Monthly Archives: October 2011

Book Review of “Delayed Monsoon” by Chitralekha Paul

Delayed Monsoon

By Chitralekha Paul

You truly can never tell what’s going on in a woman’s heart or mind. At times, she’d be a wreck, and quite upbeat the very next. At times, she’d be emotionally too weak, and at times the strongest one you’d ever meet. At times, she won’t be able to put her thoughts in to words, and at times she’ll go on till eternity burst. At times, she’d need your shoulder, your touch and a smile she can trust, and at times she’ll walk away at the first mention of a hug. This is what I gathered out of Chitralekha’s debut novel, Delayed Monsoon that peeps in to the world of a lonely housewife who finds solace in the virtual world, and has reality nabbing her again.

The main protagonist, Abhilasha leads quite a lonely life. Her college-going daughter and her ever busy husband (Nikhil) have only a few moments to spare for her. She yearns for love, affection and a bit of attention. And she thus finds herself being drawn to the internet. She makes a few friends –spanning different age groups and professions. She learns to move on in life and not brood over things she has no control over, or can’t really do much about. She learns about the different types of relationships that really exist in today’s world- from the long term (ever-lasting) sorts to the fleeting and momentarily satisfactory ones. Her traditional thinking at times receives a set-back only to revive and understand the age we are living in.

The book also spans different generations. I felt like this book had some sensitive issues, handled with much maturity and wisdom. Her life from childhood to present, with certain convictions and ideologies, penned in utmost simplistic yet effective manner. It is more of an encapsulation of events in her life. From moving to different cities, to her experiences with people and life around her, to making friends over the internet to falling in love with Arvind, all the phases in her life are penned in detail. Feels like she undergoes a metamorphosis of sorts. She learns about the different choices an individual is usually faced with in life, and how each choice shapes his/her destiny. Soon her sensitive nature and emotional needs are understood and filled up by Arvind.

The end brings in a bit of a surprise element, as some would say. But I did feel it coming. The feelings of all characters depicted here are quite identifiable and relatable to. The story is something you’d feel you’ve read earlier or known somehow. There were places where the author seemed to be preaching about relationships. Something most of us today, wouldn’t really want to read/hear from someone else. Also, the sub-plots too got me a bit confused as to what the actual story is about. Abhilasha’s dreams, aspirations, confusions, desires and bonding did make up for a good read. And like someone rightly pointed out, it does not merely reflect a woman’s quest for love or attentions, but a quest for a direction to her life.

The writing is simple yet quite in-depth. But at places it lacked pace. Bits of it felt like reading a monologue or a personal blog. Though the insights are quite touchy and grave, the overall feel of the book died out because of its length.
Overall, a good one-time read. If you have lots of time.

(Review by Sanjana Kapoor)

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Maintaining A Reading Log Or A Book Journal

 

A reading log (or a book journal) is a great way of keeping a track of what you have read, or are and will be reading. And truth be told, not many of us make or maintain a reading log.

It is in fact good practice that helps you record your reactions to a book, and its characters. You can note your thoughts and gain further insight about the theme, the plot, the appeal and even its relevance. This will help you expand your overall enjoyment of reading and going back to a book you liked.

You will notice that towards the end of it all, you will turn in to a good reviewer of a book and a keen observer of things around.

 

 

Here are a few ideas/questions to get you started:

 

1.    After reading the first couple of chapters, pen down your thoughts. See if they change as you proceed and reach the mid-way. And how you feel towards the end of the book. Would you go back to the book again or tag it as a one-time read? Also note any emotions that the book managed to invoke in you: smile, laughter, anger, worry, concern, tears?
2.    Did you connect with the story line, or the characters, or the ideation at all? Could you draw a parallel with your life while reading it? Did the book remind you of any aspect of your life or an incident you (or someone you know) have undergone? Or did the book remind you of any other book you’ve read in the past? Was there any unique idea that made you think on different lines?
3.    If you connected with any of the characters, who? Why? How? What did you find most appealing? Or given a chance would you become any of the characters? Who? Why?
4.    If you’d have written the story, what would you do differently? Would you change its title, or any of its characters, or altered any bit of the story or location?
5.    Do you have any apprehensions about any part of the book or any of its characters?

