Sunday, September 25, 2016

Book Review: Love Bi the Way by Bhaavna Arora

Title: Love Bi the Way
Author: Bhaavna Arora
Publisher: Penguin Random House India Private Limited

Genre: Fiction 

Date:  2016

Price: INR 139/ 122.55 (Kindle)

Pages: 248

India is going through a time where the old and the new, especially thoughts try to co-ordinate exist. In the times where modern thoughts of the younger generation want to change the old, baseless beliefs but the reigns of society still being in the hands of the old raised by a very orthodox set of beliefs try to dominate. This is a major reason why we though a developing nation, even the educated, divide people in terms of caste, creed, religion and worst of all sex of the chosen partner. The heights of it all being criminalization of the act of having  sex with person of the same sex. This leads to people being unable to come out in the open in the society, family and sometimes to their own self. With the west beginning to accept it, it's India's turn to truly adapt now.

Artists have opposed this discrimination in various forms. It has been documented in films with lead characters being homosexuals like Fire and On a lighter note Kapoor & Sons which unlike the former managed to reach the audience. However bisexuality is still spoken of in hushed tones. Despite scientific and social science research on the subject matter looking at even alternating sexualities of the same human being and reasoning it extensively. On this note Bhaavna Arora tries to explore this via a more emotional trajectory, - a story, one that delves into the psyche of characters and then connects the reader with their journey towards discovery of their own sexualities.

Love is what we all desire. That one person who would understand us, someone we want to share our smallest achievements to our greatest fear. Someone we simply want to hug first when we are happy or cuddle with for hours till we stop sulking in our sadness. Yet it is this one person that is most difficult to find for a simple reason Men and Women though may be on earth but are very different beings. Their needs, priorities etc. are different from another and most of all there are fidelity issues - the core of the poison that slowly infiltrates and chokes to death any relationship it gets into. The central characters Zara and Rihana have scars of their own. They are best friends but opposite in every sense. While Zara is an introvert who has locked her secrets in the big trunk, Rihana is a complete extrovert who can do anything from directly approaching to embarrassing a man. Zara meanwhile believes it's only love that's worth giving yourself to.

They share a great friendship and are sole support for each other's lack of a family. The two hide well, their scars and try to live another day with them but challenging life situations make them peel the exterior and know each other better. It's their journey into overcoming the hurt that began early in life but hurt forever into living each day fully after finally growing out of it and in the process understand who they really are.

The characters are chalked out perfectly for the plot and the writer slowly reveals their life events making sure the reader connects instantaneously with each one and really understand the set of emotions each one goes through in situations that present themselves. The story is written on a light note with a lot of humor to portray the everyday life making it a pleasant light read with a important underlying note.

PS:  I loved the letter Zara writes to the prince, it was the most subtly delivered effective letters ever and if you ever loved someone that is the one to read. 
Overall a good read.

Rating: 3/5.

About the Author:
Bhaavna Arora is the bestselling author of the Deliberate Sinner and Mistress of Honour. Before her foray into writing, she was heading a business school as a director; she also trains students and professionals on leadership. She holds two management degrees and a Ph.D. in Leadership from Pittsford University. 

A fourth-generation army kid, Bhaavna is a true patriot. She enjoys reading, travelling, swimming, horse riding and playing sports and has a fancy for big bikes and cars.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The True Trait

As genuine traits fade,
The winds flow where thy interest lie.
Is man the epitome of the animal kingdom?
Or the pinnacle of its dark traits,
But remember in the true test of survival,
Cheaters are dependent,
Cheaters can be wiped out,
Like the swish of a seasoned artists wand,
When scarcity presents in its multiple forms.
It's the one that remains true to its character that sustains,
Laughing for the first time in its genuine loud voice,
For it is the one that always expressed.

250 Million & Counting- The Roald Dahl Phenomenon Celebrated at Crossword.

13th of September, marked 100 years of celebrated children’s author Roald Dahl. 

Born in Villa Marie, Cardiff, Roald was named after the polar explorer Roald Amundsen. Amundsen was a national hero in Norway (Roald’s parents were from there). Some of his most popular stories are Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, and Fantastic Mr Fox. Many of his books have been adapted to the big screen and even on stage. He also wrote the script for the 1971 film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The beloved author was known for his children's books with their playful language, dark humour and memorable characters.

