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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Book Review : 'Time Racers' by Gayathri Ponvannan



'Time Racers' has Pratik Pallavanathan, better known as PP, all set to travel to India from Dubai for his vacation. Then, we do hear of his mother and father and little brother. We also hear of his grandparents, who are in India. We, then meet his uncle, aunt and a sister-brother pair from London. Almost a typical, South Indian family vacation!

It’s a rather interesting introduction, with some humour. I picked up the book, and I could not stop laughing for the first few pages, at least. I felt a distinct south Indian liking for it. :)

Moving on, let’s get to the village of the grandparents, where they own some property, as well as a temple. In the huge house, PP is introduced to an apparition, who looks like him. It was only for a few minutes, and it is gone. 

We then, go deeper into the village and the family temple. We are introduced to another girl, whose uncle is a priest at the temple. One day, Pratik is at the family’s picnic, before he finds himself looking for the family’s calf, and is led to the temple.

Here, he again meets his apparition, whose name is Simha. PP finds that he has time travelled, to 1920, with all the folks there wearing different clothes. And Simha surprisingly, speaks French too!

The two become fast friends, and soon have to find a way for PP returning to his time, and helping out Simha. Simha has an odd problem, where he is believed to have stolen certain manuscripts from his time. This, he denies with such confidence that PP believes him.

PP returns to his time, but not before he manages to find out more about his look-alike. Now, that he is back he begins to go on another journey, where he finds out that Simha and he, are actually related.

Would he find out more? Will he find a way to clear Simha’s name? Find out PP’s adventure with his family, cousins and his phantasm’s reality.

This wonderful novel manages to find its end, only when you are ready to not shut the book! I found it written with a vivid imagination and it manages to touch your heart, as well. 

Gayathri Ponvannan has written a science fiction piece, with a blend of history and mystery. There are a few surprises here and there, and you have to read it to believe it…

You can Buy the Book, right here.

 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Author Interview : Paro Anand, author of 'Like Smoke’ (Part 2)


Read up, the second part of Paro Anand's Interview for her book, 'Like Smoke'. In this she tells us, which book  is coming from her next, her advice to newer authors, she also tells us what she's reading currently and also her favourite authors, among others, Folks...



When will you next book be out?

Actually, quite soon, illustrators willing. It’s called ‘Two’ and is co-written with a Swedish writer, Orjan Persson. It is going to be a book like no other I have ever seen.

Two writers, two illustrators, two characters, two countries. ONE
Paro Anand
story
. Hard to describe, but it’s turning out 'wow'.

Also, have a few other projects in the pipeline, need to settle on one or two of them soon.

What advice do you have for the newer writers of today?

Uma Krishnaswami
Writer, Uma Krishnaswami gave me a secret formula which, I will now share with you. It’s called BIC.

BIC stands for Bottom in Chair – just sit down and write. And write, every day. Even if it is just for 15 mins, steal the time and sit and write. Simple as that.

Life keeps happening, but if you really want to write. Stop looking for the perfect time and place. You don’t need to be Ruskin Bondish up in the mountains. He is so lucky, but he wrote even when he wasn’t king of Ivy Cottage.
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Which book are you currently reading?

One is ‘Horrid High Back to School’ by Payal Kapadia (Puffin) and  another is ‘A Bed of Red Flowers : In Search of My Afghanistan’ by Nelofer Pazira (Free Press).

Who are your favourite authors and why?

Ruskin Bond
One all time favorite is Isabel Allende and other South American writers, who have such heat and passion and magic. 

I loved Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy, love the craft of Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth.

And amongst the kids books, I like authors such as Roald Dahl, Ruskin Bond, Kalpana Swaminathan and Payal Dhar.

Keith Urban (Wikipedia)
What else do you do on a daily basis? 

I work out, though I don’t look it. I love to garden, spend a lot of time with family and love to vegetate in front of the TV, but my secret passion is listening to Keith Urban and following him like a stalker on the net. 


You can read the First Part of this Interview, right here. You can also catch the Review and also Buy the Book right here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Book Review : 'A Grey Story (Read to Realize)' by Saumya Misra



A Grey Story : (Read to Realize)’ is a tale of Surya and her family's. The cover of the book contained a bloody hand, with a finger chopped off. Basically, starting from the time the Surya is an adolescent, we are introduced to the other family members. She has a rather laid back mother, who has her own things to do such as shopping, and lazing around. Her father is a busy man, but he always has a kind word for Surya. She has an elder sister and brother, and also a younger brother and sister to boot.

We are put through her adolescence, her teens through to her early 20s. Surya, being the middle child always gets caught in everything. If her elder siblings were up to something naughty or bad, she always was the scapegoat. Soon, her younger siblings were part of this anti-Surya group too. So, the wickedness continued. And her parents’ negligence too.

