Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Parrot Who Wouldn't Talk by Ruskin Bond

Title : The Parrot who wouldn't Talk
Author : Ruskin Bond
Publisher : Penguin India
ISBN : 978-0-14-333068-4

The more I read Ruskin Bond, the more I admire his writing style. I love how he feels the need to record the details which may seem insignificant but work wonderfully in painting the picture perfectly in front of readers' eyes. I guess this is the reason, readers just want to get transported to the lovely world of Ruskin the way R.K. Narayan invoked similar feelings for Malgudi. Who doesn't want to be a part of Swami's world where innocence and simplicity still rule? Ruskin Bond is not India's best-loved children's writer for nothing.

The Parrot Who Wouldn't Talk  is a collection of heart warming short stories weaved around some of his friends and relatives. As he says, "I think everyone has at least one eccentric aunt or uncle in the family. I had more than one. My boyhood days were enlivened by their presence. Strong, unforgettable characters, all of them. I hope you'll enjoy their antics - and mind too!"

He writes about his grandfather who had an uncanny faculty of studying the habits and characteristics of people around him and disguising himself as one of them. Thus he enjoyed getting the 'feel' of someone else's occupation and lifestyle, be it a street-vendor, a carpenter or even a beggar. Uncle Ken happens to be just the person who is sought after by trouble itself. It is interesting how he managed to put Ruskin(when he was nine or ten years old) on a wrong train all by himself. Ruskin goes on to share his experiences as a boy scout when he earned the cookery badge for himself and did end up creating an innovative delectable all-Indian sweet-and-sour jam-potato curry.
There are more stories around Mr. Ghosh, Aunt Ruby, Uncle Ken and Mr. Oliver with Ruskin's signature style beautifully adorned with humor making this book a permanent among the personal collection.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Kalila and Dimna by Ramsay Wood

Title: Kalila and Dimna: The Pancatantra Retold - Book One
Author: Ramsay Wood
Publication: Random House India
Price: INR 225

Having been born in a typical Indian family, the tales of Panchatantra have been everything to me - from being bed time tales to moral stories to pieces of traditional literature. This book looks at some of the same stories in a peculiar, novel and interesting way, along with some folklores of other lands as well. The story begins with a tale of a fickle minded king Dabschelim who accidently lands up in a lot of treasure and a strange letter from a king of the past. As mentioned in the letter, he gets a certain learned man, Dr. Bidpai to make him understand the contents of the letter. 

The letter contains several 'rules of conduct proper to the behaviour of kings'. The best part of these rules is that many of them even though meant for a king can be easily applied to our lives as well. Say for instance, we must do good, as if we do good, good will be done to us. Or one should be mild and friendly in nature and so on.

Bidpai, in his elaboration of the first rule stated in the letter, starts telling the tale of 'Kalila and Dimna', two jackal brothers. Kalila is the wiser of the two and advises Dimna against his foolhardy behaviour, but to little avail. A lot many other stories have been intertwined with this one. Just as the first rule stated that a king mustn't dismiss any servant at the request of the other person, for a people are bound to be jealous of a servant close to the king, this story of Kalila and Dimna ends in sad end of a faithful subject, due to a foul game of a jealous courtier.

The second story, or a array of stories, I must say, is that of 'Zirac and Friends'. Apt description to the rule that the ministers, counsellors and the likes, if preserved well will together work for the welfare of the state, the stories teach us that friendship which is pure and not based on any kind of expectations or benefit lasts longer, better and stronger.

It is really interesting how Ramsay Wood has connected all the little stories and presented them so logically, basically as a single story.

The little quotations, often at the beginning of the stories and at their close, give an insight into the values being taught or the central idea of the stories.

As the main purpose of the Panchatantra tales, a moral or a meaning can be drawn up everywhere. After reading the book, one feels refreshed and positively motivated. For those of us who have grown up on these tales, this book appears like a harbinger of novelty, a morphosis, a time to look at the past with a new perspective.

A perfectly delightful read for those who want the values of yesterday in the light of today.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Interview with Jan Welborn-Nichols

Here we present an e-interview with Jan Welborn-Nichols, the author of 'Henrietta Sharp and the Magic Lunch Box' (ZR Review here), an interesting little book for kids. She shares her views about her book, 'fantasy' and her future plans. Read on..

ZR: When you started writing the book "Henrietta Sharp and the Magic Lunch Box" what was the main theme that you had in mind: to come up with a fantasy story or to focus on the inculcation of healthy food habits among children? 

Jan: I've always thought of Henrietta Sharp and the Magic Lunch Box as a fantasy adventure. Main characters always have a problem, sometimes a lot of problems, just like readers. The story is the character’s journey toward revelation, realization and ultimately, some kind of resolution. The references to food (other than the fact that I’m personally a zesty eater) exist because food is a problem for Henrietta. 

ZR: What, in your opinion ultimately comes across as a bigger message in the story?

Jan: I hope that readers come away with the message that self-doubt is the human equivalent of Kryptonite. It can stifle our potential to be truly realized versions of ourselves in the world. Before Henri can wield her power as a portal Traveler she must learn to appreciate her whole self, especially the chubby self that makes her so uncomfortable. Even without a super power, the rest of us have the incredible power to become our best, most authentic selves. In my mind, the big message is power, not showy super powers, but the everyday power that comes from learning to be so comfortable in our own skin we can pay attention to the people and experiences around us.