Kinjal Shah, CEO Crossword  Bookstores says, "Dahl died at the age of 74, having published 17 children’s novels and 20 books for children in his lifetime. The master writer has managed to create a distinct and separate fantasy world for children as well as has written significant and relevant short stories and novels for adults."

Dahl is truly ageless. It is impossible to believe that he wrote these stories half a century ago. They still ring true.  Dahl has a subtle way to bring to public notice the poor section of society, the difficulties faced by them, and how they find their ‘happily ever after.’ Children feel involved in his stories.

Select Crossword  Bookstores stores across the country, hosted clue hunts, dream hunts and treasure hunts, along with Roald Dahl story-telling sessions to commemorate the birth centenary on Sunday, 11th September.

Children, especially aged between 8 and 12, thronged the stores.

A fan, 12 year old Nishka Kapoor, who participated in Crosswords’  “Celebrating a 100 years of Roald Dahl” said, “Roald Dahl has been my favourite author ever since I was a kid. Of all his books, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory will stay with me forever.”

Over 250 million books by Roald Dahl have sold worldwide, with his wonderful worlds full of charming characters and made-up words that have been enjoyed by adults and children alike all over the globe.

Catch the look of wonder in a child’s eyes, and you know that Dahl will sell another 250 million books in time. Such is his timeless magic.

Here are some fun filled from the event that would stay with these children forever...

There are many such activities happening at a crossword store near you. To keep up with the updates follow them on facebook:

Pictures courtesy: Crossword Bookstores.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Is Dawood really dead?

In the movie Don when Amitabh Bachchan said “Don ko pakadna mushkil hi namumkin hai”, the dialogue was so popular that it is the first line that comes to everyones mind when you say the word Don. But away from the cheer at the attitude in with Big B spoke this line is a grim reality that this has been true for a man who has terrorized us for decades now and evaded us for last twenty-three years. He is ‘India’s Most Wanted’ man, a terrorist as declared by the UN - don Dawood Ibrahim. Do we really even know where he is? Can we be sure he is in Pakistan? We don’t even have a photograph of his that’s less than fifteen years old. Meanwhile, our media has little else to show besides a few deserted houses in Karachi, which might even be red herrings. And then, there are less-known facts that are stranger than fiction. Like the four take-down missions from 1994 until the most recent ‘Super Boys’ mission in 2013, all called off at the last second. Why? Cold feet? Sabotage possibilities? False leads? Vested interests?
Put all these together, and get inside the mind of the Don himself, and you get a completely different logic, a thrilling sizzler. This is what Avik Davar has been doing for the past few years, finally clubbing all his thoughts in the book “Dawood is Dead” published recently by Juggernaut. The book plays around the intriguing possibility: Could Dawood be dead? How can we know for sure? Could he be back amidst us? If so,why? What might he be up to next?

The writer has been very secretive about how much is fact and fiction in the book for his own reasons, so we decided to delve deeper into his thoughts and ask him more difficult questions. Such as:

Is this book Fact or fiction?
“At the outset, the title itself should presage that it is a work of fiction, for no one in the world but I seem to be saying ‘Dawood is Dead.’
The book is as fictional as fiction can ever get but at the same time as plausible as fact can ever be. My bet is that the readers will constantly ask two questions: Could this happen?  Did this happen?”

That this could happen, we will have no doubt of, when we’ve read the story. Did it happen? We may never get to prove.

The story takes us through moments ofrepentance and attempts to build back fences with India, and the shocking possibility that he may be a mere puppet in Pakistan’s hands. His biggest mistake: taking his family and all his business there.
-   ‘See! I’ve invested billions here, bailed their economy out, even married my children off into their families... and this is how they repay me…they want me dead.’
There are glimpses of his fearless, daring, ruthless character, while also revealing a kind-hearted man who could go to any length for his loved ones.

‘The Don loves his family more than anything else. They are his weakest link. As long as we have them, he’ll always be under my thumb, get that?’ General Iftekhar gleamed and twirled the edges of his moustache.

