Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bali And The Ocean Of Milk by Nilanjan P. Choudhury

Title : Bali and the Ocean of Milk

Author : Nilanjan P. Choudhury

Publisher : Harper Collins

ISBN : 978-93-5029-125-2

A fiction (The Immortals of Meluha) blew me off completely last year by the sheer magic of its originality of the plot and it did leave a lasting impression on me. I am glad I picked 'Bali and the Ocean of Milk' up which made me relive some of that wonderful experience once again.

Indrah is gripped in the fearsome fangs of ageing and he seeks the help of the holy trinity to attain back his youthfulness and his omnipotence. His Asura counterpart Bali has his own set of issues too. Many threats are looming large on Bali - from some disgruntled powers within his own territory as well as from the all time enemies, Gods. And a very cleverly planned assassination attempt on him brings to fore the failure of his invincible protective cordon. But there is only one elixir which is the answer to all problems that Bali and Indrah face and that is the Nectar. To extract the same, Ocean of Milk has to be churned by two opposite powers - Devas and Asuras with the assistance of tortoise incarnation of Viru and under the supervision of Jai. The narrative vacillates between Indrah's empire - Amravati and Bali's dominion - Tripura.

The story has everything - treachery, vengeance, tables turning, switching sides, power lust and much more. The intelligence of such authors is evident from the way they create a fictional background yet integrate the same so seamlessly with the well known facts and beliefs such as the Big Bang in this case. The author has clothed the story of manthan in a completely new avatar with contemporary touch by - incorporating political references, astutely naming the churning process - Operation Ocean's Twelve and including the lingo of prevailing times in the narrative - facebook, mobile phone cameras, animal rights violation, low-fat milk and most interesting of all, Indrah having to use hair colour - Molten Midnight by So'Real.

First 2/3rd of the book is a treat to read through - the setting of scenes, the building of characters, the amalgamation of modern age vocabulary with mythology, the witticism, the wackiness, the humour, everything is just perfect.

The initial setting is exceptionally impressive to such an extent that the expectations of readers soar too high for the climax and conclusion but I found the latter part not living upto the expectations. Not that there is any flaw in that part of the story, its just that the remaining 1/3rd fades a little in comparison to the initial section of the book which raises the bar too high. Another grouse that I have against the author or the story is - a very fleeting description of The Destroyer of the famous holy trinity - christened as Jai here. (I think the author is one of the strong patrons of 'Sholay' movie !?) The other being Sambha - the creator (I wonder why he did not pick Gabbar as the creator) and Viru - the preserver.

There are not many occasions when we get to read good English written by an Indian author and I was mightily impressed by the selection of words, phrases and overall expression of Nilanjan. The editor has done a remarkable job too and not a single sentence seems redundant in the whole narration. A true page turner. My compliments to a new rising star in the Indian literary firmament. I surely will look forward to reading more written by NPC.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Zero Percentile - 2.0 Missed IIT Kissed Gurgaon

Title : Zero Percentile - 2.0 Missed IIT Kissed Gurgaon
Author : Neeraj Chhibba
Publication : Rupa Publications India Pvt. Ltd.

Neeraj Chhibba's ZP - 2.0 is a sequel of Zero percentile -1 Missed IIT Kissed Russia ,but still can be read independently.

The story is written around the thought "Intertwined destinies are a portent of greatness and a place in history unless certain evil destiny's juggernaut crosses their path."