ZR: How much of research went into the creation of such a book? Also many of the characters from your book have names based on food such as Sausalito, McCauly Flower, Brocco Lee and so on. What according to you is the significance of using such names over conventional names?

Jan: As a fantasy adventure writer, my research consists of going to the imagination store, a lot.
The imagination store is how I visualize my lifetime of memories, experiences and observations. I spend a lot of time just thinking about the story. Eventually, that leads to the capturing of random thoughts: notes about plotlines, interesting character names, chapter titles and so on. After I’ve been to the imagination store enough and accumulated a body of notes, a formal outline begins to appear. It’s messy and chaotic. It requires diligent work and a light touch, like a butterfly catcher, to capture the story without killing it. 

About the character names: I knew that I wanted the main character to have a five-syllable name. Hen-ri-ett-a Sharp. Why? I just liked the rhythm of it. And, I like girl names that can be used as boy names too. In this instance, I don’t know why. 

I named the residents of Grymvald (the world that Henri goes to using her Traveler super power) to give a visual clue about their appearance and personality. Sir Brocco Lee is a very animated and wise stalk of broccoli. Sausalito is a talking bottle of hot sauce that wears a cape. Here’s a story within the story. The cape was supposed to be a poncho, but my illustrator friend Susan Bachman has a thing for capes so I changed the description to honor her cape fetish! 

I think writers are attuned to the way things sound. Some character names are chosen because of the way they fall off the tongue. In other instances, like McCauley Flower, the name reveals something about the nature of the character. This is not uncommon. Consider J.K. Rowling’s use of the name Malfoy (mal = sick, ill) or Voldemort (mort = death, dying). And sometimes, a character is named for the simple reason that it amused the writer to do so. 

ZR: Was 'Fantasy' writing always your calling or did it just happen? Which books (apart from yours, of course) do you find the most amazing in this genre?

Jan: I love to read across many genres but science fiction and fantasy are particular favorites of mine. Like so many other readers, my favorite childhood book was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. More recently, I have been completely blown away by Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. These book are so rich in scope, so vivid in description with such riveting characters that I cannot think of enough glowing adjectives. 

ZR: Do you feel fantasy has always been a favorite among kids, or have some of the recent books re-kindled their interest towards it?

Jan: This is just one girl’s opinion with absolutely no research to support it, but I believe that fantasy has always appealed to children. Fairytales, though often quite dark and dreadful, are fantasy. The 19th century gave us two classic fantasy novels that come to mind: Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. The genre starts off with a bang in the 20th century with J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, followed by my perennial favorite J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Oddly, for someone who loves fantasy, I haven’t read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis or the beloved series of Harry Potter books by J.K. Rawling. When I was writing Henrietta Sharp and the Magic Lunch Box, I didn’t want to be unduly influenced by either of these talented authors. Now that my first book is finished, I get to read all of the books in both series.

ZR: Do you have any plans to come up with any other book(s) soon?

Jan: The operative word is soon. I’ve been busy with the development of both audio and print versions of Henrietta Sharp and the Magic Lunch Box that will be out in November 2012. I’ve also been building an audience for the book by guest blogging, writing new content for the companion web site, and preparing to launch a new, improved version of the site, also targeted for November.

I have started the process of capturing ideas for book two in the Henrietta Sharp series. This is inside info and it’s just for you, Zealot Readers. The title is Henrietta Sharp and the Secret Assassin. Here are two catastrophic events that will be in the book: a 7th grade Halloween dance and a Traveler training mission that goes horribly wrong. Fingers crossed: I hope the book will be available by December 2013. Of course that’s an impossible goal. But that’s what I like about fantasy. Impossible things happen all the time, quite often before breakfast!

Thanks Jan!! We hope your books get all the success and fame. We wish you all the very best for all your future endeavours and eagerly look forward to reading, enjoying and reviewing many many more books of yours.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Devil's Ether by RR Chelra

ISDN : 978-93-5067-259-4
I read this book on my husband’s insistence and I am mighty glad that I read it . It seldom happens that you come across a sci – fi novel which  happens to be an author’s debut book but also turns out to be a riveting and thought provoking piece of work.
R R Cherla’s Devil’s Ether is a  sci- fi set in the United States of America. Written against a backdrop of  international intrigue and a internet connected world, this book takes you to a world where there is no limit  to what the top bosses of the intelligence agencies might do to achieve their own personal  interests. The way they violate the privacy of individuals without a second thought using the social mediums is scary. It has the main protagonist Sara Sheppard trying to save her husband, Jim, who happens to be the administration’s biggest critic, from the clutches of  supposed paranoia . Little does she realize at that time that it is Jim who is trying to save her and their daughter. As the story unravels, Sara finds out how her husband’s privacy has been violated by the intelligence agencies and how they are playing with his mind. The way she gets CIA agent Jeff Brandon’s help, who discovers at that stage that he still has a conscience which does not allow him to support his bosses anymore is interesting. The riveting story has a lot to offer and keeps you glued to the book.

The story is fast paced and definitely holds your interest till the very end. The helicopter chases and the sharp shooters lend the story a Hollywood flavor. While reading the book I could feel the adrenalin rush and could visualize the scenes as if I was watching a movie.This itself says how well the story has been put into words.
However, I feel, the author could have held himself a little from going into such in depth technical details because either a sci – fi is one’s cup of tea or it is entirely out of one’s range.

