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Showing posts from December, 2017

Book Review: Skeleton in the Cupboard by Ruskin Bond

Skeleton in the Cupboard is a short story covered in the book ‘Secrets’ by Ruskin Bond. The story is all about solving a mystery that revolves around a skeleton found in the old storeroom of the Hotel Green’s. That time the young Ruskin was away in Shimla at his boarding school. He communicated with his mother, who was the manager of the hotel, through letters to gain extensive knowledge about the skeleton. Through letters it became clear that the skeleton was of a woman’s and some newspapers were found wrapped around it circa 1930.

The question was who could be that woman? The hotel’s first owner Mr. Green was a lady killer: he had charming persona and polished manners. He was into extra-marital affairs. His wife one day disappeared. Mr. Green died in a ship accident while going to England during the Second World War. Thus, Ruskin and his mother assumed that the skeleton was Mrs. Green’s. It was concluded that Mr. Green killed his wife to get the love of other women or he paid someo…

Book Review: Ants among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla

While reading the last few lines of Ants among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India by Sujatha Gidla, readers would surely overcome by a mixture of emotions. Chief amongst them was a deep sorrow.

The book is a memoir that details the author's family history, with her uncle Sathyamurthy looming large over everything. One of the leaders of the Communist and Naxalite movements in Andhra, he is the primary mover and shaker of most events.
But what reached out to readers more was the story of her mother Manjula. Rising like a phoenix again and again from the pits of poverty, politics, and patriarchy, she is the epitome of all the things a woman fights for in this country.
Many insights into the turmoil of Andhra and Telangana, the abject poverty and hopelessness of so many people that people turn a blind eye to, the pitiless monster of caste that devours without mercy, the bravery and relentless struggle for the basic right to live with dignity. All this lea…

Book Review: Evil under the Sun by Agatha Christie

Evil under the Sun by Agatha Christie is a detective novel written and published around 1940-41. This novel features the favourite fictitious crime thriller hero Hercule Poirot.

Those who aren’t fond of reading crime thrillers must pick up this book to enjoy the craze around Agatha Christie and the fictitious hero Hercule Poirot, who will definitely pique interest to read further books of her.
Talking about the hero Poirot, he is quite detective in his ways, so famous and ridiculously genius.  Poirot is out for a vacation on a beach resort. After a few happy days, a beautiful actress named Arlena is found strangulated, surely a victim of premeditated murder. Out on the vacation there are a plenty of characters available thus the task of filtering clues and getting to the destination becomes treacherous for this genius. Arlena’s step-daughter Linda hates her but she isn’t the prime suspect. Too many characters meaning a whole web of suspects but that’s the beauty of this book. The res…

Book Review: At Green’s Hotel by Ruskin Bond

At Green’s Hotel is a short story covered in the book ‘Secrets’ by Ruskin Bond. In this story Ruskin describes his early life in Dehra where he used to come to spend winter vacation from Shimla’s boarding school. His step father had been away – actually he had disappeared – and his mom has had really difficult time managing finances of the home. She had taken up a job in a shanty hotel called Green. In 1930s the hotel had had its best ever possible days otherwise it was in shackles and the owner who had another business in Delhi was least cared about it.

Most of the workers there had been without salary for over three months. His mother was getting four hundred rupees monthly. Instead of the servant quarters, Ruskin was given a small room in the hotel. Though the business of the hotel was fiddling, also the hotel’s facilities and interiors were in dire need of revamp. The hotel was never occupied to its limit. However, Mrs. Deeds family, poor Anglo-Indian, had been staying there for …

Book Review: An Era of Darkness by Shashi Tharoor

In the summer of 2015 at Oxford Shashi Tharoor delivered a speech on the topic: ‘Britain Owes Reparations to Her Former Colonies’. The book ‘An Era of Darkness’ is the extension of that speech. The video of this speech went viral through chatting apps and social media platforms. In the speech Tharoor demanded that the British must seek apology from India for its 200-year misrule in the country. Well, in 18th century, India’s contribution to world economy was well up to 23 percent and by the time India got independence the contribution was as low as 3 percent.

