Tag Archives: Delhi

Book Review of “If It Is Sweet” by Mridula Koshy

If It Is Sweet

by Mridula Koshy

My fondness for short stories made me go lengths to find this book. And I definitely want to admit – it was totally worth it!

A fine amalgamation of perspective, imagination and reality. Conventional settings with contemporary outlook, without traditional facets taking over the characterization, reveal the writer’s flair of capturing your mind and lingering on for almost ever!

The Good Mother –breaks away the conservative facade and shows a mother agonizing over her failed motherhood. She ends up picking a young lover after her son’s death and commits a mistake she can never forgive herself for.

POP –walks similar lines of failed motherhood but with a newer perspective.

Jeans –is an intimate sort of a read. Who would have ever thought of writing about our pretty behinds in this way! And they do really juggle in four different sections! An erratically humorous read with an interesting view point.

The Large Girl –is a bold narrative. A tender love story beyond traditional norms and lines.

Companion – felt surreal and the emotions shared by the two companions come to reveal a surprise ending.

Stories like “Today is the Day, Romancing the Koodawalla, Not Known, Stray Blades of Grass and Same Day,” reveal the feelings of characters belonging to the lower strata of society. The stories show the humane aspect of the author and her keen observation skill. Some of the characters are the ones we would have come across in life but reading Mridula’s stories makes us see aspects we would have never considered earlier. She doesn’t sound preachy or gung ho about the fates or challenges faced by her characters –but simply puts forth their feelings and aspirations. Beautifully written.

When the Child was a Child, 3-2-1, First Time, and Passage” –deal with loss and mourning and lives of expats. Come to see, almost all stories have an underlying theme of sorrow and loss. Maybe that’s what binds the entire collection.

Overall, a well-paced, strikingly original and riveting collection that navigates locales between Los Angeles and Delhi. And all the seventeen stories in If It Is Sweet are unique and leave behind an everlasting impression.

Most of the stories make you go back to them. For a second read. And each time you read them, there’s a different aspect that comes to light. The stories create a stir…an unrest in your mind. They make you see the realities as the author visions.

Mridula’s writing is lucid and smooth. It haunts you in a desirable way. You are bound to find it demanding (or bumpy sometimes), but it is a style you will end up loving.

A myriad of emotions and a palette of feelings, the book deserves to be in your bookshelf forever!

Not to forget the unassuming title that leaves a very different taste in your mind. Astounding.

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Book Review of “The Lotus Queen” by Rikin Khamar

The Lotus Queen

By Rikin Khamar

History never fascinated me. Until now.

Maybe it was the narration style of this book that brought such a valued historical account to life as I flipped through the pages.
The story is essentially about the Rajput Queen Padmavati (Padmini). The beautiful queen is married to the king of Mewar, Rawal Rattan Singh. When praise of her beauty reaches Delhi, the Sultan, Ala’uddin Khilji, is intrigued and he expresses his desire to see her. This demand comes across as major disrespect to the Rajput kingdom because queens had to follow the tradition of the veil system (parda). What follows is an attack on the kingdom of Mewar. The queen resorts to a bold step to freedom and honor, a decision, historians would quote, to lead her people to a fate yet unheard of in history.

The Lotus Queen is a beautifully written tale of bravery, honesty, love, trust and sacrifice whilst surrounded by intense distress and pain. And like I confessed earlier, I’m not a great fan of history, but this story of the Rajput bravery, valor, pride and tradition is quite an intriguing read.

The non-linear narrative is quite simple, but it does not lose out on depth. You might be a little startled in the beginning with the style, but as you proceed, it becomes more and more enjoyable. From describing the striking beauty of Queen Padmini to the picturesque and colorful traditions; from describing the sturdy and secure fort of Chittor to the rugged landscapes of Mewar; and from the passion shared by the legendry couple to the emotions portrayed and shared by all the characters in the book; Rikin has captured it all delicately and quite accurately.

The pace is quite decent. Given the fact that the story traces back to about the 1300s, no aspect of the book (or the writing) boggles you down. Also, the artwork on the book cover looks quite inspired by that era. Very traditional. Very beautiful. Yes, the story could be a little more tightly written. But then, it’s his first attempt. And quite an incredible one.

