My Rainbow: Seven Riveting Short Stories

My Rainbow – Seven Riveting Short Stories, is my third book received from Tales Pensieve to be reviewed.

Title: My Rainbow – Seven Riveting Short Stories

Author(s) – Khush Agrawal, Isha Setia, Dhritika Dhawan, Harshavardhini Pareek, Aditya Agarwal, Isha Rautela & Shivangi Singh.

Pages: 169

Publisher: Quill Club Writers

Genre: Fiction

Release: 2013

Cost: Rs 180/-

Buy the book at – Amazon

About the authors – Khush Agrawal, Isha Setia, Dhritika Dhawan, Harshavardhini Pareek, Aditya Agarwal, Isha Rautela & Shivangi Singh are the students of Delhi Public School Jaipur. The book has 7 short stories and every student has written one short story each.

The Book – It is the first ever collection of stories by students, oldest being not more than 15years and the youngest aged below 13.

When I read about the 7 authors, my life moved back 17years ago from today when I was 13years old and I had written my first piece on unemployment and which luckily got published in the school magazine, that shall remain my life’s one of the best moments. I am an award(s) winning writer today and hope to become a published author someday provided the publishing house accepts my work.

I wish Quill Club Writers good luck for their next book Baker’s Dozen. I hope to get a copy to read it.

My review – Given any day I prefer reading and penning short stories than the long novellas and non-fiction papers. I grew up reading Ruskin Bond (English) and Premchand (Hindi) who are unquestionably the world’s best short story writers.  The tagline of this book ‘Seven Riveting Short Stories’ is one of the main reasons for me to read this book and second the young authors. I finished reading the 7 stories (not in the way they are published) in less than 4hours time.

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The first story I read was ‘The Interview’ written by Shivangi Singh- I liked the way she ended the story. In her story she mentions her childhood was spent in Noida, but as the time passes on she joins college but never talked about her current city. As Shivangi is based in Jaipur so does that mean the current city in the story is also Jaipur? The story lacks clarity.

The next story ‘Water under the Bridge’ by Dhritika Dhawan – according to me was a bookish disaster. The English language used was really bad. I felt I was reading an essay of a primary school student but not a story. She has put up lot of efforts but the result was not satisfactory at all. I think she was hurry to finish what she was writing without herself reading it.

In the story of Aditya Agrawal ‘Adventures of the Mysterious Flagstone’, there many grammatical errors. ‘So, Too and Also’ seemed to be his favourite words.  The story lacked punctuations.

Ishal Rautela’s story ‘The Decision’ began with mistakes. Many words are wrongly used. The meanings of the words don’t sync with the sentences. Words are repeatedly used in twice in the same line. The usage of there and their are goofed up.

The story ‘Fate’ by Isha Setia, had no spelling mistakes but she used the words had/has wrongly. The major error in this story was the use of dates. She talks about January 26th 1960, Republic Day on which the protagonist watches the movie Miughal-e-Azam, where as the movie had released on Independence Day of the year 1960.

Harshavardhini’s story ‘Carnival in Lousy Town’ had no spelling mistakes in large but the word ‘also’ were repeatedly used many times.

The last story I read was of Khush Agrawal’s ‘The Legend of Zalim Khan’. There were many sentences wrongly formed, with no importance given to the tenses. It was one of the most boring and longest stories of the book.

Verdict-1/5

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve

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Age of Hiblisk: A Story with a Soul

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Age of Hiblisk is the 2nd book received from Tales Pensieve to be reviewed.

Title: Age Of Hiblisk
Author: Sumukh Naik
Pages: 400
Publisher: APK
Genre: Fiction/Thriller
Release: 2012

Author:  Sumukh Naik is a Hotel Management graduate from IHM-Goa. He is Human Resources Professional and stays in Mumbai. He likes to keep things simple, very down to earth and believes in the message of spreading love and peace. His blogs are a reflection of the world around him.

Story Description: It is the journey of Prince William and Princess Sara, the protagonists , through the magical and spiritual worlds of Pantolis, Hiblisk, and Ikra. As their voyage unfolds, they realize the true motive behind the terror employed by the forces of Dushtt to claim supremacy over the lands of Pantolis and beyond. Every new revelation brings to light the methodical madness employed by the dark forces and secrets of Mother Nature, which have been safely guarded for ages by the various civilizations of the secret worlds. Their journey also introduces them to the divine forces that monitor the functions of the world and gives them access to legendary, mystical weapons and advanced spiritual knowledge which illuminates the flow of their understanding actions towards various aspects of life. They use the knowledge gained, to try and bring peace to their war ravaged lands and fight the ever growing might and influence of the mysterious dark forces that haunt their kingdoms.Will the light of all that is divine, fighting under the banner of Prince William and Princess Sara, flicker away into oblivion against the might of the dark forces under Dushtt, or will they survive? … Only time in her womb holds the answer, potent enough to change the outlook of the very world we live in.’