Actuated by the interest thus generated, Shashi Tharoor embarked upon the book and charted the British rule from its victory in Plassey, to its steady procurement of provinces, Sepoy Mutiny, the nation rising for independence, the Empire’s shenanigans in partitioning the country, and finally, the independence that was paid in blood. He writes eloquently about how the British intensified the  country’s caste divide; how they play…

Book Review: Gracie by Ruskin Bond

Gracie is a lengthy story covered in the book Secrets by Ruskin Bond. Gracie is a story of a woman in the heat of World War Two. She was a pretty lady of seventeen or eighteen with English, Portuguese, Burmese and Indian descent. In the winter of 1945, the streets and roads of Dehradun became all of sudden full with soldiers, mainly allied troops. Dehradun was not a center of military activities, but it was made into a recreational center for the allied troops engaged in fighting the war at different frontiers. American soldiers were rich, thus they would distribute toffees to the children in the street. While British soldiers always short on ration weren’t that avuncular.

Because of the rush of the soldiers, there was sudden rise in the clubs, restaurants, bars and cinema halls. The sleepy town of Dehra became a vivid commercial hub. One nice soldier named Corporal Allen gifted three crime thriller books of Agatha Christie to young Ruskin, aged ten.
On the other hand, Gracie would s…

Book Review: The Late Night Show by Ruskin Bond

The Late Night Show is a short story covered in the book Secrets by Ruskin Bond. As the story opens, the author puts forward various reasons for murdering people. Among all, insanity is also one of the reasons. However, greed is the topmost reason. The narrator is a school boy, after having finished his school, he is staying with his mother in the Green Hotel, and she is a manager there. In Dehradun, Odeon cinema hall is popular for American and British movies in 1940s. The boy develops a good rapport with the cinema hall’s usher cum ticket checker. For this reason, the usher lets him slip in every night for the movie without a ticket. To return the favour, the boy brings a bottle of beer for him, because at the hotel he has good rapport with the bartender, Melaram.

Since he goes to Odeon every night, he develops a good sense of its interiors and the kind of public that comes there. One person intrigues him. He comes there quite often wearing suit and coat and a hat on head. He watch…

Book Review: A Tiger in the Lounge by Ruskin Bond

The best thing about Ruskin Bond’s stories is that they aren’t empty, rather they carry beautiful message about humanity, childhood, and nature. Nature is an imminent part of his stories and he always emphasis (directly or subtly) through his stories that nature be preserved, not to be destroyed. Through the short story ‘A Tiger in the lounge’, Ruskin tries to say that the population of tigers has gone down drastically in India.
A carefree boy who lives in the Green Hotel of Dehradun meets retired Colonel Wilkie. They are drinking beer in the Green Hotel. The colonel tells him that this place once had a plenty of tigers ten-fifteen years ago but not now because of hunting and deforestation. Colonel Wilkie says that he had shot a tiger in the same hotel twenty years ago. The boy finds it tough to believe him. As the story goes, one winter morning Colonel Wilkie was relaxing in the verandah of the hotel when he saw a tiger approaching him from the mustard field.
Before entering the ho…

Book Review: Over the Wall by Ruskin Bond

Over the Wall is a lengthy story covered in the book ‘Secrets’ by Ruskin Bond. It is a soulful story with themes like compassion and humanity. The time period of the story is of around ten years, like from pre-independence to post independence of India. The narrator is a ten-year-old boy who comes down to Dehradun from Shimla to spend three-month long winter vacation at his granny’s bungalow. They are Anglo-Indians. Around the granny’s house, he sees two more bungalows from over the wall. Melvilles’ bungalow has vibrant environment: in that house people come and go and parties take place. The second bungalow is of Johnsons. Their front and backyard is not neat and tidy, grass and shrub have been grown all over the corners. Except dhobi and cooks, no other people enter their premises and evening parties never take place. In the backyard, at a distance of some yards, there is a hut-like cottage and the window of that cottage opens up at the time of receiving food otherwise it remains s…

