Category Archives: Indian authors

How I Became a Farmer’s Wife #Review

Book Title: How I Became a Farmer’s Wife
Author: Yashodhara Lal

Fictionalised memoirs are definitely Yashodhara Lal’s forte. After her debut book Just Married Please Excuse, we meet her again, along with her husband Vijay and the triple bonus of her three kids.

The story

Vijay, an engineer with a full-time job, decides to take up farming. We follow his story as he struggles to set up his farm right from planting vegetables (because he loves the idea of apne khet ki gobhi), to buying cows, and handling the motley crew that makes up the help. The farm hiccups along solely on Vijay’s passion and his determination to realise a dream. It is hard work, full of hreatbreak and yet comes with immeasurable rewards.

What I loved

Lal handles the story with her characteristic humour. It isn’t laugh-out-loud hilarious (like her first) but it still is a fun read. Her writing is realistic, too realistic sometimes. The first few pages that described the chaos with the children, were so close to the truth, like a mirror to my own anarchic home, that I felt my blood pressure rise and almost put away the book in fright.

However, there are plenty of good bits too.

She weaves in a host of characters, good, bad and ugly. The wily Shukla ji, the endearing Mobeen and his family, Akshata the yoga teacher (I want one like her) as also the familiar Kajal didi. The story of the farm is interwoven with her own internal complexes and struggles as well as tales of grappling with a pair of twins and a fast-growing tween.

My biggest takeaway from the book was that it never is easy to step out of one’s comfort zone but that is exactly what one has to do if one wants to follow a dream. I loved Vijay’s doggedness and I have to hand it to him for the ploughing on ahead (pun intended) despite the thousand set-backs.

Also, as a mom, the book reminded me that children are more than willing to give up their gadgets if we show them the fun they can have outdoors. I loved how Peanut, Pickle and Papad connected with the farm and farm animals.

What could have been better

On the flip side the book gets tiresome in parts, the struggles too many and too long and I’m not just talking about the farm. Pickle and Papad seem too hung up on technology and Peanut is in a whole different world – they all are kind of scattered and disconnected. I didn’t get as much of a warm family vibe as I expected from the book. So that was a bit of a disappointment.

A little more humour might have done the trick, or maybe a greater focus on what kept the family together during those crazy days. But then maybe that’s all meant to happen in Madhya Pradesh.

Last thought: Pick it up if you’re looking for a fun slice-of-life read.

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The Liberation of Sita – #Review

Book Title: The Liberation of Sita
Author: Volga

The Liberation of Sita is a collection of four short stories picked from Sita’s life. I’d like to say these are imaginary interactions but then this is mythology and real and imaginary aren’t really pertinent. It is all about how the story is told. This here is a whole new take.

In Volga’s stories Sita meets Surpanaka, Ahalya, Renuka and Urmila – all powerful women from the Ramayan, all wronged by men in different ways, often in the name of dharma, always as a result of patriarchy.

Sita meets them during the course of her sojourn in the jungles, where she spent most of her life.

When she hears her sons Luv and Kush talking about an ugly woman (with no nose and ears) who has a beautiful garden in the forest, she knows it is Surpanakha. She wonders in regret if Ram and Lakshman would have done the same had Surpanakha not been who she was, had they not wanted to provoke Ravana. She goes to meet the demon princess who raises questions on the identity of women, ‘Do women exist only to be used by men to settle they scores?’ she asks.

Then there is Ahalya who refuses to give anyone the right to judge her. ‘Never agree to a trial Sita’, she advises her for trust does not need proof.

There’s Renuka, whose son, Parashuram chopped off her head when her husband, suspected her of infidelity. She tells Sita to free herself from her husband and sons. ‘A woman thinks giving birth to sons is the ultimate goal of her life… but one day they begin to legislate our lives. Why bear such sons?’

Lastly there’s Urmila who shuts herself up after Lakshman leaves to accompany Ram and Sita to the forest. Not in loneliness, she says but in solitude. And in solitude she launches on a journey of self discovery.

These are women who refuse to wallow in self-pity or shed tears for men (or society) who have ostracised them. They choose to remain strong, to give up their families – husband and sons – to not bow down to the expectations of a patriarchal society. Instead they carve out a life of their own choosing and inspire Sita to do the same.