Her mother who was barely on her side, soon shifted to the other children’s side. Her father, though at first, was kind of on her side, soon shifted places too. Accidents and incident kept occurring. No sooner, does he recover from the fact that his son was killed in an ‘accident’, that he has to worry about his daughter, who is home soon, with threats of a divorce and an affair too.

The problem may seem like the entire family’s but Surya is always caught in the loophole. Her sister and brother-in-law also join in, the entire trouble making group.

Soon, the trouble seems to be lifting but there is a flirting accusation, thrown by her own sister. She says that it was Surya, who dared to flirt with her husband. Though, there is a person who continually meets with Surya’s sister and on one such meeting, which occurs rather oddly, Surya’s brother-in-law is in the house. Accusations, insinuations and words flow at this tone. And the family once again, is left mourning the death of Surya’s sister, her ‘friend’ and her husband.
Saumya Misra

As some time passes, but Surya is still the target. This time, from her brother and his friends. He is part of a gang, all of which are troubling Surya. Abuse and not just the vocal kind, comes troubling her. During the kite flying festival, there is another mishap.

The entire concept revolves around Surya and her family being against her. The bloody hand is a stark reminder of what is to happen. Though it remains a fairly predictable story, the point of the story was Surya and how she is neglected. She was abused and teased, in the start and then it moves on to more and more accusations. Does she survive the whole rigmarole? Will her life improve? What happened to the entire family and why? Will the mystery of how the accidents and incidents clear?

You can Buy the Book, right here.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Author Interview : Paro Anand, author of ‘Like Smoke’ (Part 1)



Paro Anand

Read up, the first part of Paro Anand, author of 'Like Smoke'. She writes at top speed, I can tell you that much, but I am going to let you in on another secret. This Interview was a brilliant one, because I got hold of it within 24 hours of sending in the questions, and for that, I thank you, Ms Anand :). Okay, I should have put it up then itself, but I didn't and for that you have my deep rooted apology, my Readers.

So, here it is. I won't go on and on. But you definitely have a Second Part coming up, and it is as good as this one, Folks...

How did ‘Like Smoke’ happen? Could you describe the journey? 

Some books are a journey that you don’t even know you are on. Others happen in a sharp, short moment. ‘Like Smoke’ was the latter. It was soon after the terrible events of 9/11, I was in a school, standing on a balcony. From below came the sounds of a group of children talking loudly about it. One child said, on top of her voice, “I hate Muslims.” I was shocked. There was no apology, not even the faintest attempt to lower voice. And no one refuted her, in fact, they all agreed. I peeped over the parapet, the remark was so casual, but at the same time so full of actual hate.

As I watched, I could clearly make out that at least one child on the periphery was probably Muslim. But no one had even thought about what he may feel. All the others thought it was perfectly alright to say such a thing. Like the proverbial thorn in my side, this sentence, “I hate Muslims,” jabbed at me, at my conscience. I knew this was something I was going to have to write. But maybe, I didn’t have the words, or the courage to do it right away. But the more I waited, the worse the thorn became.

Because I could see that it was growing day by day. One heart, one careless word at a time. Obviously, these were thoughts and words coming to the children’s ears via their parent’s mouths. I couldn’t wait any longer. And so begins the book – with those terrible words. 

There are nineteen other stories here, but this is the one that set the tone.

Could you describe how they came about… a couple of them that are most important to you, in particular?

So one of course, I’ve shared above. 'This is Shabir Karam...' is co-authored by my ‘adopted’ son, Shabir. This is by and large his real story. He needed it, wanted it told. And so, I built a world around his words and here it is. Shabir was in a workshop conducted by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in Kashmir, so this story and several others such as ‘Like Smoke’, ‘Those Yellow Flowers of August’ are inspired by my work with young people there.



'Hearing my own Story' actually takes root in another story, another book. That story, Babloo’s Bhabi is about domestic violence. Almost every time I would and do tell that story, I notice that one or two children are deeply shaken, it is obvious that they witness violence in their homes. So why not just drop it?

Because the deep positive impact that it has on the group as well. I think it is very important for such a taboo subject to be brought out and discussed and then the listener/reader be empowered to realize that they do not have to be helpless bystanders, but can be agents of change.

What according to you is different about your book?

Amongst the best compliments, I have ever got is that I am a fearless writer to tell the truth to children. This is a collection of truths (except, probably ‘Like Father Like Son’, which is just for the fun of it).

Truths of what children go through whether it is the huge ugly truths of violence or the seemingly silly problems like poor body image, that are enormous to the teen.