Book Review: Murderous Greed by Arun Nair

Murderous Greed by Arun Nair is a light crime thriller. Though the novel claims inspector Satyajit as a protagonist, however couple of more characters seem in the rush of center and snatch away much share of the limelight. Satyajit is posted in Avadi, Chennai. He has good track record of diminishing crime wherever he had been posted. Well, in Avadi, one early morning back-to-back two crimes jolt him and he is sheer determined to find out the reason behind the crimes. He isn’t greedy for promotion but solving cases is something that he considers as his duty above anything else.

In the first scene, an old lady has been robbed off by a biker who not only runs away by snatching her precious necklace but also pushes her so hard forward that she dies colliding with a lamp post. Soon after, a businessman called Karthik has been shot in his car by bikers and the only witness to the crime was his female colleague Dhristi, who happens to be with him that time. She informs the police control ro…

Book Review: The Canal by Ruskin Bond

The Canal is a short story featured in the book ‘Secrets’ by Ruskin Bond. The story is about some adolescent boys’ frolic activities in and around a canal in Dehradun. Ruskin (the narrator) and some of his friends used to bath and while away time in that canal during simmer time. The canal used to come from the mountains up the valley. The canal was famous because once it was a battle point and historians called it Nalapani. Well, the gang of boys called it Panipat battle point, since they were weak at history lessons.
Their only interruption to the fun was Miss Gamla. The canal flowed touching the backside edge of her house. There were a lot of pot plants in her house and for this reason the boys called her Miss Gamla. She was around sixty year old spinster. Because of her presence, boys hardly ever bathed in full nakedness. At the sight of grown up boys, she felt upset. Boys’ noise often disturbed her afternoon siesta. She would often warn them to be off but boys never listened to …

Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Those who have finished ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid may feel that this book is half-migrant literature, half-globalist. The author is not only interested in revealing how the human lives are changing by migration, but by how constant migration in-and-of itself leads to the blurring of location and nation-state construction. This assumption is evident by the constant interruptions in the lives of Nadia and Saeed. Can there be re-imagination of global identities in a denationalizing world vision? Somehow this novel could not convince this peculiarity.

May be the novel is built too much on concepts and not enough on character. Neither of the two characters seem to function or think outside of their movements and Hamid's occasional insights. Also, the lack of specificity of location. For a book with so many random places, readers were made to feel that they have to detach from one place to place, in a sense a backdrop is lost. The book sounds a piece of abstract writing. All of it se…

Book Review: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Seldom writers are complete in their glory, and one such is John Irving. He is equally supported and celebrated by all: readers, critics, and other writers. When ‘The World According to Garp’ was published in 1978, he shot to prominence immediately. After Garp, two more of his novels were a dazzling success. And ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’ is as pleasant as the other novels.

The novel is set in Gravesend, New Hampshire. A Prayer for Owen Meany is about friendship between two boys: Owen Meany, a ten-year-old dwarfish boy with a whiny voice, and John Wheelwright, born into an aristocratic family. Owen is a special child and it becomes apparent early in the story. His tiny size is in contrast to his emotional, moral, and spiritual stature, emphasizing that he is a larger-than-life hero.  John is the narrator who for the last twenty years has lived in Toronto, Canada. He describes their childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood interspersed with brief accounts of his own current hedonist…