This is a powerful book, although the language isn’t perfect – some bit of it is bound to get lost in translation. However just this once, I was willing to overlook all of that. To truly enjoy this book you need to be familiar with some bit of Indian Mythology. If you do have that background this is a perfect read. The original work in Telugu, must have been better. Even the translation very effectively manages to say what it has to, and so remains a book that must be read.

Last Thought: A must read for those familiar with Indian Mythology, specifically the Ramayan.

 

 

 

Jinnah Often Came to Our House #BookReview

 

Jinnah (2)

Book Title: Jinnah Often Came to Our House
Author: Kiran Doshi

The best way to learn history is to weave it into a story, a fictional tale with a dash of drama. When an author does that, and does it well, history becomes a captivating story rather than a dry collection of facts. It becomes easier to understand, to sympathise and to identify with. That’s exactly what Kiran Doshi does so very brilliantly in this book of his – Jinnah Often Came to Our House.

So he takes one of the most intriguing characters from Indian history – Jinnah, puts him in the story of Sultan and Rehana and sets it in the backdrop of the Indian struggle for Independence.

What we have then is a gripping book.

The story begins with Sultan a well-to-do upper class Kowaishi Mohammedon lawyer, or barrister, as they were called then. He is in the process of separating from his English wife. He then woos and weds Rehana, sets up his practice and goes on to make a mark in the Indian legal system. He vows to remain apolitical, to stay away from the freedom struggle, to focus on being just a lawyer. He fights cases for Hindus and Muslims alike, hence the nickname Azad.

This is also as much, perhaps more, the story of Rehana – the only surviving child of a forward thinking Muslim professor. She falls for the witty Sultan and fits into his life and his family like a long-lost piece of jigsaw. She wins over Bari phuppi, the matriarch of the family, who bestows a grant on her to set up a school for muslim girls (which she later opens up to all girls). Strongly influenced by Gandhi ji, Rehana later joins the Congress and fights for India’s freedom.

Most of all, this is the story of Jinnah, woven beautifully, inextricably with these two characters. Jinnah who is Sultan’s very famous senior and later, a friend. Jinnah, who parries and argues with Rehana in Shakespearean quotes and also nurses a soft spot for her.

The book talks about his turbulent marriage with Ruttie, the effervescent Parsi girl young enough to be his daughter (he was just three years younger than her father) and his brotherly affection for his (quite unpleasant) sister, Fatima. It talks about his journey from a pork eating, cigarette smoking liberal Muslim who believed firmly in Hindu and Muslim unity, to the man who fathered a separate nation for the Muslims.

The Review

The biggest strength of this book is its smooth gently-flowing narrative that keeps the reader turning pages.

It gives a fascinating glimpse of the Bombay of the early 20th century. It talks about upper class Muslims of that time, when men went hunting and got together at clubs to gossip; when the streets were washed by the bhishtees and the first Rolls Royce rolled out; the time when electric fans, flush toilets and hydraulic lifts were things only the very high-class could afford. It was absolutely fascinating.

While I was aware of the facts that lead up to partition I had little idea of the way the Congress spearheaded the freedom struggle, the various factions within it, the motivations of the people who joined it as also those of the few who decided to stay away. There was also the formation of the Muslim League, the way Jinnah initially distanced himself from it, decried it for trying to split the country on communal lines and then how he joined it because, as he said, better him than a conservative Muslim.

He continues to work for an Independent India till the Gandhi wave takes over the Nation, sidelining him completely. From the most respected man of the country he is suddenly lost in this wave, turning angry and bitter. It broke my heart a little bit to watch him change page by page until finally, driven largely by his ego, he decides to write a different history. And we watch as he singlehandedly forges a new country banishing India and Pakistan to eternal enmity.

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The book opened me up to new perspectives.

For instance there’s Gandhi. I have come a long way from idolising him to demonising him in my early youth, to now finally accepting him as an extraordinary man who had his flaws. The book reinforces that image. I could see how frustrating it would have been to live and fight along a man like Gandhi. Many of his decisions made sense only to him, though they were right on principle they took away from the freedom struggle. For people like Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose and perhaps even Jinnah in the beginning, the freedom struggle was supreme but for Gandhi it was his principles that were most important.

Despite all the complications, the twists and turns, Kiran Doshi manages to tell this tale simply and with plenty of humour. 

Last Thought: Absolute must-read.

You can buy Jinnah Often Came to Our House by clicking on the image below.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy the book on Amazon through this link, I will get a referral fee, at no additional cost to you.