My review: The book is very much of those fairy tales that I grow up reading to – prince, princess, masters, rulers, villains and the usual clash between two bordering kingdoms. I don’t like fantasy stories as they stretch a lot and this book was the same too lengthy with 31 chapters accompanied by a boring narration. I had to stop the book in between as I could not take it anymore. The frequent grammatical and punctuation errors all over the book made it a devastating read. Typographical errors were more, I am sure the book went into publishing without an editor reading and checking the mistakes.

Verdict: 1/5

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve

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MBA is not about Money Blazer Arrogance

I got to review a book after 3months and I thank my good friend and co-blogger Priyanka for introducing me to Tales Pensieve.

Next thanks to the brain behind Tales Pensieve, Reshmy Pillai for selecting me to review the book. It is only because of her that I came across this book.

I received the author signed copy of the book – MBA is not about Money Blazer Arrogance on 25th June 2013.

IMG_20130620_190404 Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Nivasini

Publication date: 2012

Pages: 158

Cost: ₹150/-

Author: Krishna Kranthi, lives in Hyderabad just like me. I never heard his name before in the literary scene of the city. I was thinking I would be the one debuting into the literary world from Hyderabad, but he seemed to have plunged into before me.

Plot: Like many, Revant has dreamt of getting that fancy and highly regarded MBA degree. After working hard, finally he gets an admission to one of the top Indian B-schools. His excitement is short lived as the overwhelming pressure and the vague definitions of management boggle him down, He gets frustrated with the people around him who sees MBA as a purpose of earning higher salary and getting superior designations and indulging in unneeded arrogance. He thinks this is not what he wanted to learn out of his MBA.

My review: It was an easy read and I completed in short span of just 3hours. I liked the way he named his chapters after names of the months. The book provides a handy story of a B-School. Revant shares his experience in the B school life with his friends, pursuit of his ideal woman, an observation of an education program called Vigyan Ashram, and a foreign exchange class in Germany. Along the way, he learns the real reason for obtaining an MBA. The book gives within reach information on MBA candidates around the world and a good idea of what earning an MBA is really all about.

Verdict: 2/5. The author needs to put more efforts on his language and usage of a few words. The narration was just run of the mill.

 The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve

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Manuscript Found in Accra

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The preface states that the manuscript, dating from 1307, is in the possession of Sir Walter Wilkinson and that the narrator .The manuscript turns out to be a collection of insights given by a mysterious man referred to as the Copt, to the people of Jerusalem who were awaiting the coming crusaders in 1099.

The Copt responds to questions from among the people, and before each chapter begins there is a page stating the question or the request, it’s pretty easy to follow along once you see the flow of thought.

 As for topics, the Copt covers quite a bit. One person asks about defeat; another asks about solitude. A woman in the audience, described as “the wife of a trader,” asks about sex. (It seemed a little unlikely to me that a woman would have asked such a question, at such a time and in such a place. But perhaps her position as the wife of a trader explains this away somehow.) There is a discussion of elegance, of miracles, and of luck. All in all, I wouldn’t say that there’s much in the way of fresh insight in here, but the value in the book is that sometimes something familiar can have a big impact when it’s said in a new way.

In the cycle of nature there is no such thing as victory or defeat; there is only movement … there are neither winners nor losers; there are only stages that must be gone through. When the human heart understands this, it is free and able to accept difficult times without being deceived by moments of glory.

These things have been said time and again throughout history. But as I noted above, restating the same idea in a slightly different way can make a significant difference in how an individual receives the insight.

The only thing that really confused me about the book was the opening part of the preface. There is a brief description of the finding of the Nag Hammadi, and then the following:

The papyruses are Greek translations of texts written between the end of the first century BC and AD 180, and they constitute a body of work also known as the Apocryphal Gospels because they are not included in the Bible as we know it today. Now, why is that?

In AD 170, a group of bishops met to decide which text would form part of the New Testament. The criterion was simple enough: anything that could be used to combat the heresies and doctrinal divisions of the age would be included. The four gospels we know today were chosen, as were the letters from the apostles and whatever else was judged to be, shall we say, “coherent” with what the bishops believed to be the main tenet of Christianity. The other books, like those found in Nag Hammadi, were omitted either because they were written by women (for example, the Gospel according to Mary Magdalene) or because they depicted a Jesus who was aware of his divine mission and whose passage through death would, therefore, be less drawn out and painful.