In my opinion, Mr. Cherla has done a commendable job especially as Devil’s Ether happens to be his debut book. The book portrays the depth of research done by the author. The book is definitely strongly recommended to all  action and sci – fi fans.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Interview with B.L.Gautam

An ex-customs officer, a distinguished intelligence officer, a film producer ('Khosla ka Ghosla' and 'A Wednesday'), a novelist - all rolled in one. Yes, this is B.L.Gautam.  After having experimented with poetry in Hindi and Urdu, he came up with Andy Leelu (reviewed here). It is a pleasure having conducted an e-interview with him and we are glad to be sharing it here with the readers of Zealot Readers.

1.      You seem to be having both sides of your brain extremely well developed. The logical and analytical left side, and thoughtful and intuitive right side. How do you handle both of them which I am sure must have contradicted on several occasions?

 Its  a compliment, but let me be a little candid here. I strongly believe that we humans are a huge pool of wasted talent. Everyone of us comes with an immense potential. We are chosen ones of the nature. Its the parentage, environment , and the education that makes most of us the foot-soldiers of creativity, for the mediocrity to thrive. In my  innocent belief I was a special child as most of us are, but truly speaking I was not. It was my fools promise to myself that has driven me through the thick and thin of life. You may call it the mantra of life that is engrained into ones thinking at very early age.  You cant break the promise you make to yourself.  The much revered true love is nothing but ones promise to oneself.

Brain has two side, no doubt, and most of us have one lesser developed. I was lucky to have some amount of both, but believe me I had neither to the level that makes one a genius. So  to say handle both of them will be vain, it was in fact a struggle.  The struggle I have now fallen in love with.

If you cant contradict yourself youre just a depository of others knowledge at the best. I was taught to be one in my school. I was considered exceptionally intelligent when I would read a page just once and narrate it verbatim. A time came I found such photographic memory completely useless. Now I hardly remember anything of what I read. My mind just takes the essence and moves on. Forgetting is what  has made me a thinker and a writer. My mind is a clean slate when I set to think about something. For example,  a minute back I had no clue what I am going to write in answer to your question.

2.      How has the experience been for you as well as for your family in the high risk job as customs officer ? Was moving on a calculated decision? Do you miss the thrill of that job?

Allow me to begin with the last part of your question. I miss it like a first love. It has, in fact , become a parallel life in my thoughts. Insuppressibly, I would write a radical article catalyzed by the disturbing events taking place on global as well as domestic front. There are times I wrote  strong letters to the power that would be fit to jolt up the system. I doubt somebody reads them. The portent at times was  so awfully close to the events to come, I am sure our agencies would have hounded  me had they read all that. For example, a piece I wrote on a couple of months before the serial train blast happened in Mumbai wouldnt have escaped the hawks eye, if we really have a  half  decent monitoring system; the title itself was a loud cry- Do you hear the tick Mr. Prime Minister? Surprisingly, the article was recently blocked. More recently when my curiosity got me to attend a disquieting dinner hosted  by  the masqueraded media to propel a  sitting General into public life,  I was flabbergasted. I wrote  a letter to the then Home minister which now reads like an augury. It was  cognitive intelligence, that came to me with years of experience. And I would say once gone to intelligence never comes back.

Exposure to risk in a preventive job comes with some rewards. More so, once you have taken the plunge theres no looking back.  Its by choice because these guys are hand-picked; unwilling and inefficient will either wriggle out or will be chucked out by the system. You have to know your lakshman rekha’  which has its flexibility and sanctity left up to you to decide since the system has imposed an unflinching trust in you. The risk is calculated or I would say mitigated to an extent, if you do your job with a high level of integrity. The world of smuggling thrives on the idea of quick money, and if they find someone who is infallible, and treats money as if it was nothing more than an evidence of crime; the person becomes a demi-god to the community of offenders. The second thing is the way you handle the power and respect that come with the package; if you get carried way you are doomed. We saw it happening with many of our officers of  Customs and Police. Their dishonoring stories  are in public now. It could see it coming.

In spite of the fact that you may put your best foot forward all the time, there is an invisible risk, always. You little know how the dices are being played on the other side of the fence. In my case, after years  of it had  stealthily  come and gone, I had the revelation that a frustrated smuggler and lynchpin named Irfan Goga had decided to knock me off. And it was another infamous don Anees Ibrahim in Dubai who was so enamored  of my honesty and simplicity that he threatened Goga of his life if he touched me. The spat went to sow the  seed of  permanent enmity between  the two sworn partners to the extent that one was finally eliminated by the other. I was stoned for a moment when I came to know of the full script. Isnt it spine-chilling? (laugh)

To not be perturbed of such eventualities every other day, I adopted a philosophy.  I started taking myself a man who was dead yet alive. And I believed I have nothing more to lose. Its easy to say it in words, but a very tough call when it comes to reality.

3.      Why cinema and media after a long service in customs? Is it to satisfy the urge to be in some form of spotlight all the time?

My decision was not impulsive nor it was triggered by one single factor. In spite of having  a hidden streak of rebellion I was always an obedient son, a loving husband and a zealously protective father, and would think many time before taking any career decision. I had  a creative person in me that would prompt me to dabble with theatre and literature,  but duty was always first and foremost. I would be lying if I say that I had no desire for recognition.  Recognition in my mind was always different than 15 second fame or a picture on page 3. I always dreamt to be famous in a world that would be here after I am gone. A Kabir fascinates me more than a  celebrity politician or a film star. After  more  than 500 years Kabir is a household name, and hes so relevant even today.