What’s really unique about this book?

Several things. One, I’m claiming a ‘presumably living’ person as dead. Two, it is not a documentary about what happened etc. Instead, I put myself into the Don’s place and peek into his mind to understand what must drive him.  Three, I have shed light on the future possibilities instead of harping over the past, and asking, what next? At 61, the Don should be planning his swan song, his final assault against a country that was once home and now estranged forever.  Through this’ facts-morphed into fiction’ account I’m also pointing the need to ask the right questions, especially what went wrong with the take down missions.

Why such a provocative title?

I put in a lot of thought and came to this title because it is the right one, for reasons people will understand when they read the story.  But fundamentally because we know so little about what happened to the man in the last 23 years. My take is that he has had all the time to change thing so much, he could just be anywhere, and even anyone. So tomorrow if we get the news that Dawood is dead, I would not be willing to accept it at face value, even if we get to see a body. 

So you’re saying the Don could be here, living amidst us, free and famous?

My research, substantiated by medical doctors in the US, shows that if the Don decides, all he needs is 26 surgeries carried simultaneously over 15 to 18 months for a complete transformation, to returning to India in an identity that’s veritable and can pass muster long enough for his final revenge. His swan song. Sounds preposterous? But true.

Do you have anything to say to Dawood?

Yes. He is going to be 61 this December. Life, age and sorrow have begun catching up. He has lost some near and dear ones. And I for one suspect he is not really a free man even inside Pakistan if that’s where he is holed up. In that case, we will never get him back alive. That I’m sure of. But if he is elsewhere, my appeal to him as a common person would be to surrender gracefully and turn himself in, and begin his atonement. It is the only way all those affected by his acts can ever find closure and justice. And it is the only way any innocent members of his family especially the young children and older folks will have a chance to live with peace and quiet dignity as ordinary folks back in India, which was once home.

‘How much I miss the balmy waft of Bombay, mixed in the fragrance of our night jasmine tree. Those were the best days of my life, Mehroo. I miss home so much.’

Whether Pakistan would ever allow that is a question. But the Don is a smart man and can use ingenious ways (as shown in the book) to show he is ready to return and atone. 

We’ve all heard the famous line ‘Don kopakadnamushkil hi nahin, namumkinhai.’
Kyun? The book has at least one answer.

The book is a captivating piece of work published by Juggernaut Books and is available as a phonebook on their mobile app for iOS and Android. Given below is the link for the book:  

About the Author
Avik Davar (pseudonym) is a budding Indian writer with an interest in reality fiction. He believes that fiction always has a basis in fact, and that good fiction must strive to present a different, a better reality than truth. Thus, his stories graft facts into fiction seamlessly with powerful but invisible train of logic and makes you wonder which parts are true and which are imagined.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Author Interview: Rajesh M.Iyer

Retelling Mahabharata or even its part requires a great story teller. It is a greater epic than any ever written in Human history. Therefore when Rajesh M. Iyer took a bold step into writing about the year in hiding, of the exile phase of Pandavas, post the game of dice I was intrigued about the whole process he went through for very little is written about this. I wanted to know the person and his thoughts behind selecting a challenging yet interesting chapter and successfully completing it. Here is the conversation that took place.
 1. Describe your journey into writing.

A: It’s a pretty long one. Started twenty five years ago when I was in college and stood at a crossroad. When everyone was choosing to take up management roles, I decided I needed to write and tell stories.

2. What does writing mean to you?
A: Different meanings at different times. From escapism during distress (yes, most writers might not concede but it’s a fact) to catharsis while on a spiritual journey, writing dons many hats: friend, philosopher and guide. In short, it is life in itself. In one of the forthcoming books I’ve posed this Zen-like kuan: do stories imitate life or is it the other way round?

3. Why did you choose to write about a very challenging Mahabharata story?
A: Fascination for what is undoubtedly ‘the greatest story ever told’. I have been researching the Mahabharata and reading many retelling for many years. When I joined Amar Chitra Katha as Creative Head, the thirst to knowintensified. Secondly, every time you read the Mahabharata, you find something new. That fascinated me more. Wondered if I can find something hidden which others hadn’t. That’s when I stumbled upon the story of Pandavs’ exile and it got me thinking.

