Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#BookReview: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

On the jacket:

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey of many years across the Indian subcontinent, from the cramped neighborhoods of Old Delhi and the roads of the new city, to the mountains and valleys of Kashmir and beyond, where war is peace and peace is war. 

The tale begins with Anjum—who used to be Aftab—unrolling a threadbare Persian carpet in a city graveyard she calls home. We encounter the odd, unforgettable Tilo and the men who loved her, including Musa, sweetheart and ex-sweetheart, lover and ex-lover. Their fates are as entwined as their arms used to be and always will be. We meet Tilo’s landlord, a former suitor, now an intelligence officer posted to Kabul, and then we meet the two Miss Jebeens. The first is a child born in Srinagar and buried in its overcrowded Martyrs’ Graveyard. The second is found at midnight, abandoned on a concrete sidewalk in the heart of New Delhi.

As this ravishing, deeply humane novel braids these lives together, it reinvents what a novel can do and can be. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness demonstrates on every page Arundhati Roy’s storytelling gifts.

Review:

I had barely entered my teens when I'd laid my hands on The God of Small Things. I will be honest, it didn't make much sense to me. I won't be harsh on myself for not understanding the brilliance of the story, because I'd tried to read it at a wrong time. A decade later, I'd read it again, and the story became a part of my life. I wouldn't say I was impatiently waiting for The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, because all the positive and negative news that had built around it, had left me a tad worried. It's a story - why not read it as one? Then the reviews came and all views were so extreme. That is when I decided I wanted to read this book and find out for myself.
I took a week to read The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Because, a story like this needs to be savoured. Also, because there are parts where I could not distinguish between fact and fiction, and needed to take time off from reading.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness begins with talking about Anjum who lived in a graveyard. She was an outcast of the society and the only respectable human interaction she had was with the maulvi who'd come to meet her. The first few chapters tell us about Anjum's life from birth. The third born to her parents, Anjum was born as Aftab and for years her mother had hidden the fact that she was born a transgender, from the world. Long story short, her parents tried a lot to 'cure' her physical situation but Anjum was not to be tied down - she flew the nest and went to live in the House of Dreams and finally sheds the garb of being Aftab. How Anjum reached to a graveyard from the House of Dreams has been told in an engrossing tale.
Anjum is not the only protagonist in the story. A few chapters down, we are introduced to an illegitimate child, Tilo and her relationship with Musa. Shortly after the time these characters in introduced in the story, the plot involves a lot of social-economic-political events and factors which connect fiction with reality. To be honest, this is were I would get slightly confused and even wonder if I should continue but curiosity got the better of me and I crossed this part to reach a beautiful end.
I will not rate the book. Not because I have any biases. But let's be honest, my rating would not affected a book written by someone of Ms Roy's stature. Too much seems to have been said, and lot of it is biased. Ms Roy is an activist and the book shows dark shadows of being written by one, at some stages. At other stages of the story, you can see a wonderful writing traversing through the plot, creating a beautiful and heartwarming tale for you to read. Pick it up with an open mind and see how you interpret The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.



Monday, June 12, 2017

#CoverReveal : AGAINST ALL ODDS by Danielle Steel

Taking chances is part of life,
   but when you bet your future against the odds, it’s a high-risk game …

AGAINST ALL ODDS 
by Danielle Steel


Featuring an exclusive foreword by the author.

Kate Madison's stylish second-hand clothing shop has been a big success in New York, supporting her and her four kids since her husband's untimely death. Now her children have grown up and are ready to forge lives of their own. They all choose to play against the odds, much to their mother's dismay . . .

Isabelle, a dedicated attorney, is in line to make partner at her Wall Street firm, when she falls for a client she represents in a criminal case. She tells herself she can make a life with him - but can she? Julie, a young designer, meets a man who seems too good to be true and falls under his spell. She marries him quickly, gives up her job, moves to LA to be at his side, ignoring the danger signs. Is all what it seems? Justin is a struggling writer who pushes for children with his partner before they're financially or emotionally ready. Will the strain on the relationship take too high a toll? Willie, the youngest, a tech expert, makes a choice that shocks them all, with a woman fifteen years older . . .

Kate - loving, supportive and outspoken - can't keep her children from playing against the odds. Can the odds be beaten? No matter how much she loves him, in the end, the risks are their own and the hardest lesson as a mother is that she can't protect them from the choices they make.
---
Danielle Steel has been hailed as one of the world's most popular authors, with nearly a billion copies of her novels sold. Her many international bestsellers include Property of a Noblewoman, Blue, Precious Gifts,Undercover, Country, Prodigal Son, Pegasus, A Perfect Life, and other highly acclaimed novels. She is also the author of His Bright Light, the story of her son Nick Traina's life and death; A Gift of Hope, a memoir of her work with the homeless;and the children's books Pretty Minnie in Paris and Pretty Minnie in Hollywood.