The thought that you get to live only once pushes me do so many things in one life. You will be amused to know that I have been making a serious attempt  for last thirty  five years to decipher the truth of universe. I have an adequate grasp on Quantum Mechanics and Classical Physics to keep my quest meaningfully on. I have added the dimensions of Vedic science to it. When a  new finding in theoretical physics  vindicates my postulates of Mest Theory, I feel reassured.

To put it straight I love cinema as a creative expression, but at the same time I hate the devious power of marketing. Media today abounds unethical practices. Lesser said the better.

4.      You are the producer of two critically acclaimed and thought provoking films - 'Khosla ka Ghonsla' and 'A Wednesday'. Do share your intuitive feeling that led you to get actively involved in these films?

Yes, it was pure intuition. The scripts caught me by my collar. It was worth risking my comfortable job, both the times. I was very confident of their commercial success, and thats what made me to stick my neck out in spite of a terrible resistance from the management. A few would know that I made Khosla Ka Ghosla when I was with Zee. Everyone around in the organization thought I should, and I would draw a flak.  Contrary to their expectation, the film shaped up well, and  behold, the top-brass decided to junk it, unceremoniously.  Corporate envy is Machiavellian, I realized. Those were painful days of my life. It set me to rethink whether my decision to come to media was right. I had to pass through an ordeal to see the film released. To the extent, that the savior, in an unsavory  way, wanted his name to appear as the producer. Imagine, it was after three years of the film was made. I had no inclination to put my name as  producer after I had dared to lock-horns with Zee on matters of ethics. But it was a nightmare convincing other stake holders for such an unreasonable demand. I had set my eyes only on the release of this film. That I did, and rest is history as they say.

As if it was not enough, fate had one more round of agony in store for me that came  with  A Wednesday. I had to recede from my declared position of Producer to Executive Producer, when my boss realized that it was a wonderful film. He had agreed to commission it with an obvious spite, to say the least.

To bring these two films to light, I not only lost my peace of years but a few friends too, if I still believe they were once my friends. In a struggle for success, nobodys nobodys friend. Media is a lesson in this. Cynical may it sound.

5.      How did Andy Leelu start taking shape in your mind and how long did it take to come out with the final product? Are you satisfied with your first book and readers' response to it?
The genesis of Andy Leelu lies in the cynicism, or solitude, I came by thanks to my new job. The choice was either I play the game and be at the helms of affairs or I hang up my boots, and sit in a corner. I was not ready  to accept either of the two. And I decided to prove my worth by doing something that would need no one as a partner or  an associate.  I wanted to go on a lone journey. Writing was the only option. As luck would  have it, my job  took to me to ( it was alienation to be frank)  Mauritius. The serenity of this island was a  right match to my melancholy. I had company, sarcasm unintended. I fathomed my life, and what came in revelation was a treasure of stories. It was overwhelming. I had written poems and articles, but never a novel. Writing a novel was intimidating. It was like cruising a vast  terrain with unknown contours. The invitation had a deadly yet alluring challenge.
I began with my wonder years. Not only the most vivid segment of my memory, it was a momentous period of our history. I got a hazy outline of the story in my mind. I said, here you go, buddy!
 I poured myself out. The experience was cathartic. In around 8 months I had the first draft in hand. Getting it published would be a mountainous hurdle, I had not realized by then. There were trepidations and travesties, but there was also determination to overcome. It took  4 years for Andy Leelu to hit the stands.

6.      What were the challenges that you faced in the literary field while entering in it as an amateur writer? Did your experience in other fields help you in any way?

The constituency in India is very small. Its very unfortunate that we are one of the biggest country in the world with a huge literary inheritance, yet we have a pint-sized publication industry. In comparison to the western world, its almost nothing.

I had to come to India via USA, a country I have never been to, nor have much love for.
We are greedily busy making money, and the culture is left to the vultures. Just imagine  when a person of my resources has to struggle so much for his book to get published where would a greenhorn go.

 On other hand if you look at what is being written here, its far from inspiring. Publishing and reading go hand in hand. We are happy aping China while US and Europe, and even Latin America is spending enormous resources to shape up  the  thoughts of the world. They will be the pioneers of the new era and we are happy to be the workforce.

7.      Out of all the roles that you have donned so far, which has given you the most pleasure?

Its difficult to come out with a straight, and for that matter, an honest reply. If have to, then I will choose  the role of an intelligence officer, of course, with a rider.  The rider is- only If I could have my way to deal with the situations. And if not so, then a writer, because here no one can stop me have my way. (laugh)

8.      You have written some verses in Hindi and Urdu as well. Are you planning to publish them too? After having written prose and poetry both, which form of writing do you feel is more gratifying?

I think I am a poet first. I started with Hindi poetry. Gazal caught my fancy after I read great shayars like Ghalib and Faiz, and of course Dushyant Kumar if I have to name one from Hindi side. I learnt basic Urdu when I was 35. And yes like Dushyant, I will publish just one collection of my Gazals. In shayari, if you write more you repeat yourself. I am now more of a story teller. I have found my last refuge there. (laugh)

9.      How do you want to be remembered as?

I take myself a part of this organic universe. To me, independent existence is a fallacy. So would like to be remembered as a person who lived and died for humanity. My pains and pleasures are universal in a sense.

Anushka Ravishankar on Harry Potter Series

Anushka Ravishankar is an acclaimed author of wonderful children's books. Some of her works are - Tiger on a Tree, To Market! To Market!, Atleast a Fish and Moin and the Monster.

