Keshava, A Magnificent Obsession

Blurb: Everyone associated with Sri Krishna believes that their relationship with the deity is unique, which explains why every gopika felt that the Lord was dancing with her at the Maharaas. This is Sri Krishna’s magic and also His power that He becomes the centre of their existence. He has that effect on not just humans but on everything on the planet—both living and non-living. This book is about Sri Krishna’s relationship with nature; the Peacock, the Kadamba tree, the Flute, the herbal plant Tulsi, the Lotus, His cow Kamadhenu, the Conch and the Peepala tree. All of them believe that Keshava loves them the most, can this be true? Keshava, A Magnificent Obsession is the story of these special bindings, stories of passion, submission, devotion and of uncontainable desire.

About the author: Bhawana Somaaya has been a journalist for almost 40 years. She is a film critic, columnist and author of 14 books and they are a point of reference for students studying cinema at Whistling Woods, Manipal University and now JNU, Delhi. She has served on Advisory Panel of Film Certificate in India and is currently the Entertainment Editor at 92.7 Big FM Radio channel. Somaaya’s Krishna: The God who lived as Man released in 2008. Keshava: A Magnificent Obsession is her second offering to the deity. Somaaya was conferred with the Padma Shri in 2017.

Review: Keshava: A Magnificent Obsession is a affectionate tribute to the much-loved Lord Krishna and everything which is his – flute, the peacock feather, the conch, the lotus, Kamadhenu and the lovely gopikas who adore him. The descriptions are very lyrical in nature which made me a huge fan of the author. This is the first book I have read which is written by Bhawana Somaaya who has successfully grabbed me and also the other readers with her storytelling prowess, weaving a feeling of love and fascination for Lord Krishna. It doesn’t really matter if you believe in this deity or not, as this is an interesting book for both devotees and non-devotees of Krishna and it was an enthralling experience for me to read the associated legends. If you have ever wondered why flute, conch or peacock feather are an integral part of Lord Krishna’s life, you should read this book as the author explains how and when the eight wonders of – peacock, the flute, the conch, the lotus flower, Kamadhenu, the Tulsi plant , Kadamba and the Peepal trees came to be associated with the deity and slowly transformed into an obsession. The narrative of the book is strange introducing the readers to eight special stories of eight wonders of the Lord. The ninth story has Lord Krishna telling us himself why he loves all of them so dearly. This is author’s first writing course of action in the world of Lord Krishna and she has left no stone untouched here. The facts, the mythology, the science has opened up various perspectives for me to know the facts and understand the deity in a better way. I loved her writing. It is very expressive and distressing and very easy for a general inexperienced reader to clutch the content and knowledge. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

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Clarity is the Only Spirituality

Blurb: Do dogmas, doctrines, beliefs, prayers, pilgrimages, and religious practices of any kind really take us anywhere? Do they help us change our inner selves and embark on a spiritual journey? Can we really change anything at all about the world outside of us unless we try and change our inner selves? Genuine spirituality is the quest for Truth, the eternal verities, and not the search for peace and happiness. That serious quest entails, above all, discovering the truth about oneself, warts and all. But how many of us are ready to face the facts and see ourselves exactly as we are in the mirror of awareness? In a variety of essays ranging from a discussion about the benefits of sexual abstinence to contemplating death, Clarity is the Only Spirituality negotiates through the landscape created by the waywardness of the human mind. Written in a simple and lucid style, the book approaches controversial questions in the sphere of spirituality with a certain freshness that will stimulate the psyche and force one to rethink and relearn.

About the author: Susunaga Weeraperuma, who lives in the quietness of a medieval village called Les Arcs-sur-Argens in the south of France, devotes his time to hatha yoga, pranayama, organic gardening, creative writing, reading and meditation. He is a pacifist, a vegetarian, an animal rights activist, a connoisseur of art, a classical music buff and a traveller. This prolific author’s wide variety of publications range from entertaining short stories and novels to in-depth studies of religion, Buddhist philosophy, J. Krishnamurti’s teachings and meditation. Of late, he has been writing books of essays, like the present one, that are self-searching in character.

Review: I’ve recently encountered two different drive-by bashings. You know, you’re cruising along the highway of life, pretty much minding your own business, wishing others all the best and wham! Someone comes unglued-all over you. There is no way to merge with muddy water and not muddy your water too. I encourage you to test this: get a glass of clean water, then put only two drops of muddy water into it. Now drink it. We all know you didn’t drink the water. We all know why. If you are tempted to trot out “a lotus flower blooms in muddy water” chant, let me point out you are misunderstanding. If you have a strong practice, you know the importance of the Spiritual Principle of Clarity. The current read – Clarity is the Only Spirituality is divided into eighteen chapters about the importance of communication, religious tolerance, forgiveness, giving, societal activities, utilizing time, books and solitude, stress, chastity, and death. Each chapter describes author’s experiences with the main subject. It is an unconventional book in that terms and can be considered as a motivational book and little bit of self help. The author has spent a lot of time travelling various countries and as he is settled down in France now, it has references to the culture of France. The book will make you think that ultimately it is your work and vision which leads you to your goal and nothing more or less. The author has closely followed J. Krishnamurti, and you can find references to him in this book. It is not for everyone and it is not a light read, which makes its reach limited.