Book Review: The Dead Zone by Stephen King

The Dead Zone by Stephen King is a horror cum suspense novel. It is one of the best works of him because the lead character in the novel is a kind of tragic hero, unlike the usual larger-than-life characters. In many a sense, the book is high on literary value as it does not exaggerate any of the both aspects: thrill and frightening.
John Smith is the central character of the book, by name he sounds quite common but he is blessed with a second sight, which at times acts as a curse for him as well. He got that second sight because of two accidents in his life. First, after a skating accident in childhood, and then as an adult one night he was returning from a village carnival in a taxi and then he met with a deadly accident. The accident pushes him into a comma state for the period of four years.
While he is in comma for four years, he loses everything he had then like career, girlfriend, access to life, etc. He wakes up hedonistically pauper in material terms, but on the other side h…

Book Review: The Cherry Tree by Ruskin Bond

The Cherry Tree by Ruskin Bond is a very nice book promoting the importance of nature through a very cute boy Rakesh, aged six. Rakesh lives with his grandfather in a small town of Mussoorie, and there he goes to school every day. For farming purpose, his parents live in the deeper part of the mountains which is not connected with facilities like school or hospitals, etc.

One day Rakesh buys a bunch of cherries from the market, while eating them, he comes home. When he is left with only three cherries, he thinks about sowing seeds of cherries since around his home there is barely a fruit tree. In the garden around his home, he throws the seed casually. After rain and winter when the next season of monsoon arrives, by luck he notices the tiny plant of the cherry tree. Thereafter he grows fond of that tree; however, he remains obsessed with its height. He wants it to grow very fast. When he sees that the tree is not growing fast like he thought, he abandons it, thinking it a waste of t…

Book Review: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo is an experimental novel based on the life of Abraham Lincoln when his son died. The word Bardo means the intermediate time between one’s death and rebirth. So, Bardo is nothing but a sort of a period. The novel takes, most of the part, in this Bardo. The title means Lincoln in a specific time zone. The main theme of the novel is the grief of losing a child: Lincoln loses his son William. Thus, in a sense the story is all about love, loss and indeterminate state.

In 2017, this book won Man Booker Prize. The undertaking of the book appears interesting and readers feel that it would turn out to be one of those books that endure, that make them think, and that have the staying power. Coming over the writing style, it is unique. In the beginning sounds jerky and disjointed but gradually makes way with its influential theatrical quality.
Every character speaks a few lines, roles switch rapidly back and forth and a full range of afterlife personalities shines through…

Book Review: The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee originates from the Indian mythology’s famous tale Mahabharata. This is another retelling of the great heroic Mahabharata. However, the point of view taken this time is of Draupadi's than anyone else’s, like Karna, Pandavs, etc. The story tells the anecdotes of Draupadi's struggles and her insatiable thirst for love all her life.

The lead character is intellectual, strong and poignant; and sadly does not grow with time. But then, may be that is why the Mahabharata happened.
The best likeable part is the edgy relationship between Kunti and Draupadi, the author does not try to make it all ideal and keep it relatable. The different angle involved is the author's take on Draupadi's relationship with Karna. Read it just for the beautifully weaved story of these two.
The only thing that does not fit is the order to cover all the tales of Mahabharata, some such stories are also told from Draupadi's viewpoint that couldn't be…

Book Review: Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco

Footnotes in Gaza is a graphic book written by a journalist and is well-supported by his investigation  about two comparatively unknown massacres of people in the Palestinian towns Khan Younis and Rafah in 1956, committed by Israeli army. Joe Sacco is a brilliant graphic journalist whose offerings from the war-torn areas from across the world, in the graphic report form, are said to be matchless.

Working through the memories of survivors and UN/govt. files pertaining to these two episodes, ignored as insignificant events in the Middle East, Sacco documents what really happened then. Though the story is consigned to be nothing but forgotten footnotes, Sacco feels it is imperative to tell it because the past and present are a remorseless continuum and history must be built from these obscure blocks.
If viewed on the lines of Mossad, Footnotes in Gaza, rather, is an influential work. Joe Sacco, of Maltese-American origin, has no personal axe to grind. In the early 2000s before Hamas tak…

Book Review: Mossad by Michael Bar-Zohar & Nissim Mishal

Mossad is a novel by Michael Bar-Zohar & Nissim Mishal, the book gains limelight because it largely talks about Middle East and Arab countries with reference to Israel’s political context.