The story revolves around Gaurav better known as Motu ,CEO of Pure Consultants and his friends who also happen to be working for him except for one called Pankaj. ZP- 2.0 has Motu trying his level best to save his company from hostile takeover bid. In between all the chaos that reigns in PureConsultants, a part of the story has been told in flashback mode where Motu reminisces about Pankaj his best friend and how they had started their first company NumeroSoft together and also made it big. About Priya, Motu's childhood love but Pankaj's wife, how Pankaj and Priya come together but differences sprout between Pankaj - Priya as well as Pankaj - Motu, because of difference in their ideologies . There are also substories about Nitin and Tanya, Arjun and Muskaan, San and Jaanvee. ZP-2.0 has Nitin an HIV afflicted person, who because of this affliction has to suffer humiliation and is also socially boycotted and how Tanya comes to his help and fights his war along with him and they emerge winners. The story also has Arjun and his wife Muskaan and their daughter Diyaa , brilliant but a child with "special needs ", how Muskaan is unable to reconcile with the fact that their daughter is a "special child" and walks out on them. The way the father and daughter duo overcome their difficulties and try to lead a normal life and try to bring Muskaan back. Then there is San an IIT dropout but brilliant at his work who tries his best to woo a few years elder to him Jaanvee, the CFO of PureConsultants. The story has greed, love, friendship, conspiracy, an attempt to murder and a hostile takeover bid. What happens to Priya, who does she choose Pankaj or Motu? Who is involved in the attempted murder, does he/she survive it? Are Arjun and Diyaa successful in wooing Muskaan back? What happens to San and Jaanvee - do they get together? Is Motu able to save PureConsultants and what happens to Pankaj? Do read on ..

The book is interspersed with a lot of business and IT lingo which stretches over quite a few pages at a time, this makes it very boring. Although I finished the book, I felt like putting the book down at these intervals. If one can overlook this, then the book can be considered good.
The story is well woven and the author jumps from one time frame to another with ease and is able to hold the interest. The book picturizes the work related stress in the IT sector quite well. It talks about a social cause like HIV and also about children with "special needs" and what do these kids and their parents undergo. I liked the quote with which the author began the book "Everything that goes up comes down. The important thing is to know when it reached the top of curve."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tales of Historic Delhi - A walk through its many cities

Talesof Historic Delhi- A walk through its many cities
Authorand Illustrator: Premola Ghose

As Delhi celebrates 100 years of its capitalhood, the animals of Janwar Dosti, a friendly animal association, travel through the city to discover the many cities that lay within. They travel from Suraj Kund to Qutb Minar to Siri Fort, unearthing the history that lies buried there. They visit the dargah of Nizammudin and try to find out what Sufism was all about. Going from gardens to villages to tombs to over crowded streets that can only set one thinking ofDelhi’s rich heritage, the animals have a delightful time. In their pursuit of discovery of the many cities of Delhi, they discover the quiet existence ofNizammudin, Tughlaqabad, Hauz Khas, Firozabad/Firoz Shah Kotla, Dinpanah, Shahjahanabad, Jaisinghpura- all of pre-British era, Civil Lines of the Britishtimes and the modern landscape marked by malls, metro stations, flyovers and much more.

Colourfully described using characters like Tunnu tiger (TT), Zero, the African giraffe, Bula bear, Pt. Ooo Lala, the wise owl, Lucky rabbit, Mayurdas, the pompous peacock and many other animals, the story emerges as a pretty tool for a quickglance into the history, the city of Delhi boasts of. From the time of Pandava kings to the modern age developments like malls and flyovers, the book tells it all.

Written in the prevailing lingo of ‘Gawd’ and ‘Whazzat’, the book is a must read for anyone who wants to know the charismatic history of our national capital. Though the story is interspersed by a number of grammatical errors, the beautiful illustrations take the reading experience to a new high and eventhose who are not particularly fond of history will find it fascinating.

Bridging the ancient ruins that still remain and the modern developments, there layssomething called memories. “Well” sighed Pinky again, “now there are only memories in the names: in the kuchas, whichwere, occupation specific zones; in the katras, which were the workplaces and homes of craftsmen; and in specific markets like the spice market of Khari Baoli, the glitter and gauze shops of Kinari Bazaar, or the paper market of Chawri Bazaar. But some famous eating placesare still around, of which the earliesare the Ghantewala Halwai, the parantha shops of Paranthewali Gali, and Karim’s, famous for its Mughal cuisine.”