We requested her to share her views on Harry Potter series with our readers and she gladly agreed. Here is what she has to say on Harry Potter books : 

It's difficult now to imagine the world of children's books without Harry Potter. What an amazing feat JK Rowling pulled off! In an age of television and video games, she made a cult of a series of books.

Reams have been written, and will continue to be written about why the books work. Is it the combination of magic with the everydayness of school life? Is it the deep, dark tale of goof and evil, leavened with the emotions of maternal love and friendship? It could be all of these, but when I read the Potter books again, I realise that JK Rowling is just a darned good writer. She writes with humour and precision and with a perfect ear for dialogue.

For me, though, the magic of Harry Potter began to wane after The Prisoner of Azkeban, when the books became fat and episodic and slightly self-indulgent. Some of them could have done with a good editorial slash and burn. The speculation is that because they'd become such a huge phenomenon by then, the publishers wanted them fatter.

And yet, with the last book everything came together so beautifully and satisfyingly that one was willing to overlook a lot. Except the epilogue, which evoked all the problems I had with some of the earlier books - that they were deeply gendered, and reflected many of the biases of the real world without making an attempt to subvert them. But that's a whole different thesis. 

Thanks Anushka :)

More art work on Harry Potter Series

Symbols of four houses in Hogwarts

Headmaster Albus Dumbledore

Art work by Raghav Sharma (10 years)

Reminiscence: Harry Potter Week - 12-18 August, 2012

Image source: Internet

Saturday, August 18, 2012


In my mind I asked Harry Potter memories, "Will you stay with me?"
They unanimously replied, "Until the very end."


Poster source: Internet

P.S. Strange things happen.

The Sri Krishna Connect
Having heard the stories of Sri Krishna as well as Ron had heard the 'Tales of Beedle and Bard', I can say that I am pretty well conversant with the basic life story of Sri Krishna.

Over the years, the more I delve deeper into the realms of the Harry Potter stories, the more likeness I find between the lives of Sri Krishna and Harry Potter. Extremely strangely so, but it seems truer the more I see it.

Both these heroes had problems synonymous to their names and since infancy they had had troubles. Both had faced what many many elders haven't or hadn't - DEATH... and that too, many a times. There had been prophecies intertwining the fates of these heroes and their biggest nemesis, long before they were old enough to understand it or, as in Sri Krishna's case, even before he was born.

Neither was brought up by his biological parents. The parents in both cases had to suffer at the hands of a tyrant who actually meant to harm their sons. Voldemort in case of Harry and Kansa in case of Sri Krishna. The most famous part of the lives of both our heros is when they worked and fought for the benefit of the good and to vanquish the bad. Friendship, was what both valued above other things. Just as Harry can be considered helpless and ineffective without Hermione and Ron, the Sri Krishna story lacks a significant portion without Sri Radha, the Gopikas and of course, Sri Sudama.

The biggest difference between the personalities is that Sri Krishna, being the almighty, did not suffer from all that ails the mortals.

It is time for a Goodbye
As we come to a close of the long, successful and happy Harry Potter week, as we lift ourselves over the thick beautiful clouds of the fantasy world, as we come out from the cupboard below the staircase, to face the real world once again, may this experience give us immense happiness to continue our lives. This week has been thoroughly enjoyable and the Hindi words go .. chirasmarneeya, avismarneeya. 

My heartfelt gratitude to all the little kids, members, zealous followers of Zealot Readers who contributed to make this event a grand one with over 65 blog posts and ounces of exuberance. 

Hoping that these fond memories stay with all of us for a long time to come...

Vaishali Sethi

Here's what they have to say...

Leni Varkey, the author of 'Kuttan's Dilemma' shares her views on the famous Harry Potter Series...

If 'Magic' is removed from Harry Potter books, it would be the story of any boarding school. The fact that J K Rowling didn't go too far from reality, for example, instead of boarding on a magical creature to transport all the children to the school, she chose the london railway station itself with a 9 3/4 platform number and a bank to keep all the valuables, has helped in the likeabilty of the book.

The ability to write for a certain age group for children is a challenge by itself but J .K Rowling managed to do that keeping in view the growing years of the hero. She captured beautifully the innocence  of a child in the first book as well as the emotional upheavals of a teenager in the last book. That, by itself, is commendable. Honouring friendship,sticking through thick and thin, victory of good over evil (how ever clever and powerful the villain is), revenge, the chosen one, mystery, fantasy, romance Harry potter series has it all. What's not to like!


My mum made yummy aloo-parathas this morning. She even added green chillies. She had little idea of a Potter-maniac's prowess...

Our Green-eyed hero who had a lightening shaped scar on his forehead...

Book 7 - Some thoughts 1

Shouldn't it have been Harry Potter and the Seven (Eight?) Horcruxes? Why Deathly Hallows? Maybe this is Rowling's way of highlighting something that is not so obvious.

In the chapter King's Cross, there is a significant part of the conversation, where Dumbledore tells Harry about his trying to unite the Hallows to conquer death.

Dumbledore turned his whole body to face Harry, and tears still sparkled in the brilliantly blue eyes.
'Master of death, Harry, master of Death! Was I better, ultimately, than Voldemort?'
'Of course you were,' said Harry. 'Of course - how can you ask that? You never killed if you could avoid it!'
'True, true,' said Dumbledore, and he was like a child seeking reassurance. 'Yet, I, too, sought a way to conquer death, Harry.'
'Not the way he did,' said Harry. 'Hallows, not Horcruxes.'
'Hallows,' murmured Dumbledore, 'not Horcruxes. Precisely.'