There’s far more information out there about the seven ecumenical councils, at which the text of the New Testament continued to be discussed; the first of these did not occur until AD 325. What is more, the idea that the canon was fixed in 170 is a bit misleading to say the least, especially when you consider the fact that Hebrews, James, and 3 John were not listed in the Muratorian Canon.

When I started reading I approached the rest of the book with interest but a little confusion about the aim of the information. In my opinion, the book would be better served without the majority of the preface, if only because it’s somewhat vague in intent. If you set it aside, however, there are plenty of nuggets of insight to be found and enjoyed in the main text of the book, so for those who find the quotes above interesting this would make for an enjoyable read.

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Not idea, journal changes your life

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I know many who have started keeping a journal only to give up after a few days or weeks? Like many projects which we’re initially enthusiastic about, writing daily or even weekly in a journal can all too quickly become a chore.

Do you ever wonder who you really are? Do you have problems which occur again and again – patterns of behaviour that you just can’t break out of? Keeping a journal for an extended period of time lets you learn the truth about yourself: how your motivation waxes and wanes, how many projects you let fizzle out after a brief burst of excitement.

Are you an aspiring blogger, author, poet, journalist or writer of any description? If you’re making serious attempts at writing, you need to be disciplined about it – no professional writer works just when they’re “in the mood” or when “the muse descends.” Developing the habit of writing regularly (ideally every day) will be a bigger factor in your success than your raw level of writing skill.

When you write in your journal, don’t dwell on things that went wrong. Focus on the positive aspects of your day or week – even when you have to dig hard to find something. It might take a while for you to notice the effect, but you’ll soon be seeing faster change in your life: we tend to move towards what we’re focusing on.

I’m maintaining a journal based on my own emotional and spiritual healing. It helps me keep track of my growth. I support writing journals! I find writing to be a function of thinking and learning at the same time. As I write, my existing thoughts are clarified and new thoughts find their way into my mind that would not have materialized otherwise. I believe our being is unfolded through the communication of our thoughts on paper, blog, or whatever medium works best for the individual.

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Dreaming In Hindi – Coming Awake Another Language

‘Dreaming in Hindi’, listed as one of the terrific 10 best reads in USA-2009, has the Indian edition on stands now. Neither a travelogue nor an essay, the book has the elements of both. It is largely description, bringing insights and concepts about human calibre to learn and soak up languages.

This is the first book that looks closely at the author – Katherine Russell Rich’s      decision to learn Hindi. It is western, that India is where one needs to be, to lurch across the meaning in life. ‘Hindi is strewn with words no one in America had used since Agatha Christie’s time and for that alone I love it,’ she declares in the preface.

Katherine Russell Rich is a former lifestyle magazine journalist, who decided to move to Udaipur (Rajasthan), from New York to learn Hindi, inspired by a desire to learn a second language. But the real inspiration for her is a memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert – a fellow American whose extended trip after her divorce to India in finding spiritual sustenance, chronicled into a publishing phenomenon, now being made into a movie starring Julia Roberts who spent time recently in the same Ashram in Haryana on which Gilbert based her India adventure. Katherine, having survived divorce, bout with cancer and being fired by her editing job , felt she has no language to describe her experiences of life so decided to borrow a language from someone else – India!

A language is a whole map of reality; Katherine has drawn this map of Indian reality through the laborious task of learning Hindi, through her experiences and encounters in Rajasthan which offers segment of a complex and multilayered reality called India. When Katherine stretches this segment to look like the whole, the overview shows unjustly blown up, misappropriate and overdo simplification.

She starts by taking Hindi classes in New York which blossomed into obsession with the language, her journey to Udaipur, encounters with royalty and commoners, gurus, teachers and students, secularists and communists, some of them whom we can indentify like Nand Chaturvedi (Udaipur based Hindi poet) and Nand Kishore Acharya ( Bikaner based Hindi poet and critic). It pretty much describes the literary journey of the author that the reader will perforce to take to come in grips with author’s linguistic love affair. Very appreciatable is Katherine’s writing style, wit and calls for grade of compassion in this memoir part travelogue.