Monday, May 29, 2017

#BookReview: Baaz by Anuja Chauhan

About the book:


Why do they call you Baaz?  It means falcon, he replies solemnly. Or bird of prey. Because I swoop down on the enemy planes just like a Baaz would.  Then he grins. The grey eyes sparkle. It s also short for bastard.   1971. The USSR-backed India-Mukti Bahini alliance is on the brink of war against the America-aided Pakistani forces. As the Cold War threatens to turn red hot, handsome, laughing Ishaan Faujdaar, a farm boy from Chakkahera, Haryana, is elated to be in the IAF, flying the Gnat, a tiny fighter plane nicknamed Sabre Slayer for the devastation it has wrecked in the ranks of Pakistan s F-86 Sabre Squadrons.   Flanked by his buddies Raks, a MiG-21 Fighter, Maddy, a transport pilot who flies a Caribou, and fellow Gnatties Jana, Gana and Mana, Shaanu has nothing on his mind but glory and adventure until he encounters Tehmina Dadyseth, famed bathing beauty and sister of a dead fauji, who makes him question the very concept of nationalism and whose eyes fill with disillusioned scorn whenever people wax eloquent about patriotism and war...   Pulsating with love, laughter and courage, Baaz is Anuja Chauhan's tribute to our men in uniform.

Review:

With Baaz, Anuja Chauhan has moved to newer territories. In her previous books, she has won hearts with her relatable stories and simple, flowing language which most Indian readers identify with.
One thing I have always loved about Chauhan's stories is how she brings people from very different backgrounds in each story. Here in Baaz, we have Ishan Faujdar and Tehmina Dadyseth, both from worlds completely different, but whose paths cross because of one common string - the Indian Defence Service. While Ishaan, who has grown up knowing that he was a bastard, yet in the middle of a loving family, joined the Indian Air Force because of his love of the uncertainty and playing daredevil, Tehmina, on the other hand came from an Army family and had lost family member to war. He hated the neighbouring country we are never at peace with, while she hated war because it killed people. I must add that this angle and the way Anusha has treated it, is very well done keeping in mind the current situation in India. 
As a story, Baaz is a great attempt. Baaz here comes from more than one thing; not just the bird. The war scenes are decently executed and I must say that Chauhan has braved and written a story surrounding quite a volatile plot. 
What didn't work for me was that I felt Chauhan was trying too hard. This is a personal opinion, but when I am reading in English, I am reading in English. Yes, the characters and the story are India, but the medium of writing is English. Though it is largely accepted these days, Hindi words peppered in places specially where expletives need to be used spoil the experience for me. I'd feel the same if English was used in any story written in one of a regional languages. When a character is abusing in raw Hindi, and then the rest of the sentence is completed in perfect English, its unsettling and very forced.
While I keep suggesting and gifting Chauhan's books all this time, this one didn't make the mark for me. The plot takes quite a while to pick up and the romance is pretty bland. Also, I am still not sure if the story wanted to say that humanity is above all or if, for the nation, every other moral can be compromised. Lastly, the ending disappointed me, to be honest. 

Rating: ***/5




Friday, May 26, 2017

#Review : Pocket Mummy - an ode to Motherhood!



Pocket Mummy- an ode to Motherhood!


Nitesh Ranglani's short feature, Pocket Mummy, produced by Suburban Diagnostics, released digitally by Humaramovie, on occasion of Mother's Day. The film features acclaimed veteran actress Madhoo Shah as the Mother and Parzaan Dastur as her son.

Pocket Mummy is a story about a single mother, and the bond between her and her son.

Pocket Mummy is Nitesh Ranglani's directorial debut  and he says “Pocket Mummy is a very simple story, between a mother and a son, that everyone will relate to. I couldn't have got anyone better than Madhoo Ma'am and Parzaan to play the parts. Madhoo Ma'am had earlier worked with my dad on Yeshwant and it's a great feeling directing her today. Parzaan fits the character perfectly and both have done a wonderful job. Digital is a big medium today and we're hoping to reach out to many with our labour of love''


Actress Madhu said "I am very excited to work on this project. I've always been a very emotional person and I believe a lot in  connections. I have earlier worked with Mr Vijay Ranglani, he was the producer of my film Yeshwant with Nana Patekar and now his son Nitesh is directing me. It is a beautiful feeling to associate with them. Also I love being a mother and as a woman I have a lot of things to say and I'm sure this film will be adored and loved by all"


Review:

