Wednesday, December 25, 2013






Friday, December 20, 2013


"Snow is falling all round me,
Children playing having fun
It's the season of love and understanding
Merry Christmas Everyone"

Its 20th December of 2013 already. Christmas is around the corner and so is New Year!! Yippie!!

This Christmas, it is time once again for all of us to put on our creative cardigans and dive into the deep wonderful world of imagination and fantasy! Its is time for TROFEO 2.0 

Zealot Readers is inviting one and all  to send in a small story or a writeup on either of the topics: 'WHEN SANTA CAME HOME' or 'WHEN TOYS HAD A NEW YEAR PARTY'.

1. All entries must be in ENGLISH languages only.
2. We have two categories : a) short : upto 250 words b) long - more than 500 You can choose your category yourself.
3. The write-ups must be original and should NOT have any obscene content.
4. Each entry would be read and evaluated by our panel comprising of one expert and some ZR members. Identity of the participant would not be disclosed to jury panel. Starting 1 February 2014, each day, we would be posting one entry write-up on the blog, with the review and the special comments by the jury.
5. It is a non- competitive event. Early 2 and the best 4 of the total entries (as decided by the jury) would receive special Christmas and New Year gifts from Zealot Readers.
6. ALL the entries considered good shall be published on the blog, Zealot Readers.
7. One lucky winner will get a chance to send us a book review, which shall also be published on the blog. 
8. The event is open to all age groups.
9.The decision of the jury will be final and binding.

Where to start: Register at HERE 
How to send : By Mail
Where to send :
When to send : By 20th Jan, 2014
What to specify : Category [preschooler, primary, middle/secondary, young-adult, adult]

Looking forward to reading your interesting stories...

Questions/ queries: Contact - Vibha

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Title: Short Stories For The Hopeful And The Weary - A Collection of Four Short Stories
Author: Scott Roloff

After struggling with a particular book for over 8 month and still not moving at all, and doubting my reading skills and ability, I had almost thought my book reviewing career was about to terminate. 

But that was until this book came along. Power packed with emotions and reality, this little book 'Short Stories for the Hopeful and the Weary', like water released from a dam, washed away many of my doubts. Good books still exist and good stories still sell! And I thank God for it..!

Perhaps one of the shortest books I have read in ages, this little collection of four still shorter independent stories, happens to score, and score big, despite all odds. A little boy is too old to be a preferred choice of couples wishing to adopt kids. An old man looks back at his life and wonders if it was indeed well lived. A man busy in his own dreamy world realizes what life his wife might be living. And last, a complicated and confusing conversation with the Devil. 

In the first story, 'Nicoli's Birthday', in the hindsight of a war, a young couple wishes to adopt a little girl from an orphanage. There, a young boy touches their lives and they have, but to take a decision. Their decision in the positive would alter their lives and would totally change the destiny of the kid. Though it is a very simple story, the instinctive reactions of the characters have been captured so beautifully that one can just fall in love with the story. The idea of the war in the background could have been stressed more and made more prominent to include an element of contrast between love and war. Nonetheless, this story runs away with the sweeping 4 on 5 rating. A must read for the hopeful and the weary, I must say!

The second story, 'A Lifetime Until Dawn' captures the uneasiness of an iron willed army general, as he looks back at the life that he has lived and wonders if it was actually well lived or not? Well, of the given four stories, for me, this one takes the cake. The simplicity with which the whole scene has been narrated and how even minute details (like the fly, for instance) have been carefully handled, makes the story even more impressive. A massive 4.75 on 5 for this one. Undoubtedly a must read for one and all.

'Saturday's Crossroads', the third in line, is a typical dilemma faced by a person who is now used to seeking pleasures beyond the domestic ambit and is suddenly forced to think of his wife and their strained matrimony. The story plot is somewhere similar to O. Henry's 'The Pendulum'. A 3.5 on 5 for this one looks good!

The last, 'God and the Devil' is a complex and confusing piece from the point of view of an average reader who would want to read for the sake of reading and for being temporarily influenced by the charm of the story. This story is quite deep and would require long hours of pondering upon. The plot of the story is a conversation between a devil and a journalist. From a layman's perspective a 2 on 5 for this one should be alright, but then for those willing to delve down deeper, well..!!