As the pages roll on, one feels that it is two books clubbed as one. The first part talks about her physical journey to India, with snapshots of life in India and the people she meets. Katherine arrives in India just before the September 11, 2001 and she highlights the reactions of different ethnic and religious groups towards the event. Some characters are two dimensional like the Jains – the host family and others who are described memorably like Helaena.

Once the reader is occupied in the narration of part one, the author shifts to other aspect which is her linguistic journey, told in three ways – the titles are entertaining, stories of her experience with the language and through the passages from linguistic theories which intersperse the book.

The story of her linguistic log is narrated in 19 chapters. Through her Hindi learning journey she ascertains that different language offers a different way of viewing the world. For instance, drinking a cigarette rather than smoking it, basking in the sun but not sunbathing or that in India there is no female orgasm, not to speak of it, as orgasm is applied to men only.

Katherine jumps to many conclusions sometimes suddenly, but once in a while they are interesting, like this one; ‘there weren’t separate terms for marriage and wedding, shaadi was your wedding and your marriage a small distinction’. This was closely on over-reading on the language as she writes ‘there is no conversion rite into Hinduism, but there is learn Hindi’, as this language is knotted with Hinduism.

The author while endorsing the view that emotions derive from cultural scripts and as such are learned in the language of the culture, perhaps that is why she explains months into learning the language she has become aware of feelings that she never experienced before. Fortunately enough there are many such moments when Katherine is expressively intensed and truthfully susceptible.

But what doesn’t go well with the reading is the central thesis, that mastery of a new language will make her a new person. There is little self-revelation to support it. Hindi is interesting to Katherine, kind of a slice of exotica. Her India is strewn with stereotypes and Hindi phrases which provide nothing to description. She depicts herself as a serious enough student of Hindi trying to escape the ordeals of her past without explaining what it is and what she gains by the end of it all.

There are many hit and miss incidents and people in this book, leaving her Indian sense and its language in literary midpoint. There are the ghastly Gujarat riots which interpose the plot but add a little to its expeditions. This is definitely conceited new age reading which adds little to the author’s status and fictional tastes. The book in the end embodies a rich emotional intelligence which gets formed from learning a language so distant and strange for someone brought up in USA. Truly an extraordinary read.

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Raja Ravi Varma – Painter of Colonial India (Authored by Rupika Chawla )

If William Shakespeare is 400 years old to English literature, than Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) is 100 years to India’s visual language – painting. Ravi Varma as we all know is credited for the makeover of the imagination of Indian gods, goddess, myths and legends. Till Ravi Varma arrived, the Indian art was nonfigurative, without any direct representation of the reality. Gods were never depicted in form of man or woman but Ravi Varma was the first Indian to master perspective, the first to use human models to depict Hindu gods and goddesses, the first to make his work available not just to the rich but to ordinary people too.

Soon all over India, in all classes’ houses in the end of 19th century were highlighted with Ravi Varma’s paintings, which were the natural renderies that deities Lakshmi, Krishna, Hanuman, Ram, Saraswati and Shiv got their exclusive identities. His personal interest in dramatics persuaded major theatre and films, increasing his tricky contact.

Since the past decade, Ravi Varma’s imagery has been shown up to western landscapes, northern costumes, southern jewellery with sensitive naturalism.

In the 19th century the oil-on-canvas painting was new to india and Ravi Varma’s style – the European realism was unusual. But when he mastered both the techniques, there was no stopping him and it is believed in his 30 years duration of career, he painted over 2000 canvases. His connection with the rulers of Travancore ensured him network that lead to a muddle of commissions from Audh, Pudukottai and Bhavnagar to Mysore, Baroda and Hyderabad. He was much sought artist cum painted for his portraits and theme paintings from Hindu myths and Sanskrit literature.

Ravi Varma was relentlessly criticised in early 20th century by Sisiter Nivedita, Sri Aurobindo and recently by Tyeb Mehta, Hussain and Akbar Padamsee. Never any kind of biography or study on Ravi Varma existed, that lacuna has now been meticulously filled by Rupika Chawla, a known in art circles as a restorer of damaged paintings.

Her book “Raja Ravi Varma – Painter of Colonial India” is well researched and deeply written by Rupika who has done a much required historical task by restoring the artist himself. In the process, she has buried out the attribution of virtually each of the painting with it’s socio-politically biography of its subject – either historical or mythological. She has also exhibited the must for modern significant carry out to furnish itself with the basic familiarity of synthetic paints sold since early 19th century in the tin tubes, creating a new flawlessness to the surface, which were called by many as ghoul pictures in Ravi Varma’s paintings, is likely to lead to an all new awareness in his work.