This fits in well with their conversation about choices at the end of HP 2.

So we have here a triangle with Harry, Dumbledore and Voldemort at the three vertices. Both Dumbledore and Voldemort sought to conquer death. The paths they took, were, however, significantly different.

Voldemort chose to immortalize himself by making Horcruxes, living or non-living beings into which was incorporated a piece of his soul. He had to kill to be able to split his soul every time. Reminds me of an old fairy tale where a rakshasa (demon) could not be killed because he had lodged his soul in a bird, which was then kept under layers of security, and the protagonist had to breach each level of the protection to get to the bird, kill it, and so kill the rakshasa. The megalomania of the demon comes across in such a story, where there is complete disregard for the safety of or any pain suffered by anyone else. The deaths are deliberate.

Dumbledore, too, dreamt of conquering death. It was initially a nebulous wish, together with his teen-hood friend, Gellert Grindelwald. It begins with a common dream of conquering the world, of being the top-dog, so to say. Events that follow lead to a separating of ways for the two friends.

When Dumbledore defeats Grindelwald (now a feared dark wizard) much later, he wins the Elder wand, the first Hallow, from him. When he finds that James had the Invisibility Cloak, the third Hallow, he realizes that the legend of the Hallows is true. Consequently, he is tempted by the ring containing the second Hallow, the Resurrection Stone, and attempts to put it on. The ring is cursed by Voldemort, and it almost kills Dumbledore.

Note, here, that Voldemort had held in his hand a Hallow, and had turned it into a Horcrux. We realize that he had no knowledge of the Hallows, as he had been raised by muggles, and was later likely to be disdainful of 'mere children's stories' and anything to do with emotion.

Dumbledore, though, had never united the Hallows, though he possessed one or two of them at all times since obtaining the Elder wand. He had given the Invisibility Cloak away to Harry before he got the Resurrection Stone.

Harry, the third corner of the triangle, had never considered the possibility of doing either and conquering death. He, however, did possess all three Hallows after defeating Draco while escaping from Malfoy Manor. As Draco had overpowered Dumbledore on top of the Astronomy tower, he had won the allegiance of the Elder wand, and Harry won it on overpowering Draco.

So although Voldemort tried to kill him using the wand that he had forcibly removed from Dumbledore's grave, the wand gets snatched from his hand by Harry's signature Expelliarmus, and flies to its true owner, turning in an arc to hit Voldemort instead with his own killing curse.

The Invisibility Cloak belonged to him by rightful inheritance, and the Resurrection Stone had been bequeathed to him by Dumbledore. So, at the point where he walks into the Forbidden Forest, he has united all three, making him Master of Death.

The most important point to note here is that, he has not got any of these by killing or destruction. Even his overpowering of Draco had been an Expelliarmus in defence. He did not aspire to conquer death, and so he did, when he had all three Hallows.

Conquering death here could be looked at in two ways:
1) He had been frightened for his life until then, even until he finally walked into the forest. "He felt his heart pounding fiercely in his chest...Terror washed over him as he lay on the floor, with that funeral drum pounding inside him. Would it hurt to die?"

When he opened the Snitch and turned the Stone over, his dead loved ones appear and reassure him. This part is reminiscent of the end of Dickens' A Tale Of Two Cities where the poor seamstress requests Sydney Carton to hold her hand till the end.
"You'll stay with me?"
"Until the very end," said James.
Harry was no longer frightened of death and walked to face his death with a sense of detachment.

2) Now that he had the three Hallows together, he no longer could be killed. Voldemort's Avada Kedavra in the forest selectively destroys the Horcrux bit in Harry. That was the fussing mass of humanity in the bundle behind the bench at King's Cross. The killing curse sends Harry, too, to the place in transit, but he has the option of coming back, and lives.

Dumbledore had the right idea in HP 1 when he hid the Philosopher's Stone in the Mirror of Erised. "Only a person who wanted to find the Stone -- find it, but not use it -- would be able to get it. That is one of my more brilliant ideas. And between you and me, that is saying something."

Choosing the Hallows over the Horcruxes is the fork in the road taken. And that has made all the difference, to quote Robert Frost.

Points 2 Ponder

Rowling in numbers...

There are a few numbers which have a striking recurrence in the Harry Potter series and here is a list of a few of them:

  1. Number of books in the series
  2. Years at Hogwarts
  3. The Weasley Kids - William (Bill), Charlie, Percy, George, Fred, Ronald (Ron), Ginevra (Ginny)
  4. Number of challenges to get to the Philosopher's stone
  5. The known number of secret passages in and out of Hogwarts
  6. Floor on which the Room of Requirement is located
  7. The number of Potters who finally flew one last time over the Privet Drive
  8. The number of Horcruxes Voldemort intended to make
  9. Prophecy about the child born in the 7th month ...and many more...
  1. The awesome trio - Harry, Hermione, Ron
  2. The forbidden corridor in the first book
  3. The number of heads of the Dog protecting the Philosopher's Stone
  4. The number of Hallows
  5. Name of the pub: The THREE Broomsticks
  6. The faithful friends - Moony, Padfoot, Prongs
  7. The Dumbledore kids - Albus, Aberforth, Adriana
  8. Harry and Ginny's kids - James, Lily, Albus Severus   ...and many more...