I also think this is the most complete collection of short stories that I have written, because, as I say in the foreword, you don’t have to read it start to finish, “pick it up every now and then and read the story that catches your eye, scratches your itch…”

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

I think teens the world over, and over generations, all face certain impactful moments like feeling they are ugly, or having their aspirations trampled upon, or standing up to bullies. Then there are some new challenges like what people face in Kashmir – well, not new, but certainly, uncommon.

Are they influenced by people you meet in real life or do they just come to your head?

Because I work with young people, whether in privileged urban surrounds, or more challenging ones, through my program ‘Literature in Action’, I am deeply influenced and inspired by them.

In fact, I don’t think I could really write without my work face to face with kids, and I don’t think I could work with kids if I didn’t write. So, its two sides of the same coin really.

What was the most challenging part about writing this book? 

Finding a balance, so that the book was not too grim or too heavy. I wanted it to be more rounded. And, also keeping in mind that these were short stories. I had got into the rhythm of novels.

Of course, as any writer will tell you, it’s the discipline, the stealing of time. I wrote much of this book sitting in traffic jams. (I am not doing the driving, mind!) It’s what I call ‘riding the jam’

Who was it that told you that you could become the author, you are today?

Plan A was to become a rock star, but other than remember all the lyrics, I couldn’t sing. Plan B was to work with wild animals, but I couldn’t find a job. Plan C was to be an actress.

When A and B fell through I tried C, but got a job as a drama teacher. I couldn’t find any scripts that I really loved that were Indian, so I started writing them. That’s how I fell into writing. Rather like Alice down the hole.


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

Monday, March 14, 2016

Book Review : 'Menaka's Choice' by Kavita Kane



‘­­­Menaka’s Choicea’ is a true Kavita Kane novel. Why I say that is because she has written it, true to her form and grace. It started off with Shakuntala and Dushyant’s meet when Dushyant kills a deer on Shakuntala’s watch. Shakuntala is hurt and admonishes Dushyant, who immediately offers help. But he does this in return for a story. So, Shakuntala narrates the timeless love story of Menaka and Vishwamitra.  

Menaka is a beautiful apsara, who is born out of Brahma’s mind. She lives a heavenly existence in Amaravati, and is brilliant at dance and music. She remains a person, every other apsara is jealous of. Due to two main reasons. One is that, she has always been the king of the Devas, Indra’s most wanted, but chose to never be his concubine. Secondly, she is in love with the King of Gandhravas, Vishwavasu, much to the jealousy of Rambha, who is also in love with him.

Vishwavasu and Menaka end up getting married in the Gandhrava method, and also have a child Pramadvara. Pramadvara is quickly taken away, due to the fact that she cannot have a child in heaven. The reason is she was in love with Vishwavasu, but even that child is not allowed.

Meanwhile, Vishwavasu is cursed to live as a monster by Indra, and he ends up on earth. Menaka disobeys Indra in heaven and decides to not dance or sing at all.

Vishwamitra, who was King Kaushik also has a story. He was to be born a Brahmin, but due to the mistake of his mother, he is born a Kshatriya. But King Kaushik, who one day finds himself at Sage Vashisht’s door step. Sage Vashisht is kind to him, and he tells him of the wish fulfilling cow. King Kaushik becomes greedy and demands the cow, when he has a problem with filling the stomachs of his people. On refusal, he starts off his own penance. His penance is so strong that he manages to create a heaven of his own.

Shocked by the event, Indra decides to stop Vishwamitra and this he does by sending Menaka down to earth. Menaka is sent down to earth and told to seduce Vishwamitra. When Menaka comes down to earth, she tricks the sage into believing that she is also on bad terms with Indra and that is the reason she is on earth now.

Believing her, Vishwamtra takes her into his ashram. Soon, the two come
Kavita Kane
together in love and lust. Menaka ends up giving birth to Shakuntala. But Menaka, who also becomes overridden with the guilt of having lied to Vishwamitra, tells him the whole story. Vishwamitra ends up cursing Menaka telling her, that they would never see each other again. Shakuntala ends up in Sage Kanva’s ashram and Menaka goes to back to heaven.

But this is not the end. Does Shakuntala end up living without Dushyant, whom she married in the Gandharva fashion? Does she ever meet her mother and father again? Does Menaka live on in heaven without meeting Vishwavasu again? And does Sage Vishwamitra see the fulfilment of his penance?

The story is a step ahead of its earlier versions. First, due to the fact that it talks of an apsara, who is unlike the other heavenly nymphs. She is an intelligent creature, who not only outdoes herself but is also a thinking one and has all the class, she can muster.

 You can Buy the Book, right here.