killed and children are disappearing, all the time. In all this, Agni ends up being the one, who has to end up paying a lot for it.

Instructed to look for the Samayakalas, who are the keepers of time, he sets off in search for them. But they are not at all easy to find. Samayakalas are given the job of resetting the clock before anything else gets worse, than it already is. No one really knows them or how they function, since it is a strict job for mortals to stay away from them, and even immortals are kept away from them. He must find them and prevent any chance of traces of life being ruined.

During this time, Varu’s diary continues to tell the story of Yama’s thousand hells. Everything keeps on happening, as she had written it in her book. It lands on Agni Prakash’s lap to make it all work. He must find a way, when he uses his best bets, Dharami who was earth’s spirit, Minothi and Kritya. The first two find themselves, being taken away by Nayima.

Will he find all the three of his friends? Will he manage to stop the destruction of the worlds? Will he manage to stop Nayima’s spirits, demons and even humans to stop from turning into creatures ready to terminate the world? Will he find the keepers  of time? Will he survive the travel through time to save the world? Will he ultimately manage to be the true lieutenant of Yama?

You can Buy the Book, right here.