6.    Does the book provoke you to ask questions of any sort? What kind of questions would they be? Are they questions about the author or the characters or the ideation?
7.    If you could ask the author questions based on the book, would you? Or would you be inclined to read about the author itself, to maybe give you an insight to his world (his upbringing, his works, his ideologies)?

8.    Were you confused at any point while reading the book? Was there any situation that you did not understand or comprehend or you felt was out of place? Did that affect your reading or thoughts about the book and the author at any point?
9.    Note down your favorite part of the book, and your favorite quote by a character. What was it about them that appealed to you?
10.    Was reading the book a learning experience? If yes, what did the book teach you?
11.    Would you cheer for the book, and recommend it to others?
12.    Did you like the author’s style of writing? Would you read more from his collection? Why or why not?

 

Recording all the above will in a way help you review the book better. It will broaden your thought process, your evaluation power and of course help you explore different genres of books and authors.

You may follow the same practice while reading poetry and plays and other works of literature.

This will also help you read autobiographies, journals, or diaries of renowned authors, about their reading experience. You may also be able to compare your thoughts with theirs.

To conclude, maintaining a book journal or a reading log is a good practice. If you include a list of books that you wish to read in a particular month or year, the log will help you remember and attain your target too.

Let’s not forget, it will give you a good practice of expressing yourself, which in turn may help hone your writing skills. So, go get started tiger! It’s time to pen your thoughts.

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How To Improve Your Writing Skills

Alright folks. This is not rocket science. Really.

 

First and foremost, before you start, ask yourself “Why am I writing? What am I writing?”
You have to believe me when I say that readers nowadays are more intelligent than back then.
There are a lot many budding/aspiring writers who need to work on their writing skills. And it’s not difficult. All you need is some guidance.  Here are some steps that can and will help you.

 

Vocabulary

To be a decently good writer, one should have a good vocabulary. A broad vocabulary is a must to achieve clarity, power and precision. It also helps you write effectively. The more you know the easier and smooth the flow would be.

You can improve your vocabulary either by reading good books and being with people who have a good command over the language (I mean, good spoken and written vocab); or by looking up unfamiliar words in a dictionary (or a thesaurus). It is also good practice to learn a few new words (with their meaning) everyday.

 

Spelling
No one appreciates poor spelling. It not only reflects badly on your skill and vocabulary but also on your image. And, crucially for persuasive writing, correct spelling gives writing credibility.

Reading Skills

Good writing comes with good reading. Reading good books, blogs, and articles definitely helps in improving your writing.
Reading otherwise too, helps you with vocabulary enrichment, spellings and definitely ideation. It gives you points to think about. It exposes you to multiple writing styles.
 

Grammar and Punctuation 
This is one unwritten law that everyone must abide by. Follow good (rather correct) grammar and punctuation.

Good grammar prevents ambiguity. Bad grammar confuses the reader, hampers the reading process, shows your ignorance and reflects badly on your image and credibility. You have to know the parts of speech- nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. You have to know the difference between the active and passive voices; and the basics of punctuation. You must define where a pause has to be taken or where a break in the sentence is necessary.
Contemporary approach to writing also includes writing short and crisp sentences. Long sentences, more often than not, tend to leave the reader confused. Don’t use fancy or big words just because you know them. Use them only if they are apt in that context. Your readers will appreciate short accurate sentences rather run-ons.
There are a lot of online courses that can help you with grammar, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, framing sentences and paragraphs, etc.
Research
Indulge in ample of research for material to write on. The more you know about the topic, the more ideas you’ll be able to generate to approach the topic (yes, yes, be it a story idea too). It improves your credibility as a writer if you have your facts right. And you never know, your research might help you stumble upon something rather interesting than a drab to write on.

Let’s not forget, research helps you devise a flow to your writing. This not only helps you keep the reader happy, but also helps the reader understand your thoughts better.
Edits and Criticism

The more you read and write, the better you become.
For that matter, even watching intelligent TV shows (wait, that felt like an oxymoron), helps you hone your vocab.

Get someone to read your drafts. It’s in fact a good practice to have someone help you in the beginning rather than at the end (or absolutely not at all). Read and re-read your drafts. Make edits. Or ask someone to do it for you.
And of course, do not let criticism dampen your spirit to learn and be better. Make sure you listen to critiques. They are here to help you become a better writer. Learn from Criticism.