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Melancholy of Innocence by Raj Doctor

Title : Melancholy of Innocence

Author : Raj Doctor

Publisher : Frog Books

ISBN : 978-93-81115-05-3

Melancholy of Innocence by Raj Doctor is a passionate love story of Umit who barely made his presence felt in the teen years and a beautiful girl Masum who happens to be eight years elder to Umit. The story is told in a flashback set in late 1920s in Istanbul against the backdrop of post political revolution that led to Turkish independence.

Umit finds a connection of 'Ruh' with Masum and obsessively follows his soul's inner voice. He does find a way to be with Masum and to show his pure feelings to her. Gradually their love blossoms and they decide to seal it with signature of permanence. But are they able to successfully do it and where does Umit find himself thirty years from the time he first set his eyes on Masum? And why is there melancholiness in this love saga?

A couple of sub stories are also added to the narrative, for instance that of Masum's brother and his relationship with his friend but these subplots neither help the main plot move forward nor bring in any freshness to it, hence are complete waste.

The story began quite promisingly and I liked the introspective philosophy sections that appeared in bits and pieces in between the narrative but then the mundane day to day activities were dealt in such elaborate details that it started becoming very drab and a mere chore to read through. I did read through the whole book because I was expecting a great climax at the end when Umit returns to the present time but then the climax and the conclusion were very weak and very naively handled.

The narration is beautifully peppered with philosophy and poetry, a unique style adopted by the author. The poetry is worth reading and pondering upon. However, as the story progresses, the philosophy part lingers on a little too longer than can be easily savored.

There are plenty of editing errors that the whole story suffers from. I always maintain that a tight editing is a must to have a presentable piece of writing and if a book falters on that account, it becomes a big put off.

However, the book is still not a complete wash out as the commentary on human moralities and human frailties, is interesting to read but the absence of a strong plot is sorely felt all through the story.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Along the Way

Title : Along The Way
Author : TGC Prasad
Publication : Rupa Publications India Pvt.Ltd.

TGC Prasad's , Along the Way is a story about software engineers who become friends in NIT Kozhikode as students and continue to be friends as IT professionals . The main protagonist Venkat along with Anjali , his girlfriend since college days and his close friends Raj And Adi go on to join TCS Bangalore , while Anjali's best friend Srila joins TCS Chennai . Venkat along with his friends goes through the typical life of a fresher joining a MNC .... working hard , been given a hard time by his boss , buying his first bike , enjoying life and freedom , his first trip abroad and making out with Anjali . The story continues with Venkat trying his best to impress Anjali's Coorgi parents , with Adi and Raj's help and convincing them that he is a good match for their daughter, inspite of cultural and background differences of their families . Furthermore how he convinces his traditional conservative family that Anjali is the right girl for him . At a juncture in the story , out comes a skeleton from Adi's closet about his sexual preferences and how all the friends react to it . Then there are also Raj and Srila and how they come together .

The story is fast paced but the author some how loses the plot at places and has thrown in sex at such times , which he has not been able to handle in an aesthetic way , it comes out in a raw and crude form . He has written about the "Indian joke " how Venkat and Raj " admire and grin at Jenny's assets " , I personally think this really reflects badly on Indian IT professionals . Then there is the trip to "Atlantic City " , what I could not grasp was that why Prasad wrote this part , whatever his reason might have been but it adds sleaze to the story . The book could have been better without this part . It seems that Prasad is highly impressed with movies , his characterisation of Anjali's father seems to be taken straight out of old Hindi movies, shown as an Army officer with a lot of interest in drinking and little silly with his"trivia " and then there is SRK calling and of course there is the time and again reference to Mario Puzo's The Godfather .There are also instances where the author seems to take a flight of fancy , like where Raj a fresher has the temerity to refer to "Amit Gupta a senior HR guy in TCS " as " Pappu " on his face . In the beginning ,Prasad has used a lot of IT jargon which is boring for the regular reader .

TGC Prasad has shown quite a bit of humor and wit in the story and the trivia part is interesting . There are bits and pieces in the story with which one can very easily co relate with .But inspite of all the 'ingredients ' being there the book does not create any impact .