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A Closetful of Skeletons by Tanushree Podder

Blurb: Five men are on their way to a hill station, where Ramola, a fading movie star, waits for them to make an announcement that will change their lives forever. Ramola withdrew from the public eye at the peak of her stardom. Now, surrounded by retired couples spending their twilight years gardening and gossiping, her life is idyllic. Or at least it was, till the night of her birthday party, when she announces that her tell-all memoir will soon be published. The book, documenting her rise to fame, puts each of her ex-lovers’ careers in jeopardy. As each desperate man tries to save himself, Ramola is drawn back into the very web of lies and deception she’d left behind. By the time the party is over, Ramola’s neighbour, retired army officer and amateur sleuth, Colonel Arjun H. Acharya, has found his first murder to solve. A Closetful of Skeletons reels you into a cosy world of fresh mountain air, long-drawn bridge games and bloody murder.

About the author: Maverick writer, wanderer and rainbow chaser, Tanushree Podder’s flirtation with words began quite early in life. An author of several successful books like Nurjahan’s Daughter, Escape from Harem, Boots Belts Berets, On the Double and Solo in Singapore, she is all set to woo her readers with a murder mystery titled A Closet Full of Skeletons.

Review:  Tanushree Podder’s A Closetful of Skeletons offers suspense and chilling mystery to the readers. The story is about a stunning forty-year-old actress Ramola. She lives in a picturesque hilly town called Ramsar with her gardener, cook, and helper. During her strolls she meets Tia, who comes to Ramsar to cope with heartbreak and is in need of a holiday. Ramola and Tia share a common bond of wretchedness and soon become confidantes to each other. Since Tia wants to write a novel and Ramola her memoir, the two of them collaborate on Ramola’s memoir. The first half of the story line is laced with enough excitement and power-packed nervousness to keep the readers rooted in the book. Sadly, by the second half, the story didn’t grab my attention at all, thanks to fragile cum hazy exchange of dialogues between Ramola and Tia. Mystery novels are supposed to be rapid and page turning for a reader, not toil on pages trying to understand the not-so-great discussion. The major disappointment was the usage of Hindi dialect in the already engaging English story. It did not make the story regional for me, instead, it turned maddening. The prose is eloquent and runs generously through ups and downs of the story. The climax had no sense, and readers will have a lot of questions, whose answers don’t fit into the story line in any potential way. I will not suggest this book to the any experienced crime fiction readers. You can read if you don’t believe in Logics. The story could have been much better. It had a lot of probable to be the bright murder mystery with better exchange of ideas and less boring characters, but it didn’t work out for me.

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The Brahmin by Ravi Shankar Etteth

 

Blurb: The empire is ruled with an iron hand, masterminded by Emperor Ashok. But his kingdom is under siege and even his able spymaster, the enigmatically named Brahmin, is baffled by the murders that have shocked the concubines’ quarters. Who is behind the gruesome deaths and what is their purpose? Lush with historical detail and unforgettable characters, The Brahmin is an intelligently plotted novel that seeks to recreate a near mythical period in India’s past.

About the author: Ravi Shankar Etteth is the author of four novels: The Tiger by the River (2002), The Village of the Widows (2003), The Gold of Their Regrets (2009) and The Book of Shiva (2016). He has been a graphic designer, political cartoonist and editor of magazines and newspapers. He currently lives in Delhi and works as a consulting editor of The New Indian Express Group.

Review:  I found the book The Brahmin an exciting and fast paced thriller read. I liked its unique structure and subject matter. The book was good worth my time of 2 days which I spent reading it. It has an excellent cast of characters, a mesmerizing plot and twisted climax. I read about Asoka a lot earlier and I knew he was a warmonger and cruel but never expected someone would write a fiction based on him. This book has Asoka’s picture which is not much talked about in the world history. The author has given us a quick look into the separation of power in the Magadhan court and the peacekeeping that the kings practiced in that time. Queen Asandhimitra who is not known to many was made known to all through this book. She was not a mere wall flower as queens are always believed to be. She played on the go part in the management of the Kingdom and she had the courage to make dangerous verdicts and was the just right queen that a king like Asoka needed. The character of The Brahmin is definitely very closely related to Chanakya who they claim is as ancestor. As expected by me some parts of the book were orthodox, it was usual seeing as the book was set in 261 BC. If you love historical fiction, something which is a fast paced, action packed book that is filled with historic depictions of the time of the rule of Asoka, you should pick a copy of this book.

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Harper Lee’s highly regarded and eminently successful first novel has been artfully and delicately translated to the screen. Universal’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a major film achievement, a significant, captivating and memorable picture that ranks with the best of recent years. Its success in the literary world seems certain to be replicated in the theatrical sphere.