Pocket Mummy is a short film I saw after quite some time and was delighted to see Madhu and now a grownup, Parzaan Dastur. A beautiful film of only 6 minutes, but it managed to managed to convey some most important emotions and messages.
Paizaan is Madhu's son and they share an extremely loveable and fun relationship which includes a lot of fun and comfort between them. Both brilliant actors, who have been brought together by a director who shows definite signs of making it very big, soon, have played their roles with absolute elan. Brilliant direction, with a very fine eye to detail.
I wouldn't delve much into it, rather, here is the link for you to watch! Show it to you mother too; the film being a beautiful tribute to all mothers. Give your mother a hug; and sit up. It's time for you to give back to the one person who has loved you selflessly from even before you were born!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Les jus not be only friendz (1) by Vikash Sharma



Les just not be only friendz (1) is the first story of what is to be a trilogy and is written by debut author Vikash Sharma. The story is a part of everybody's life and come to think of it, all the characters are relatable.
Aakash and Dhiru's friendship took me to a time when friendships were more important than ideologies, until you reach a stage where you stand up for what is right. The story is set in NCR and the characters are of similar social-economic background which in the story has been dealt with well.
Life in college, life outside college, falling in love, fights in love, friendships, relationships - the story covers everthing in the lives of the people the story revolves around. The second part will give a reader more insight and it would be interesting to know how the plot takes shape.

The characters seem to have shades of people the author has known which is evident from how nicely he has gotten inside their skin. While reading my emotions towards the characters started changing from like to dislike and again back to like, time and again.
Vikash has a very raw and in your face style of writing which youngsters, specially from non-metro cities would identify with a lot. The story goes in a manner which two people might be conversing or telling a story to each other, which makes it more relatable to Indian youth.


About the book

Les just not be only friendz (1) is based on relationships and various phases of a graduate student’s life. The novel is set in Noida (NCR) in the time-period of 2009 - 2011.
The novel tells the story of a young, average performer and simple middle-class guy, who in desperate bid to not join his father's profession of selling mechanical spare parts in a small town, comes to Delhi after graduation to study in a Film school, hoping to make it big and become successful in a short time span.
Aakash opts to stay with his old school friend Dhiru and his trouble making friends, who were perusing engineering from Noida. Before he could sink with the feel of Delhi NCR, he falls for a girl named Neha and finds him swept away by love and varied emotions. Dhiru does not like the progress in Aakash and Neha's blooming relationship and consistently tries to act as second fiddle.
In order to save his friendship with Dhiru and in seeking Neha’s love, Aakash goes through various troublesome phases, which test him over time and eventually changes him from a shy and simple person to a completely different kind.
Towards the end, in order to prove his true love to Neha, Aakash accidentally ends up doing something that he had never dreamed of. The incident terribly jeopardizes their relationship. Will they ever get back to each other?

Buy the book on Amazon here.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cover Reveal : Les Just Not Be Only Friendz (1) – a novel by Vikash Sharma

Les Just Not Be Only Friendz (1) – a novel by Vikash Sharma is set to have its digital launch on March 18, 2017. The paperback will be hitting the stores in the month of April.
About the book:

Les jus not be only friendz (1) is based on relationships and various phases of a graduate student’s life. The novel is set in Noida (NCR) in the time-period of 2009 - 2011.
The novel tells the story of a young, average performer and simple middle-class guy, who in desperate bid to not join his father's profession of selling mechanical spare parts in a small town, comes to Delhi after graduation to study in a Film school, hoping to make it big and become successful in a short time span. 
Aakash opts to stay with his old school friend Dhiru and his trouble making friends, who were perusing engineering from Noida. Before he could sink with the feel of Delhi NCR, he falls for a girl named Neha and finds him swept away by love and varied emotions. Dhiru does not like the progress in Aakash and Neha's blooming relationship and consistently tries to act as second fiddle.
In order to save his friendship with Dhiru and in seeking Neha’s love, Aakash goes through various troublesome phases, which test him over time and eventually changes him from a shy and simple person to a completely different kind.
Towards the end, in order to prove his true love to Neha, Aakash accidentally ends up doing something that he had never dreamed of. The incident terribly jeopardizes their relationship. Will they ever get back to each other?

About the author:

Vikash Sharma was born in Haryana in 1987. He has travelled various states of India, to explore about the lives of people, places, languages, cultural differences, festivals, religions, and the rest.
He currently lives in Mumbai. He is a freelance writer, photographer, traveller, producer and a filmmaker. He believes in wandering, seeking happiness in small things, and sharing it with people.
‘Les just not be only Friendz (I)’ is his first novel. He is currently working on the second part of the trilogy of ‘Les just not be only Friendz.’
Read more about him here.

Friday, March 3, 2017

#AuthorInterview: Vikash Sharma



Born in Bhiwani, Haryana, author Vikash Sharma grew up and finished his schooling from Jharkhand and Delhi. One of four siblings, he has an elder brother and two sisters. "Its interesting how we all live in different cities yet manage to meet more than 4 times in a year. My youngest sister stays with my parents in Jharkhand," said Vikash fondly when talking about his family.