Overall, a very interesting and a insightful book, looking at life from different perspectives and angles, it leaves you yearning for more. The author's style of writing is very addictive, with the narration being profound and most of the stories ending in an amazing twist.

A wonderfully tiny book, it wont take more than a day to complete. Go ahead. Read. Enjoy.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013



Though I am not a big fan of downloading random books from the net and reading them, but there were several factors that prompted me to get this one and read. The newly downloaded Kindle app on my Windows 8, the fact that this was available for free, had a four and a half star rating, and the most important two factors - it was estimated by Amazon to be a kind of novella of hardly 44 pages, and it was in the 'mystery' category, all worked in its favor.

A young homicide detective gets to decode the case of an apparent suicide of a very wealthy, handsome young male. His experience as a detective had taught him to make no assumptions on the case till the culprit (if any) had been caught. He goes about searching for clues and hints to resolve the case, until he comes across an arcane tale of a very similar murder that had happened here itself, many years ago. He also sees the video coverage (or CCTV coverage tape) of the day previous to that of the crime, and lo! there, the book begins to stink of a large filthy twist that lies ahead. The detective suddenly finding himself in midst of a rush of emotions for the lady who was the most likely culprit, if (and only if) it was a murder of some sort, and not a suicide.

The good things about the book are quite a few. Well, the story progresses super fast, and the various events do not take very long. It is a simple two hour read and yes, if the suspense part interests you, you would not be disappointed. If weird twists in the plot is what you cherish, go ahead! And yeah, there are ghosts here too... (trust me, the ghost part IS the best part).

Additionally, if you are the one who believes in 'art for art's sake' or you want to become a writer yourself someday, this is the book you must read. You can almost feel the characters around you. 

But, the story being too short, the mystery part has not been appropriately elaborated and ends too soon. It is a little book after all.

A spooky, crisp read but leaves much to be desired. It would only get a 2.5/5 from me.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sita by Devdutt Pattanaik

Title : Sita
Author : Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher : Penguin India
ISBN : 978-0-143-06432-9

"You judge him but I love him Lakshman. You see your brother as an ideal and are angry because he has not lived up to your expectations. I see my husband for what he is, and understand his motivations; at every moment he strives to be what he thinks is best. I will not burden him with expectations. That is how I make him feel loved. And he sees me, knows that I will support him no matter what, even when he resorts to such devious route like an errant child."

Sita watched Lakshman's nostrils flare. She felt his embarrassment and his rage. She wanted to reach out and reassure him, but she restrained herself.
'You feel your Ram has abandoned his Sita, don't you?', she asked gently.
'But he has not. He cannot.
He is God - he abandons no one.
And I am Goddess - I cannot be abandoned by anyone.'
A mystified Lakshman returned to Ayodhya, while Sita smiled in the forest and unbound her hair.

Ramayana is an age old saga that has been passed on from generation to generation through two primary means of communication - maukhik (orally) and likhit (written). Another medium got added to the list much later - that of moving pictures, and this has been utilized multitude of times in narrating the epic tale. But perhaps Devdutt Pattanaik's Sita, is the one, which has touched me in a way no other could. Unlike Mahabharata, Ramayana is considered to be a much simpler tale with lesser diversions and sub-tales, but here in Sita, you get all that there is to read and understand about the story of Ram - the seventh incarnate of Lord Vishnu. The supporting tales mentioned here, do not hinder the flow of the narrative, rather they are brought out at the most logical junctures where they actually belong. Quite like what was done in Jaya, the author tries to bring many sub-stories, regional twists and beliefs into the fold of the main legend. The action of Ravana is compared and contrasted with some Greek and Roman mythological figures as well.  Furthermore, there is perfect dose of analysis and commentary part in the narrative which makes 'Sita' an introspective piece of writing.