Diary: First day at Quidditch

Dear Diary

Today was my first day at Quidditch. I learnt it quickly. It seemed as if I have flown on a broomstick before. I came so naturally. Bad Draco Malfoy stole Neville's remembrall, so I got angry, mounted my broomstick and got flying. We were not supposed to fly till Madam Hooch made us to do the same. Professor McGonagall saw me and took me to Oliver Wood. I thought she would put me in a detention. But she gave me the post of seeker in the house quidditch team instead. I am so so happy that I would now play for my house.

The most exciting part was that I got a brand new broomstick - a nimbus two thousand. I am so happy today.


By: Vidhi Sethi, 10 years.

Book 7- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

pic courtesy
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Written by J K Rowling
Published by Bloomsbury

I have read several school stories. Each character behaves differently when they know it's their last year there. I wondered how Harry would react when he had to leave. True, he skips his last year at Hogwarts. I would have liked to know how he would have finished school, and thus, had to leave.
So, coming to the book, it starts with a death. Then the amazing idea of having 7 Harrys. Another death.
In Dumbledore's will, he left Harry the snitch he had caught in his first year at Hogwarts. He left Ron a Deluminator and Hermione, his copy of "The Tales of Beedle the Bard".
Hermione and Ron accompany Harry in his mission to find and destroy all the Horcruxes. Here's the list of Horcruxes already found- the ring and the diary. Only 2 out of 7! 5 to go.
The Book left for Hermione proves to be useful as she finds a strange sign in it. Xenophilius Lovegood (Luna Lovegood's father) explains to the three of them that it was the sign of the three Deathly Hallows. These were- the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone and the Invisibility Cloak. Together they make one a master of Death.
They decide to live at Sirius' house. A trip to the ministry helps them find the locket. But how can it be destroyed?
Hermione realizes that the sword of Godric Gryffindor had basilisk venom in it and could thus destroy Horcruxes. So the locket is destroyed.
Later comes the search for and destroying of the rest of the Horcruxes and a huge battle. Deaths everywhere.
A dead Dumbledore tells Harry that he had tried to use the Hallows to become invincible. He points out to Harry how much like Voldemort that made him. Quoting from the book, "Hallows", murmured Dumbledore, "Not horcruxes". 
Harry almost dies. Voldemort is destroyed. Harry does not use Avada Kedavra, the killing curse. Then how does Harry kill him?
Voldemort casts a killing curse at Harry. An Expelliarmus from Harry's side. This causes Voldemort's wand to fly out of his hands, turning around to direct the killing curse at him.

Harry possessed all three hallows because-
1)He had his father's Invisibility Cloak
2)The snitch contained the Resurrection Stone
3)Dumbledore had gotten the Elder Wand by defeating his childhood friend. Then Draco Malfoy had  disarmed Dumbledore before Snape killed Dumbledore. Harry overpowers Draco.

Voldemort was under the impression that as Snape killed Dumbledore, he would be the true owner of the Elder Wand. Voldemort wanted the Elder Wand to kill Harry as it was the most powerful wand in the world.
So, he kills Snape to gain the Elder Wand.

That brings us to the end of these stories. I would like to share a poem with you:
There is a group of seven tomes
Of which I have read all
And when I finished reading them
I wished they weren't so small!
Really, I would have loved more!

This review is by my 11 yr old daughter, A.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Book 7 - Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows

Title : Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author : J.K.Rowling
Publisher : Bloomsbury (in UK) and Scholastic Inc. (in USA)
Date of Publishing : 21 July, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series.

Did you know that : It was the fastest selling book ever.  The novel has also been translated into over 120 languages including Ukrainian, Swedish and Hindi.

Book ends with the final words : "The scar had not painted Harry for nineteen years. All was well."

Diary: Harry's first day at school

Dear Diary,

Today was my first day at my new school Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In the morning the Dursleys left me at the Kings Cross Station but I did not know how to reach Platform Nine and three quarters. There I met a large family and they showed me the way. 

I saw the red Hogwarts express. I met many children there like Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom and many more. Some were already in their new Hogwarts robes. 

As we reached the schoolcastle, there was Hagrid waiting. He told us the way. We were taken to a big hall and I met Professor McGonagall. We were to be sorted into four houses, Griffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin and Hufflepuff. I was so nervous. I have never been so nervous. I thought they would ask us to perform some magic and I do not even know one. But ther was a hat which we needed to wear and it would sort us into the houses. Magic, after all. I did not want to be in Slytherin. I pleaded with the sorting hat and it gave me Gryffindor with Ron, Hermione, Neville and Ron's three brothers. 

I am so happy and relieved.


By: Vidhi Sethi, 10 years

Book 6- Some thoughts 2

Time to speak of the Pensieve. A wordplay on
pen:- the instrument used normally for putting down one's thoughts
sieve:- a pan like vessel with holes through which things can fall --one literally 'falls' into the memories and can 'see' them happening
pensive:- contemplative, reflective, thoughtful. When a person's mind is brimming over with thoughts and memories, and it all becomes too much for them, one can literally 'siphon off' the troublesome thoughts, calm down, and examine them at leisure.

The Pensieve, which has featured in HP 4 & 5, is put to maximum use here, and is significant even in the last book. A way of giving a flashback, or avoiding having a direct narrative in the story.