Carthicks Unfairy Tales #BookReview

Carthick's Unfairy Tales

I thought this majestic horse was a befitting backdrop for fairy tales.

Book Title: Carthick’s Unfairy Tales
Author: TF Carthick

I’d seen this one on social media and the title seemed intriguing. Then Shantala from ShanayaTales recommended it and the link was right there waiting for me and so here I am with the review.

Carthick’s Unfairy Tales takes seven well-loved fairy tales of our childhood and turns them on their head. Cinderella, Princess and the Frog, Goldilocks, Jack and the Beanstalk, Pied Piper of Hamelin, Rumpelstiltskin and Hansel and Gretel get a complete makeover in this short story collection.

You know the story, right? But this is a whole new interpretation, a different point of view, one that blurs the boundaries of good and bad.

So we have a Cinderella who isn’t as sweet a girl as we thought her to be and Rumpelstiltskin isn’t a nasty old goblin after all. A princess doesn’t go weak in the knees when her frog turns into a prince while the prince may not be good and kind and chivalrous.

I enjoyed figuring out who would be the narrator in each of the stories and the different point of view gave a fresh perspective.

The language is simplistic but you get bits of interesting life philosophy thrown in. Sample this one from Goldilocks and the Three Bears:

You have to try everything. You need to poke your nose everywhere. Isn’t that what being human is all about? You call it intelligence, curiosity, spirit of enterprise and other fancy names. But the fact remains that you are nothing but nosy busybodies. 

If I had to pick a favourite, it would be Rumplestillskin. It kept me hooked and the end took me by surprise/shock. That’s all I’ll say to keep the review spoiler free.

Last Thought: If you’re looking for something sweet and sappy, this one is not for you. However, if it’s the unusual and unexpected you’re after, even dark and twisted maybe, give it read.

The Conundrum – A Review

Book Title: The Conundrum
Author: Ajita Jabal Shah

 

The Conundrum

 

The Story

The Conundrum tells the story of Maia, brought up in a relatively sheltered world by open-minded parents who encourage her to follow her dreams. And that of Ajay, a poor farmer’s son, who has toiled his way to college. They don’t seem to be made for each other and yet they come together to make a story that makes its way from Baroda all the way to Champaner.

What I liked

This is a simple story, simply told. To begin with, I liked Maia as the protagonist. She’s a modern-day girl, smart and pretty and a bit of a feminist, just the way I like them. The arranged-marriage-groom-hunting scenarios were only too real and brought back memories. The masala chai and the ‘letting the youngsters talk’ were only too familiar.

My favourite, however, were the little touches that the author included in her descriptions. The smells, the sights, the clothes – those are things that made the story come alive for me. The smell of Rajnigandha, the sight of a flaming Gulmohur, the Bougainvillea and the Banyan, the singing of bulbuls and chirping of sparrows – those  images stayed with me.

What could have been better

On the flip side, I wish the author had taken more time to build the characters, other than Maia. Given that this is a love story (according to the blurb) we didn’t get to see many glimpses of Ajay’s life and as a result couldn’t form a connection.

Also there were a host of other characters, too many of them – Nirav, Swapna, Nupur, Manan, Nitish, Nalini, Neelu. They ended up cluttering the narrative. Fewer characters with more flesh on them would perhaps have worked better for me. I would have definitely liked to know more about Nitya, her life and her struggles, given that she has such a pivotal role. The book needed to be longer.

Oh and there were easily avoidable editing errors:
‘Ringed a bell’ for ‘rang a bell’, ‘Effluent sangeet ceremony’ instead of ‘affluent ceremony’, and ‘sheer korma for sheer khurma/khorma’.

Last thoughts: This one makes for a light easy travelling companion.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Jugnu – A Review

Title: Jugnu
Author: Ruchi Singh

jugnu

 

Jugnu by Ruchi Singh reminded me what absolute joy a well-written romance can be. Yet, to call this one just a romance would a bit of an injustice. While a love story is central to the narrative there is lots more to enjoy and savour.

The story

Out on parole Zayd Abbas Rizvi heads off to Kasuali with his laptop for some peace and quiet. The plan is to keep to himself and avoid trouble of any kind. He finds lodging at a guest house run by the petite, ghost-chasing, sad-eyed Ashima, mom to a delightful three year old. Soon enough he forms bonds not just with Ashima but also with other residents of the guest house. And then quite unavoidably, he gets embroiled in their affairs even as he tries to figure out the truth about Ashima’s husband.