"After finishing graduation, I pursued post graduation from Delhi and then shifted to Mumbai and joined a MNC there. Its been 6 years that I have been working in the VFX industry," said Vikash whose debut novel will be released this month.
Vikash's debut novel is titled Les Just Not Be Only Friendz (1) and is a story about eight people whose lives are interconnected in some way or other.  The book has its digital launch on March 18 after which the ebooks will be available on all major websites. The hard copy of the book is set to be launched in the month of April. While we wait for this exciting new story to be available in the market, we try to know the author a little more.



Vikash confessed that he'd been writing since his childhood and pointed a very obvious reason behind it. "Since I was born in 1987, there wasn't much to dwell on, technology wise. School books and T.V (with very limited channels) were all that we had at our disposal. As a child, I used to scribble and write one or two liners. They didn't make much sense then. But I was really fascinated by the work of various reknowned writers like Mahashweta devi, Munshi Premchand, Vikram Seth, Ruskin bond and others. All those numerous poems and short stories that I had read since childhood must have kind of acted as inspiration for me in some way," he mused.
So, why a book? What is the story behind writing this story? "Actually, small part of it comes from my interest of writing since childhood as I have already mentioned. However, it mainly comes from my post graduation which I pursued from Noida and because of having good friends, who could be portrayed into interesting characters in a good story, most parts of which are true and lifted from my own life experiences."
Like all of us who love to read, Vikash too cannot name any one author and say - that's my favourite. He however named a few he enjoyed reading a lot and they are Arvind Adiga, Amitav Ghosh, Rohinton Mistry, Khushwant Singh, Shashi Tharoor, Devdutt Pattnaik, Gabriel Garcia, Anurag Mathur, Milan Kundera, Ravinder Singh, Chetan Bhagat, etc. I noticed that he reads Indian authors and I smiled inwardly at the welcome change from people who read mostly foreign authors. 
I wanted to know who Vikash's muse is. Does writing come to him easily? "Writing has so many advantages that if I start penning them all down, I will easily consume a page or two in less than 5 minutes. But the thing with writing is, although its extremely pleasing once you are done with what you wanted to express yet initially, it's an extremely exhausting and arduous task. For some it might be easy but I find it very difficult. And personally, I feel that writers don't write with pen, pencils or their finger tips. They write with their own blood and sweat. And sadly, most of the time, don't get proper accredition for their hard creative work. As for my luse, that would be life itself." Honestly, I couldn't agree more with his views. Every book holds in itself the authors soul, blood and dreams, and these aspects are ignored most of the times while reviewing the books.



Set your priorities straight and then don't compromise or give excuses later. Do or do not, there is no try.
When I asked Vikash about one thing he has learnt from life, the above lines are what he quoted.

While he isn't revealing a lot about the book, he did throw some light to the story for our readers! "This book is centred around love and friendship. The protagonist Aakash is an average performer, from a middle class family and has everything at stake on his performance in next 2 years in Noida. The trouble ensues once he falls in love with Neha. Its the story of his love, friends, trials and tribulations and how he copes up with the mess around him. Its a troublesome love story, wrapped with friendship on the edges." He also tells that he has planned it to be a trilogy and this is of course the first book.
As is evident from his profession, Vikash is a huge movie buff. "I like watching movies, whenever I can. Through travelling, I seek inner peace and joy. Photography, Writing, and learning other languages are my other interests.

My hobbies include - plantation, regular exercise and creating something interesting or worthy everyday."

Talking about how he hopes his book will impact its readers, Vikash reveals, "Since all the incidents portrayed in the story are quite realistic and natural, I am quite sure that the readers will find the story relatable and will enjoy reading it. I am not trying to bring any change in the world. I dont feel that I need to. Although, I hope the biggest impact that I wish to see in the readers would be if they start reading again, the way the old generation used to. Reading should never become uncool. It never was. And so, it should never be."
Quite honestly, if this is the ambition behind every book that is written, am sure everyone will pick a book of their choice and read more!
Before we ended the interview, I asked Vikash to leave a few helpful words for aspiring authors based on his own experience so far. "Its a long process. Keep polishing your skills. Keep working on them. And one day, you will realise that you get it. You will be surprised that day. Enjoy that day. And then again, keep working on your next work."

He further added, "And about the process, well, with the advent of technology and other mediums at our disposal, its not difficult to find the whats and hows about writing these days. I wish you all the best. Hope to read and enjoy your work some day. Cheers!"


Connect with author Vikash Sharma at:

#BookReview: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

On the jacket: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness  takes us on an intimate journey of many years across the Indian subcontinent, from t...