All the Voldemort related memories are shown by Dumbledore to Harry, building up a comprehensive, more three-dimensional picture of Voldemort's persona, rather than the linear persona of a terrifying monster that we have till now. We see the lonesome, strange child that he had been, the quick-witted and manipulative teen and the sinister, ambitious, smooth-talking adult with his quest for immortality.

The Horcruxes.

The Ring, the Diary, the Cup, the Locket, the Diadem, Nagini, Voldemort himself and Harry. That's 8, isn't it? So what was all that about 7 Horcruxes?

The first 5 were objects of consequence that Voldemort knowingly made into Horcruxes. Harry was made into a Horcrux by accident when Voldemort killed his parents, and Voldemort was completely unaware of that fact. The bit that remained in Voldemort was the 7th.

Since he was unaware of Harry becoming a Horcrux, and he had wanted to make 7, which is believed to be a magical number, Voldemort makes Nagini into one, after his resurrection. By that time, however, Harry had destroyed the diary unbeknownst of the existence of any such thing. So, at any one time till the beginning of HP 6, there had been 7 Horcruxes.

Dumbledore's death was a shock to me. I was quite upset, and somehow worried for the trio, as he is the one person who seems omnipotent. It is as if Harry had been orphaned once more after Sirius' death.

Snape's actions are the ultimate betrayal, and half-blood prince or not, he has never seemed blacker to us than at the end of HP 6.    

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The order of Phoenix is in full operation, Harry's Godfather - Sirius Black is dead and there is fear everywhere. The ministry is still not ready to accept the return of Lord Voldemort and Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has decided to give private lessons to Harry Potter, our Hero.

Quite unexpectedly, there has been a change of charge and Professor Snape gets his favourite subject, 'Defence Against Dark Arts' while a certain Professor Slughorn gets to teach 'Potions'. This change allows Harry to continue 'Potions' in his 6th year, despite not managing the top grade in 'Potions' O.W.L. in the previous year. Here he gets to use a book which previously belonged to someone who called himself 'Half-Blood Prince' and who had written wonderful side notes about spells and potion making. With the help of these side notes, Harry performs well and becomes a favourite of Professor Slughorn.

Alongside, Draco Malfoy, a Slytherin and Harry's biggest rival was upto something. He spent all his time in the Room of Requirement, doing something, keeping his faithful friends, Crabbe and Goyle on guard, wherever he went. Malfoy does not even trust Snape, his most favourite teacher.

Some strange accidents keep happening here and there. Katie Bell was attacked and Ron Weasley gets poisoned.

Meanwhile, Dumbledore has told Harry much about Harry's past and how he had divided his soul into 7 fragments and that he could only be divided if each of these 7 parts (or Horcruxes) were destroyed. He also takes Harry to hunt down one Horcrux , Slytherin's locket. When they return, they find that the Death Eaters have taken over the school. Snape kills Dumbledore and Harry discovers that the locket they had brought was fake.

J.K. Rowling actually has the emotions of the readers in this book. How Harry finally decides that he has to fight his own battle and that he can no longer have other people shield him and die - like his parents, Sirius and now Dumbledore.

A powerfully mesmerizing and power-packed book. What more can be said about Rowling's books, they are brilliant beyond human comprehension. A most definite must read for one and all. Do read the book to find who the Half-blood Prince was and why?

Points 2 Ponder

Book 6- Some thoughts 1

A new school year. Prefect badges. Harry is Quidditch captain. Having done well in their OWL, the trio is all set to take subjects of their choice. A new Potions teacher who accepts 'Exceeds Expectations' in Potions leads Harry and Ron to return to Potions. Books? Well, they just pick up old books from the cupboards.

A master stroke by Rowling, which puts an unusual book into Harry's hands. Now Harry is not only 'the boy who lived', he is also a potions whiz! Making him the top candidate for Professor Slughorn's page 3 ...err... gallery of collectible stars.


All seems well, though it apparently is not. What about the strange actions of Draco Malfoy? Has he really been inducted among the Death Eaters? The recruits certainly seem to be getting younger- a comment on terrorism and the way very young children get pushed into it. Pawns in a war not of their choice. Certainly it is cause for worry for Draco's mother, who ropes in Snape to protect and assist him.

What makes Snape take on this responsibility? Is he a double agent? Pretending to be loyal to Dumbledore and acting for Voldemort? There is also the fact of his having overheard the prophecy, that Harry comes to know of purely by chance. Doesn't that make him blacker than he is, since it would undoubtedly be he who went to Voldemort with that information?


Romance. How can we have a story involving 16-17 year olds without it? It blossoms in every heart. Dark theme or not. There is love, longing, infatuation, kissing, jealousy, hatred- the full range. There is also love potion and the brewing of it-
Amortentia: It smells differently to different persons, based upon their individual likes. Quoting from the Harry Potter wikipedia:

"It has a different aroma for everyone who smells it, reminding each person of the things that they find most attractive, even if the person themselves don't acknowledge or are unaware of their fondness for the object of their affection e.g. Hermione Granger smells fresh cut grass, new parchment and spearmint toothpaste. Harry Potter smelled treacle tart, a broomstick, and 'something flowery that he thought he might have smelled at the Burrow' (which he later realized as the smell of Ginny Weasley's hair). Ron Weasley smelled his mother's cooking, bacon and the perfume he gave Hermione in their 5th year for Christmas."

A question to my readers- what would it smell of to you?

For me- New books, jasmine and the first rains on parched earth.