All hands involved are to be congratulated for a job well done. Obviously loving care went into the process by which it was converted from the comprehensive prose of the printed page to the visual and dramatic storytelling essence of the screen. Horton Foote’s trenchant screenplay, Robert Mulligan’s sensitive and instinctively observant direction and a host of exceptional performances are all essential threads in the rich, provocative fabric and skillfully synthesized workmanship of Alan J. Pakula’s production.

Young Scout Finch is the first-person narrator of the story. She is only about six or seven when it opens, but more than two years pass by as Ms. Lee builds up to the penultimate events of the book, by which time Scout is nine years old. She is a tomboy who’s as smart as a whip and a precocious reader. When her first grade teacher told her she had to stop reading because her daddy was teaching her all wrong and first-graders weren’t supposed to read, I had to laugh. It was ludicrously funny but also a sad commentary on our educational system. I just loved Scout’s enthusiasm for reading. She joked that her brother, Jem, said she was born reading and she couldn’t remember a time when she couldn’t read. In this way, Scout very much reminded me of myself. I thought it was fascinating how Scout, in her child’s mind, thinks of her father as old, decrepit, and thoroughly boring. She doesn’t think he has any real skills or has accomplished anything. It was an absolute joy to watch Scout’s opinion of Atticus gradually grow and change as she matures and begins to see him in an entirely new light through, not only the big trial, but all the little things he does.

To Kill a Mockingbird is another of those books which sadly, over fifty years after its release, is still found at the top of the ALA’s most banned/challenged books list. It does contain some profanities, mostly mild, but a couple of more moderate ones including taking the Lord’s name in vain twice. There is also a number of instances where the derogatory “n” word is used for African Americans, but given the time and setting of the book, it never seemed overdone or out of place to me. There is also the mature subject matter of a black man being wrongly accused of raping a white girl, but since it is all told through the eyes of a nine year-old child, everything has a certain air of innocence to it, with nothing ever really being spelled out explicitly. In spite of this potentially objectionable content, I still feel that the book is fully appropriate for high school level students. In my opinion, the positive role model that Atticus presents and the positive messages contained within the book’s pages, far outweigh any possible detractors. I personally think it would be an absolute travesty to ban a book as thought-provoking as this one, and in fact, would encourage everyone, teens and up, to read it at least once.

I’m so glad I finally picked up To Kill a Mockingbird. The courtroom scenes were extremely well-written and appear to reflect Ms. Lee’s personal experience with the law. Some parts of the story were a little slow at times, but never boring and always worth the wait for something more exciting to happen. Every character and every little side story added flavor, color and depth to this wonderful tale. The message it conveys is a timeless one. It is one of the most, if not the most, affecting book I’ve ever read centering around the themes of prejudice and racism. To Kill a Mockingbird has without a doubt earned a spot on my keeper shelf and has become a new all-time favorite book for me.

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The Story of a Long-Distance Marriage

Blurb: Rohan and Ira’s life takes an unexpected turn when Ira decides to leave for New York to study. They’ve been married for only fifteen months, but this is the opportunity of a lifetime, and Rohan is not going to come between his wife and her dream. So, sad but supportive, he stays back in Delhi, where he is on the brink of a promotion at a national daily. After all, his relationship with Ira is strong enough to survive the distance. Rohan prepares for a year without Ira, getting by with a little help from his friends: Yusuf, his on-call confidant who lives in Bangalore; Alisha, a colleague he likes catching up with over tea; and Tanuj, his new role model at work. Life without Ira is going surprisingly well. Until the day, that is, she reveals the real reason she left.

About the author: Siddhesh Inamdar is a writer and editor. He studied English Literature at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and Delhi University, and journalism at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. He worked with The Hindu, DNA and Hindustan Times and is now in publishing. He lives in Delhi with his wife, daughter and cats.

Review: As someone who strongly believes in love and marriage, the idiosyncratic title, an inexplicable blurb and an absolutely cute bright cover grabbed all my attention to read this book. It was my perfect over the weekend reading. The book turned out to be lock, stock and barrel different from my best guess and I was amiably amazed. Marriages constantly look complex despite the fact they are not and it is people who unnecessarily make it complex and problematic. When some problem arrives, before thinking about solution, people start playing the blame game and treat it with an egoistic approach. This makes us lose ourselves, our spouse, breaks the relationship. The story incarcerates the feebleness of affairs well. I found the story to be rare, fond and deep. I have noticed that communication is ignored aspect in relationships. Being able to talk your heart out to your partner is uncommon. The Story of a Long Distance Marriage by Siddhesh Inamdar throws light on the importance of making people feel loved, not merely by money and gifts but by presence and support. The story is about Rohan and Ira and their unanticipated stop the progress in their marriage when Ira moves to New York to pursue her studies. Rohan is a loving husband, who stands by Ira and her decision. He stays back in Delhi with his dog Momo. He confides to his old friend Yusuf and an office colleague Aisha. Life is downy until one day truth hits him and he finds out the true cause behind Ira moving out. For a change this was not a truism campus romance but very pragmatic. The writing style is articulate with simple language which connects you like a real life telling. I strongly suggest to all people to read this book, whether you are in a relationship or not. This one makes you understand the slenderness of relationships remarkably very well.

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