In order to stay true to the title 'Sita', the author has attempted to bring a woman's perspective in the proceedings, which has been left unregistered by the earlier story tellers. It begins with Sita's early years in her maternal house. We have been generously introduced to the childhood period of Rama and his three bothers, however, there is not much that has been written about Sita as a child. The things that interested her, her pastimes, her relationship with her parents, sisters and others in the kingdom - do not find much of a mention in many writings. Here, she is portrayed as a well-read, wise, strong and confident character. It is amazing how filling colours in a pencil sketch takes the whole creation to a completely different level and that is what happens to the character of Sita. Pattanaik also highlights the relationship that Sita shared with other women characters - the queens of Ayodhya, Anusuya, Mandodari and Trijata. Their conversations make it easy for the readers to understand the personalities and thought process of various actors. 
The unmentioned and unacknowledged trivia may seem insignificant from the perspective of moving the story forward, nevertheless, they do wonders in giving a substantial identity to each character.

Though a religious epic, Ramayana is a story which leaves many wondering and questioning about the fairness and rightfulness of the decision taken by Ram in banishing his pregnant wife. In Sita, Devdutt Pattanaik has tried to address this sensitive issue by highlighting the divine connection that Sita had with Ram, and vice-versa. Sita tried to pacify the embarrassment of Lakshman thus - 'Ram is dependable, hence God. I am independent, hence Goddess. He needs to do his duty, follow rules, and safeguard reputation. I am under no such obligation. I am free to do as I please: love him when I am separated from him, love him when I am rescued by  him, love him when he clings to me, love him even when he lets me go.' This makes Sita a highly magnanimous person and one worthy of everyone's admiration and adulation.

Devdutt Pattanaik has the acumen to bring out the untapped wisdom that is lying deep in the mythological stories of yore. After having read Jaya and Sita, one wonders, how much there is to learn from such epic tales, if one could just acquire perception like that of Pattanaik.

I cannot put a final full stop to this review before I quote a few nuggets of intellect that would make one introspect and contemplate over and over again. 

  • Kanyaa-daan - I give you Lakshmi - wealth, who will bring you pleasure and prosperity. Grant me Saraswati, wisdom. Let me learn the joy of letting go. In daan only wisdom is asked in exchange, unlike dakshina - where wealth is asked in exchange and bhiksha, where power is asked in exchange.

  • Before your wife came into your life, you were a student, with no claim on property. After your wife leaves your life, you must become a hermit, with no claim over property. Only as long as she is by your side do you have claims over wealth. Without her, you cannot perform yagna, you must  only perform tapasya.

  • From desire come all problems and all desires come from fear.

  • What we possess is temporary but what we become is permanent.

  • Most people seek to be the sun around which the world revolves. Very few are willing to be the moon, allowing others to be the sun, despite having full knowledge that they can outshine everyone else. Ram's brothers served him to upholds the integrity of the royal clan. Sita was bound by wifely obligations but only Hanuman did so out of pure love. That is why Ram held him closest.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Only One Life To Give by Arun Kaul

Title : Only One Life to Give
Author : Arun Kaul
Publisher : Frog Books
ISBN : 978-93-82473-76-3

Arun Kaul opens a window and invites readers to peak into the life that he lived, through a set of short stories. The stories are wisely categorized under four sections. While 'Touching the Sky' has anecdotes from his professional life, some personal experiences are being shared in 'Within the Family'. The other two sections : 'Strangers in the Fold' and 'Women - What it Takes' bring to us some memoirs from the lives of other individuals. Same strings hold all these tales together - the strings of life values, inspiration, dedication, emotion, compassion, sincerity and empathy. Readers get an interesting opportunity to meet - philanthropy personified, a free spirit defying every shackle thrown her way, an individual embracing extreme atonement for his sin, a great administrator-facilitator-patriot, enormity of a mother's sacrifice, uprightness of a villager; and many more. 

We all create and become a part of many stories as we live our lives and when we look back these accounts appear prominently on the screen of our memories. Arun Kaul has collected these images from his memory screen and weaved them beautifully into a series of tales in 'Only One Life to Give'. 

Personally I liked the first section of the book the most. Although the personal section 'Within the Family' should have touched the heart strings the most, it falls short of doing so. Chronology of some events are described repetitively at various places which pushes the narrative to the drab side. Moreover, the abruptness of the personal story of mistrust and betrayal is sure to leave readers with bad taste
in the mouth.  Barring these two downers, the rest of the stories are a delight to read.

A post-graduate in Literature and Management, Arun Kaul made a career in Indian Air Force, followed by working in private sector in various capacities. More on him here.