4. How much of the story is fact and how much fiction did you add to it?
A: The backdrop is real; taken from the original narrative by Veda Vyasa. Most of the characters are real. The back stories are real; either taken from the source or from regional retelling. Some new characters have been added to fictionalize the spy thriller part.

5. What is the research you undertook for this book?
A: Read multiple retelling as also scholarly interpretations of the original by Veda Vyasa. Since I read them more out of love than as part of a research process, the many years just dissolved. Technically speaking, it’s many years of research, but frankly it doesn’t matter.

6. What was the most challenging part of writing?
A: Maintaining the sanctity of the set-up and the characters. That’s a huge challenge since I consider it to be the greatest story ever told. So, when you are overawed by something as great as The Mahabharata, you tread carefully, full of trepidation at every step.

7. Have you ever experienced a writer’s block?
A: Happens many times. But, if you’ve been in the media for two decades, you learn to overcome them, because writer’s block is an indulgence no company can afford. So you learn from it.Youeventually adapt when it comes to your personal writing.

8. Are you a methodical or a moody writer?
A: A mix of both, though I must concede a certain amount of discipline is important to churn out anything of importance.

9. Describe your dual role as writer and publisher and how do you manage them both? 
A: The core of both is the book you love. But, the second role is more than just a publisher since Kriscendo Media LLP, which published this book, is a storytelling hub, wherein we take a story and using it as a hub, create multiple spokes like novel, TV series, film, web series, game, etc. It’s mind-numbing at times with multiple negotiations, but then at the end of it all, all the exhaustion is worth it. While on the subject, readers might soon see a TV or web series based on the book.

10. Your favourite writers?
A: Harper Lee and R K Narayanan for being so profound despite simple language.Gabriel Garcia Marquez for sucking you into a new world, despite his complex storytelling.Saadat Hasan Manto for his stark portrayals.Shivaji Sawant for his deep insight into characters.

11. Your favourite books?
A: To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), Mrityunjay (Shivaji Sawant), Tintin comics, Amar Chitra Katha comics.

12. Your favourite lines from a book of all times?
A: The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
(Stopping by Woods on a Lonely Evening byRobert Frost)

Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.
(To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)

13. How do you describe yourself as a person?
A: Affable yet moody, friendly yet a loner.In short, I am a bundle of paradox.

14. Your hobbies include?
A: Reading books (all kinds) and listening to music (eclectic taste ranging from rock to Hindustani classical).

15. Your idea of leisure is?
A: Sleeping.Period.

16. What do you do when you are sad?
A: Write. Great antidote.

17. Your favorite place on earth?
A: Mumbai.

18. One thing you would like to change about yourself. 
A: Habit of procrastination. Though must accept that I have made some progress over the years.

19. Wise advice for budding writers…
A: Keep writing. Keep dreaming. It might be a long winding road (mine definitely is one) yet it leads to what you aspire.

20.  A few words for The Readers Cosmos
A: A wonderful platform for both writers and readers.It’s great to connect them. Keep up the good work.

Thank you for your time Rajesh and wish you good luck. 

Book Review: Breath Go Away and Other Stories by Sriman Narayanan

Title: Breath Go Away and Other Stories
Author: Sriman Narayanan
Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Fiction (short stories)

Date:  2015

Price: INR 162 (paperback)/free on Kindle Unlimited

Pages: 152

This book is a collection of mostly short stories and some not so short stories ( in the strictest sense). The genre though may seem like love or loss from a title like "Breath Go Away" but that is just the first story. The rest of the book is majorly based on the same theme but has sprinkles of variety of emotions and a little seasoning of philosophy. Each story has a different theme and they broadly speak about human emotions. The book begins with a story from which the book derives its title, that many can relate to. It pierce's through your heart for you totally feel you are the central character and the author captures a reader really well there. Tears in Bathroom talks about some everyday common emotions which we all face and yet they remain unwritten. My favorite story is the one around little children and their growing emotions called Priceless Conversations. The rest of the stories are around finding the one soul mate and accidents during the course. 