My Review

To begin with I loved the setting of the book – the quiet, picturesque hill town of Kasuali. I find the setting matters to me… a lot – it  predisposes me to like or dislike a book and here it is just perfect for what the author has in store.

Like I mentioned, Jugnu isn’t just a love story. It is also the tale of two individuals with each of their stories so well written that you would want to reach out for a prequel, or maybe two. I would have liked to know the Ashima before she met Zayd, her life with Rohit and also the Zayd in his earlier life, his troubled childhood, his life with his girlfriend and his prison experiences. However, all we get are intriguing mentions that leave us asking for more.

Other than the protagonists, there are a host of other characters, each lovingly crafted, each likeable and/or relatable.

What I liked best about the book was that unlike most new age romance novels with their insta-love tracks, the love story here builds slowly and steadily. Stilted conversations move on to shared silences and from there to a gradual appreciation of each other – from indifference, to friendship to love. That is perhaps what made it believable. And of course there also was just the barest touch of romantic magic. The love story retains its charm without taking away from the intensity of either of the protagonists’ previous relationships – that couldn’t have been easy to write.

Beyond the characters there are enough twists and turns in this well-woven story to keep you happily turning the pages.

Endnote: This one is a refreshing wholesome romance perfect for a rainy day. I say pick it up.

Disclaimer: I was given a kindle copy of the book by the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Glitter and Gloss – A Review

Glitter and Gloss by Vibha Batra

glitterandgloss

It’s been a crazy month and my reading as well as writing have had to take a back seat. However I did manage to finish this sweet little book Glitter and Gloss by Vibha Batra. If you saw my Teaser Tuesday you’ll have a got a little bit of an idea about it.

But first, as always, here’s the story.

The book is about Misha (named after Misha the bear mascot at Moscow Olympics) a 20 something make-up artist. At a fashion event she rescues a hapless but very handsome man from the clutches of a rather predatory model and that’s the start of the Akshay-Misha love story. Enter Didi, Akshay’s elder sister, and it hits a roadblock. But then what’s a love story without a few roadblocks and some misunderstandings?

The review

I loved Misha right from the opening pages. That’s a great place to begin to like a book. She has an independent streak that I loved. Yet she’s a little scatterbrained and suffers from an acute foot-in-the-mouth syndrome and that made her even more loveable. Finally, her penchant for being a knight in shining armour won me over completely. Akshay is delectable – chiselled cheekbones, big muscles, flat abs and ton-loads of money. There are host of other delightful characters in the book too – Sammy – Misha’s house-husband flatmate, her friend Poulomi (This is how Misha describes her: “She may sound KKK—Khoonkhar, Khatarnak, Khadoos—but Poulomi does have my best interests at heart”) and her bohemian mother.

The writing is a mix of Hindi and English with the most witty one-liners thrown in. They jump at you suddenly, changing the mood, making you smile, even laugh out loud. Sample this:
“Our fingers touch and thousand volts of electricity course through me. The current of attraction is so strong, I half expect my hair to stand up in spikes.”
and another one after the first kiss:
My eyes fly open as I go from Sensuous Cinderella to Piddu Pumpkin.
At that final image the romance flies out of the window and one just ends up laughing. That was the most endearing thing about the writing. It reminded me a bit of Anuja Chauhan. However, this has a younger feel to it. Caution: If you’re a purist it might not quite work for you. In fact some bits stuck out uncomfortably for me too.

For instance ‘din din’ for dinner (pretty juvenile, I thought)
How much I heart Sam and Poul‘.  (Heart?)
‘It’s awesome and amaze’. (Do young people actually talk like this?)

However, I’m willing to forgive much for the laughs the book brought me. I just might be adopting some of the lingo myself like DDGGMM – that would be DullDepressedGlumGloomyMoroseMopey.

The combination of romance and humour never fails to charm me. And this one was just that.

My one real complaint would be that the story was overly simplistic as was the solution. It was way too predictable. I would have liked some more twists and turns, some more melodrama. Another fifty or hundred pages and I would have been happy.

Here’s a delightful quote from the book:

glitterandglossquote

My thoughts: If you’re looking for a simple, fast paced, uncomplicated love story that makes you laugh, this is your book.