I’ve noticed that people usually write the same way they speak. So it is better advised to learn how to speak well to begin with. Once you have a command over the language (while speaking), rest assured you will be able to write well too.

 

Tips

Additionally, use intelligent similes and metaphors.
Oh and this one I cannot stress enough: Use complete words and sentences. An essay or story is not a chatroom. No SMS lingo. Please. (You have to follow this one at least, because I said ‘please’.)
Remember: Writing takes patience and practice. Do not give up. But that also doesn’t mean you produce shoddy work.

Things you must keep handy: A dictionary, A thesaurus, An encyclopedia, Reading material (optional)

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Book Review of “Ladies Coupe” by Anita Nair

Ladies Coupe

By Anita Nair

This is riveting story of a woman’s search for strength and independence.

The protagonist Akhilandeshwari, Akhila for short, is forty-five and single, an income-tax clerk, and a woman who has never been allowed to live her own life – always the daughter, the sister, the aunt, the provider. Until the day she gets herself a one-way ticket to the seaside town of Kanyakumari, gloriously alone for the first time in her life and determined to break free of all that her conservative Tamil Brahmin life has bound her to. 

In the intimate atmosphere of the ladies coupé which she shares with five other women, Akhila gets to know her fellow travelers. And follows is an exciting and absorbing read.

Janaki, pampered wife and confused mother; Margaret Shanti, a chemistry teacher married to the poetry of elements and an insensitive tyrant too self-absorbed to recognize her needs; Prabha Devi, the perfect daughter and wife, transformed for life by a glimpse of a swimming pool; Fourteen-year-old Sheela, with her ability to perceive what others cannot; And Marikolanthu, whose innocence was destroyed by one night of lust.

A diverse mix of ladies with their share of stories and insights to their life. As she listens to the women’s stories, Akhila is drawn into the most private moments of their lives, seeking in them a solution to the question that has been with her all her life: Can a woman stay single and be happy, or does a woman need a man to feel complete?

The incidents, the lives, and the cultural diversity of these women are very relatable and feel real. The stories of each of the ladies in the coupe are invigorating, enticing, uplifting and inspiring in their own way. Thoughts and feelings and dreams poured in to words that bring to life show the author’s strength as a writer. It does leave you thinking about one of the simplest yet complex question- does a woman really need a man to complete her and her life? The fine art of story-telling is justified by this author in a very rich way.

(Review by Sanajana Kapoor)

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Book Review of “The Better Man” by Anita Nair

The Better Man

by Anita Nair


The novel is set in the northern part of Kerala, and shows the transformation a man undergoes.

Mukundan, retired from government service, returns to the village of Kaikurussi where he was born. He comes with the intention of erasing the memories of his past. He is upset, viewing his life as a failure. He meets “One-screw-loose-Bhasi”, a local eccentric, a housepainter and an inverter of an odd system of alternative medicine. 

 

He helps in healing Mukundan and transforming himself. Then Power House Ramakrishnan, a locally important man, decides to build a Community hall, and selects Bhasi’s land. He threatens to destroy Bhasi’s business if he refuses to sell the land. Mukundan intends to save Bhasi’s land but is flattered into accepting membership on the project committee. Then Mukundan’s father (one of the strongest characters of the book) dies. Mukundan undergoes a deeper transformation and finds redemption.

You might find the story predictable and about average, but the narrative is fresh.
It is a bit sow in the beginning but it gathers pace and evokes a lot of emotions.
The author catches finer points of village life with much grace and ease, reflecting “real life” in the interior of the country. The power cuts, the post office and the people working in it, the tea stall etc. The tone of the narrative is heart-felt and warm. The incidents and the characters are bound to touch your heart. The only problem is that the tempo of the novel drops a lot. At a point when you think the story is picking up pace and indulging, it somehow drops the plot and fades out.
Overall a nice one time read.