The writer has chosen simple stories to write about mostly emanating from experiences of his own or people around him. Some stories are hard, some realistic, some mundane and some beautiful in their simplicity. He has also fused story with poetry at many places. The writing is simple and well suited for an Indian audience. The stories being more closer to regular life seem usual and a novelty factor is lacking which is very critical to any story, no matter the length. Where the novelty factor appears its essence is bland. Overall in a story where one takes the creativity on the path to fusion of prose and poetry a great quality is expected, something that the book doesn't really meet. 

The stories on their own make up for a simple light read like when travelling. Overall a good debut attempt with a lot of scope for improvement to be the best. Hoping for that in the writer's next books.

Rating: 2.5/5 

About the author: Sriman Narayanan works for a leading credit-card-issuing company in a senior leadership position in credit risk management. He has primarily worked in the financial services industry throughout his long career-at HSBC (USA), GE Capital (India) and Standard Chartered Bank (India).

He writes about anything that tugs at his heart, mostly about life, love and relationships. His writings have a philosophical tinge.He lives at Bentonville, Arkansas with his wife and son.
You can write to him at to get to know him better, or share your thoughts on this book.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review: Wreath And Other Stories by Sangeeta Mahapatra

Title: Wreath And Other Stories (Tales Of Horror and Suspense)
Author: Sangeeta Mahapatra

Publisher: Notion Press
Genre: Fiction (horror/suspense)

Date:  2016

Price: Rs. 250 (paperback)/66 (kindle)

Pages: 228

As the book’s title tells you these stories though short are meant to scare you and not be subtle at doing that. The aesthetic cover page though will calm your senses and tell you that it won’t be that bad, but that is just the beginning. As you read the first story Red Moon is your tester. It being a story of two friends starts gently and then slowly tightens its grip around the reader making them not leave until they finish it, leaving one aghast to say the least, setting a perfect tone for what follows next. Yet you have just had starters here! The main course is still getting laid and if you are anything like an experimental like me waiting for things to scare you, well you have met your match and you will appreciate it in ways you never thought would be creepy.

As Red Moon grows on youwhat next follows is a science fiction, into the future story, a completely different setting from the last one and a different madness therein. The story staged as play was the one I read and re read and is one of the best written short stories I came across in a long time. The last story in this collection Deja Vu deals with past life and associations. This being the note where the book ended was certainly the most emphatic one, especially the writing style which brought a complete essence of the concoction of suspense, confusion and terror therein.

Each story is different in every possible manner, the plot, the subject and most of all the justice to the writing style that required madness and that of a different sense while writing about friends to robots to past-present alterations. The stories are not in the strictest sense a horror that would make you jump for once but that mild creepy thing that just gets under your skin and makes you uncomfortable enough to check under your bed each time you think you are sure. 

A major mistake most short story writers make in India is that they write their collection at one go and in one tone. While writing a softer genre like love, romance, life etc. it still retains an excitement but writing something in a horror genre is an entirely different piece of cake, one difficult to master. Any repetition and a reader will understand the pattern, leave the book half way and make your efforts go in vain. To keep a reader hooked, for a collection  of short stories therefore presents a challenge of changing settings, plot, era, subject matter and most difficult of all the writing style. Experimenting with this I believe could be done if you bake one separately over months of incubation on each and then at the end of it all compiling what you think is your best creation over time. The last shock for me after the book was that this came from a very young writer for she made this huge feat seemingly look like cake work.

The book is one of those things you will miss out on in life if you didn't read. I am a fan of Sangeeta Mahapatra and would love to read each word that comes from her pen. Waiting for more.

Personal note: I am a person who constantly looks for thongs that can scare me. So I picked this book at 2:00am, post the first story I knew this was beyond my perception of what could scare me. 

Rating: 5/5 

About the Author: Sangeeta Mahapatra is the executive editor of a national business magazine. She has a doctoral degree in International Relations and has previously worked as a research fellow, specializing in Terrorism Studies. She is currently based in Kolkata, India, working on a book on the counter-terrorism strategies of India, Israel, and the United States of America. In 1999, her first book of short stories, Miasma, was published by Chowringhee Prakashini Press, Kolkata. Wreath and Other Stories is her second collection of short stories.