Adding to the many illuminating anecdotes and contexts from sources such as accounts of his patrons, colleagues, friends and the very important the diaries kept by his brother Raja Raja Varma who was his pupil cum partner in all of his commissions and enterprises that was undertaken by Ravi Varma. In addition Raja Raja Varma has to be acknowledged for instituting the Ravi Varma Fine Arts Lithographic Press ( now in Lonavla) where Ravi Varma’s all collection produced printed images of Kali ( from Calcutta) were shifted to.

The book highlights the fact that Ravi Varma who was the first to relocate the domination of the wandering and small European painters who came to India to paint coronation scenes, descriptions of princes, the promising Indian influential to civil servants and businessmen. This book is not merely Ravi Varma’s biography, it is difficult as it covers in its spacious clear drapes of social, cultural and political life in colonial India – particularly in supremacy of the native princes and it also attempts to emphasize the up-and-coming energy between technology and the colonised society jumped by feudal values that was hopeful to modernity, freedom, and democracy such as the comings of the railways, mechanically produced art, the double faced politics of culture and nationalism that all came into focus in this engrossing sequence of events of a painterly humanity.

In his paintings, Ravi Varma idealized women, often making them more graceful than they actually were. Indeed, at one time, telling an Indian woman that she looked like a Ravi Varma painting was the ultimate compliment. Though he painted women of many communities, Ravi Varma had a special fondness for depicting the sari-clad women of Bombay where he lived for many years. He found the sari (which was not worn in Kerala and other parts of India with colourful appealing folds) and it’s often said that the popularity of Ravi Varma’s paintings helped make the sari the national dress for all Indian women.

The disappointment in the book is about the debate on Ravi Varma as a modernist, which is just minor. But on the whole, the author Rupika Chawla has effectively raised from the dead the Ravi Varma from Killimanur as the painter king.

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The Exile, Navtej Sarna

Maharaja Duleep Singh was the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Maharani Jindan Kaur (fifth wife of the Maharaja) born on 4 September 1838 at Lahore when Maharaja Ranjit Singh had turned 58years. The places occupied by the father and son in history are poles at distant, while Maharaja Ranjit Singh, possibly deservedly is described as one of the greatest Indian leaders of the early colonial epoch in India, his son Duleep Singh is shown to be an powerless émigré who spent the better part of his life as Queen Victoria’s party ribbons. In the book The Exile, Mr Sarna has traced life of pensioned off Duleep Singh, as he went from Lahore to Fatehgarh to his hunting estate in Elveden to Russia and finally to that bitter and deserted hotel room in Paris where he met his end. While on this journey, Duleep Singh turned into a baptized Christian and then ultimately converted back to Sikhism. The author has used 5 narrators as the main characters picked from those closest to Duleep Singh. In some contexts the prince himself has narrated a few incidents. The narrators include – Mangla Mai (the favorite slave girl of Duleep’s mother), Dr John Login (the British officer who served as a father figure to young Duleep), Lady Lena Login (Dr Login’s wife), Arur Singh (Duleep’s confidante) and General Charles Carrol Tevis (Duleep’s confidante in Paris). Other significant characters -Maharani Jindan, Maharaja Kharak Singh, Dogra brothers, Sandhawalia Sardars, Attariwala Sardars, Pandit Jalla, Hira Singh and Maharaja Sher Singh along with Prince’s wives and children.The book is of 5 chapters divided into two parts, the first describing the splendor of Punjab under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, through the eyes of Mangla Mai and Maharani Jindan. Punjab including Lahore is described as a land of fabulous wealth and magnificence. The society aptly was very assorted and the only reason why it probably holds together is because of the respect the Sarkar (refers to Maharaja Ranjit Singh) commands. After the customary wailing and chest beating following his death collapsed, all hell breaks lose. The Kashmiri Dogras, the family of Ranjit Singh, the Sikh soldiers who fought as armed force, everyone begins to cry for everyone else’s blood. At the time of this chaos, Duleep Singh was a toddler; Maharani Jindan felt that the Lahore of the day was insecure for Duleep. She moved to Jammu along with Mangla Mai. The early years of the life of Duleep Singh, were played out against the rich background of his grandfather’s court and the lavish palaces and gardens. He enjoyed falconry and had the best horses and elephants to ride. He received royal education with two tutors, for Persian and Gurmukhi. He was taught to shoot guns and bows and trained to command. It must have seemed a kind of heaven, a place full of magical enchantment for the boy, but the brutalities of politics soon invaded. Eventually, Duleep Singh was called back to sit on the throne by one of the warring factions.

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