Mossad lists the missions of the legendary Israeli secret service in a perfect order. Its twenty-one chapters describe around the number of operations’ successes and failures of Israel's conflict with Palestine and other Arab nations. Most of the stories are familiar ones, but a few popular ones like the hijack-rescue at Entebbe have been not covered. The stories are gripping given the audacious methods of Mossad agents; thus, the book serves well as a spy thriller.
Mossad is largely one sided glorification of Israeli actions. True, some of the adventures pulled off by Mossad agents are amazing: the retrieval of Adolf Eichmann and the extraordinary subterfuge of the valiant Israeli spy Elle Cohen fall into the realm of Ripley's. Even then, many missions, especially the pre-emptive ones…

Book Review: Namak Ka Daroga by Munshi Premchand

Namak Ka Daroga (Salt Inspector) is a short story by the legendary Indian writer Munshi Premchand. The core theme of the story is the price of honesty. The story is set during the British era, in those days salt was heavily taxed and people literally started smuggling it to make hefty profits.

Vanshidhar is a young man from a modest middle-class family. His father is of the opinion that extra income other than the meager salary is a blessing from god. And this extra income can shoo away all their financial worries they are facing with. On the advice of his father, Vanshidhar takes up the job of a salt inspector in the government’s salt department. Though his father told him to accept bribe, he preferred to remain an honest man, an honest officer.
One night on a bridge over the Yamuna River, Vanshidhar catches the sight of vehicles crossing the bridge for smuggling purpose. He objects and then the owner Pundit Alopodin offers him heavy price for letting him go, but Vanshidhar remains …

Book Review: Despite Stolen Dreams by Anita Krishan

Despite Stolen Dreams by Anita Krishan takes a firm stance on the simmering issue of Kashmir terrorism. Through multiple characters, she has woven a perfect thread to depict that terrorism is a curse to the world peace; how innocent people either get killed or victimized or rendered homeless.

Wali and his family are forced to leave their home in defiance when a gang of terrorists forcibly take grip over them. One of the terrorists, Shakeel, conspires to forcibly marry the beautiful daughter of Wali. Shakeel was once a servant in the home of Wali. With the help of Abdul, another servant, and a friend called Wasim, Wali is able to flee the valley in a night’s time. Their only hope is Salim, his son, living in Delhi.
The run-away family settles in Delhi with difficulty. Initially, they face problems while mingling with the society people but later on Wali finds a very trustworthiness friend in Kashmira Singh, who too had sad past in Punjab. Life in Delhi is not that easy for Wali, there…

Book Review: Letter from an Unknown Woman by Stefan Zweig

The book is segmented into four stories: the title story and other three stories. First three stories are quite lengthy and build up a point of conflict from one sub plot to main plot, like novella. However, the last story is comparatively shorter one. Let’s discuss all stories one by one.

Letter from an Unknown Woman:
The first story. It is narrated through a letter. It is between a writer and a nameless woman. One day when the writer comes home from walk, he finds a letter with no name and sender’s address on it. However, the handwriting was of a woman. The woman tells that she loves him, and she has been following him or in love with him since a long time. The woman describes the events occurred in her life; how and when they met she without being noticed by him. It is a beautiful, touching story.
A Story told in Twilight:
The second story is about a boy in a castle in Scotland. It is an imaginary kind of story. The boy in the evening takes a stroll and then meets a beautiful woman…

Book Review: Battle for Bittora by Anuja Chauhan

Battle for Bittora by Anuja Chauhan is a light political cum romantic thriller. Sarojini, most of the time known as Jini, is a twenty-five-year old woman living a carefree and independent life in Mumbai while working in the animation field. Life takes a U turn for her when her lovely grandmother pesters her for homecoming; despite protests she comes down to her native place called Bittora.
Jinni comes from a political lineage. On this fact and on the behest of her grandmother, she is forced to contest the Lok Shabha election from that place (Bittora). She is quite apprehensive about her one-sided win but soon she gets the reality jolt upon realizing that the opposite candidate is none other than her childhood best friend: Zain Altaf Khan. As teenagers both have had crush on each other and they shared a different type of understanding. They are united after nine years but not as a friend but as fierce contesters. Well, the question is, would they meet again by leaving their political …