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Title : Into Thin Air

Author : Jon Krakauer

Publisher : PAN Books

ISBN : 978-0-330-35397-7

This book has been very high on my TBR list ever since I read Abinav's review here. I enjoy reading travelogues and adventure books.

Since the time the first person set foot on the roof of the Earth - the Sagarmath (the mother Goddess), the Mount Everest - the lofty peak has beckoned many people over these years. This book is a first person account of Jon Krakauer who was part of the Mt. Everest expedition of 1996. He was in a team led by well-seasoned climber Rob Hall heading the Adventure Consultants. Another group also planned to reach the top at the same time led by Scott Fischer running Mountain Madness company.

Despite being well equipped with all required paraphernalia, expert guidance, meticulously planned program, well researched tracks, deftly organized trainings camps and human assistance in the form of Nepali Sherpas, these two expeditions mentored by two well known organizers completely fell apart. Everest killed 12 men and women in the spring of 1996, the worst single-season death toll since climbers first set foot on the peak seventy five years ago.

Jon introduces the readers to the main characters who were part of these expeditions which began in the spring of 1996, each one of them having different reasons to 'just to get to the top' where the frailty of human body is evident at every step of the trek and the hurdles of unthinkable magnitude stare mockingly at the human faces - freezing, injuries, blindness, breathlessness due to depletion of oxygen in the air, and dying team mates on the way.

In Jon's words - "With so many marginally qualified climbers flocking to Everest these days, a lot of people believe that a tragedy of this magnitude was over-due. But nobody imagined that an expedition led by Rob Hall would be at the center of it. Hall ran the tightest, safest operation on the mountain, bar none. A compulsively methodical man, he had elaborate systems in place that were supposed to prevent such a catastrophe. So what happened? How can it be explained?"

Who was responsible - wrong judgment of even the so called champions of climbing, ill luck, sudden change of weather, rivalry between two businessmen Fisher and Hall, Everest's vengeance, Nature's fury or its way of displaying its supremacy? These are the unanswered questions which do not fade away easily from the minds of the ones who survived the fate. As Jon reminisces, "As I write these words, half a year has passed since I returned from Nepal, and on any given day during those six months, no more than two or three hours have gone by in which Everest hasn't monopolized my thoughts. Not even in sleep is there respite; imagery from the climb and its aftermath continues to permeate my dreams. "

I really appreciated the way Jon has recounted and almost relived the moments while writing this book, that he spent during those couple of months chasing his childhood dream on the terrain which can be as treacherous and killer as it could get. In the preface, he mentions that through this book he wanted to get the expedition and the guilt feeling of 'what if' out of his system. I do not know whether he accomplished this objective or not but the way he has reported almost moment to moment details of those crucial days, it sounds very honest, authentic and unbiased reporting and he truly deserves compliments for the same.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

When a Lawyer Falls in love

Title : When a Lawyer Falls In Love
Author : Amrita Suresh
Publication : Offshoots

This is a story of a group of friends hailing from different parts of India and studying together in a law college . The story is majorly about Vyas - Caroline , Souvik - Jaishree , Ankur / Rohit - Sonali and then there is also unattached Pavan who provides the comic angle in the story.

As the story progresses amidst typical college life happenings of a VJ hunt, a college festival, drugs, leg pulling and flirtations, the love stories also move on .Two of the stories move in a positive direction and one of them results in a wedding ...the third one does not survive the glitches .
To find out, which couple ties the knot - how and why, who gets dumped, who wins Sonali - the sweet and cherubic Ankur or the loudmouthed and domineering Rohit .... do read on.

The story is fast paced and reasonably well told but is liberally littered with astrological gibberish. There is a part where author has literally delivered more than a two page lecture on astrology which is very boring.
The book has the potential to appeal to the young readers especially college goers but does not do much for the mature readers.

For a debutant author Amrita Suresh has done a fairly good job.