(Review by Sanjana Kapoor) 

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Book Review of “Beyond The MBA Hype: A Guide To Understanding And Surviving B-Schools” by Sameer Kamat

Beyond The MBA Hype: A Guide To Understanding And Surviving B-Schools
by Sameer Kamat

There is no doubt that education in India is way different than education overseas. While in India most work can and is done with the power of money, the institutes overseas have very strict and different parameters to judge a student’s candidature. Masters in Business Management (MBA) is one such sought-after course that stands proof to the growing apathy of students in India.
Beyond The MBA Hype: A Guide To Understanding And Surviving B-Schools by Sameer Kamat addresses the woes and issues faced by students when applying for MBA programmes overseas. The book begins with the basic question as to why one should go for an MBA.

It further goes on to explain the application process, the overall outlook of the industry, tips on how one can improve their MBA profile, ways to ace the CAT exam, the skills gap that causes hindrances and how to overcome those, skills and benefits of networking and internship, ways to go about your career hunt, career change, etc.

The book demystifies the hype around the course and walks you through the steps to achieving your goal. MBA aspirants will benefit from the realistic and practical approach of this book as the author mentions the techniques and yardsticks used by international universities while selecting students.

The author himself is an MBA Graduate from University of Cambridge with several years of IT and Management experience. He gives insights to the academic life and issues faced by students on securing a place in B-schools. Worries related to networking, internship, career hunt, career change have been revealed skillfully. The book will make you introspect to find out your real goal, and ways to achieving it.
An absolutely worthy book for all MBA aspirants.

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Book Review of The (In)eligible Bachelors by Ruchita Misra

The (In)eligible Bachelors

by Ruchita Misra

The Indian chick-lit seems to revolve nowhere beyond marriage. Ruchita Misra’s The (In)eligible Bachelors is one such offering.
Though enjoyable and pretty entertaining, it comes with its set of minor flaws.

Good things first:
There is no major plot. But I like the characters. All of them.

Kasturi with her freshness, and a loving heart; and her mom with her concerns about getting her daughter married to a highly qualified, rich bachelor of the same caste. Kasturi’s dad is the only one who seems to understand her (in the family I mean) but he too escapes to the villages for medical camps, just to get out of his wife’s incessant ranting about marriage and prospective grooms. Quite a fun read, the whole family picture.

Kasturi’s friends – Varun and Ananya –precious I say. The transformation of (almost) tomboyish Ananya to a lovey-dovey koochi-cooing damsel is quite funny.

The line of suitors – Pita ji (Amay), Dr. Purva Dikshit, Vipul Vikas, another one named Lehman, but heading the list is Kasturi’s love- Rajeev Mehrotra- her boss at work and (as she describes him) a Greek God!
I’m sure the title gives in a lot about the story. Kasturi is of course bullied by her mom (emotionally) in to meeting potential suitors and how she does meet them only to reject them all. Quite a few places, I felt, there was an exaggeration of scenes. I understand that Indian setting helps you formulate larger-than-life dramas but humble advice: let’s not go overboard with them.
The emotional drama she faces with family, sometimes with friends and then with Rajeev was a bit typical and expected. The climax did bring a smile.
The pace is quite fast and the language is fairly simple that makes you breeze through the book without much effort. It makes for a good one-time read no doubt. But it definitely lacks depth.
The freshness of her writing style has earned Ruchita quite a place in my head. There is wit, humor and definitely a few laughs. So, if you are looking for a smooth, easy and an absolute fun read- go ahead pick this one!

Wait…I almost forgot the flaws: (sorry someone has to do it)
The book cover isn’t as interesting. The back-cover is bright pink! I mean fuchsia!!! Had it been white with a bit of pink it would still be tolerable. No really.

The book reads like Kasturi’s journal with exact timeline. Now, why would you do that? I did not see the whole point in giving the time/date line. There are places where the author accounts even for the split second. How was Kasturi feeling what she felt and writing about it at the same time? Was she putting it all on some kind of a secret device that was noting the time and her emotions and the dialogues?? Oh and as far as I know, a journal essentially has monologues. Not dialogues.
It would’ve made more sense writing it all without the disturbing time and date lines. After a point I stopped reading those.
Oh and yes- a bit of grammatical errors: we write God (not god); it is “within” not “withen” and it is “anyway” not “anyways”.

Well these are really minor (like I mentioned earlier) but none the less, noticeable. Oh wait…one major flaw- its “Maggi” not Maggie!!!

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