Book Review: Grandfather’s Private Zoo by Ruskin Bond

Grandfather’s Private Zoo by Ruskin Bond is a widely held tale among children, for it depicts personal behavior of animals and birds brought home to add to the personal zoo. Rather a tale of a nature (flora and fauna) lover who loves to keep a collection of animals and birds, at time even reptiles. Grandfather’s Private Zoo is a novella consisting nine well-connected stories.

The story starts with the adventures of Toto, a monkey. The narrator is a small boy and his grandfather loves to keep a private zoo at his home, on the other hand, grandmother abhors troublemaking animals and doesn’t support him with his animals. The monkey being taken from a Tonga driver for the sum of five rupees seems to be indecent. He breaks a lot of kitchen dishes and steals food and whenever grandmother catches him red handed he too often runs away, through windows, to remain inaccessible. Fed up of his indecent behavior, grandfather sells him back to the Tonga rider for the sum of three rupees, at a loss…

Book Review: Out of Season Ernest Hemingway

Out of Season is a short story by Ernest Hemingway with indirect implications on the emotional psychic of life. The story is about dilemma, marital discord, vague communication and haughtiness of being in a new place or country. The story is set in Italy, Cortina. A young American couple is staying in a hotel. Since they are bored to the tears, the husband (the young gentlemen) arranges Peduzzi for trout fishing in a river. Peduzzi and he walk ahead and the wife, Tiny, follows them.

Peduzzi, the local worker, is drunk and almost out of his senses. The wife knows the fishing guide chosen by her husband is wrong but she didn’t lament openly, rather they both face a strained communication and try to figure out one another more through sullen and unpleasant disagreements. The wife does not like the option of fishing chosen by her husband and somehow the guide is staggering and incomplete with knowledge and may put them in trouble.
Peduzzi is not leading them properly that soon became evi…

Book Review: On the Quai at Smyrna by Ernest Hemingway

On the Quai at Smyrna is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway. The story succeeds in bringing forward a few horrific scenes from the battlefield. It is staged against the time of 1920 and there a war is going on between two European nations: Turkey and Greek. Probably Hemingway saw the deadly scenes as he was an ambulance driver in Italy during the WWI and later he worked also as a war correspondent. But this story, Hemingway is narrating he heard from one of his officer friends. The irony of the story lies in the people present on and around the battle-affected field. There are children, women, cattle; and of course soldiers.

The soldiers perform duty at the harbor and on the pier grief-stricken women and children scream aloud at midnight and when the searchlight is made thrown at them they tend to keep quiet. One time a Turkish officer came to him and complained about the offensive remarks he received from a non-Turkish soldier. The officer knew that was nearly impossible sinc…

Book Review: Bhabhiji’s House by Ruskin Bond

Bhabhji’s House is a short story by Ruskin Bond featured in the book ‘Rusty Comes Home’.  The story is set against the newly settling Delhi of 1950s post-independence, and focuses on the values and the chores that take place on a daily basis in a traditional joint family. Rusty is more of like a wanderer; he has no permanent place to live in Delhi; thus, one day he walks down from Connaught Place to Rajauri Garden, covering around eight miles, and reaches the home of his friend, Kamal. He begins living there with him, in his big home, and the family that live there is huge.
Through the story one point has been made clear that no one can live smoothly in a joint family where cots are snatched away at the crack of the day to place in the garden only to be re-laid at dusk; a number of children wailing and prancing around toughens the concentration on anything the person is doing, and above all women will never obey the senior lady and the senior lady will never cease to lament their loa…