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Comically Tuned

We all love going through the small comic strips that appear in newspapers. There is something about them that always catches our attention. No, it not just about the instant smile that they bring, but the satire on certain socio-political or other critical issues that hooks us on to the graphical representation. The works of R.K. Laxman and Suraj ‘Eskay’ Sriram are cases in point.

Come to think of it, amongst the first things a baby is taught or shown are pictures.
And right from our childhood, reading comics is one of our greatest indulgences.

Kids would create havoc if their monthly subscription didn’t arrive or wasn’t handed to them. Well, at least that was the case in my house.

I remember, my brother and I had an entire rack full of ChandamamaTinkleJataka TalesBahadur (Indrajal Comics),Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu, Pinky, Billoo, Shrimatiji, Shikari ShambhuAkbar and BirbalTantri the Mantri, Suppandi, Nagraj (snake king) whose powers are based on ancient Hindu tales, and various other characters from Amar Chitra Katha, Gotham Comics and Diamond Comics.


Then came Western comics in the form of Archie’s, TinTinAsterix,Dennis the MenacePopeye the sailorSpidermanSuperman, Batman, X-Men and their ilk.

But as we grew up, comics had to take a back-seat – given the academic overload.

Not to forget the advent of television, followed by umpteen animated series on cartoon channels, which was closely followed by the highly engrossing game consoles and the internet lure. Comics and graphic novels lost their readers almost in a jiffy. And surprisingly, us, readers did not seem to miss our “once-upon-a-time-favorite” characters too. Somehow, Mario and Luigi seemed more interesting and car racing was more fun than reading and laughing over Suppandi’s idiocracy.

And soon, comics almost disappeared.

But just like other things in life that have undergone revamping, comics too seem to have come back in a new rejuvenated form.

A new wave of graphic novelists has emerged, in the recent past, to shake up the art form. We no longer see conventional centuries-old myths and folktales adorning the covers of comic books. The new crossover Indian superheroes have gained popularity and a wider audience amongst the adults as well. And subjects now range from subtle social messages about the environment and society to bolder issues of homosexuality and politics.

New-age artists are looking to create brand new superheroes that are quintessentially Indian to see off competition from the likes of Spiderman and Batman.
Amongst the new-age cartoonists and graphic novel designers, we have Sarnath Banerjee, whose graphic novel “Corridor” is set in New Delhi and delves into politics and sex. Sarnath is known to write and develop comics through his keen observations.

River of Stories” by Orijit Sen, that released around 1994 in black-and-white, dealt with the social and environmental impact of a controversial dam, and prompted changes even among traditional comic publishers in India.

Kari” by Amruta Patil, the writer also known as India’s first female graphic artist, centers on a suicidal lesbian and has been dubbed India’s first gay graphic novel. And another, “Kashmir Pending,” by Naseer Ahmed and Saurabh Singh, seen through the eyes of a reformed militant in jail in the disputed region.

A recent Mumbai based start-up, Vimanika Comics, aims to bridge the gap between historical narratives and graphic novels, giving mythological characters a 21st century facelift.
From what I gather, the company’s “The Sixth” series shows Karna, a warrior from the ancient Indian epic “Mahabharata,” in a modern light. The series starts as a high-flying businessman, suffering from recurrent nightmares, discovers he is the reincarnation of Karna.

Another publisher, Campfire, based in New Delhi, is about to launch “Ravana: Roar of the Demon King,” a graphic novel of a story retold over centuries in India but this time seen through the eyes of its primary antagonist — the demon king Ravana.

Fresh initiatives like Manta Ray, Level 10, Random, Abstraction, World Comics India (an NGO floated by young artists, who pick tales of common man’s heroism) Cartoon Watch, Comix.India, Creative Gaga, and many others aim to offer a platform to new talent. This alone shows the uprising the industry is about to notice soon.

Even the virtual world of web-comics has managed to entice readers.
I read this recently and decided to bring it everyone’s notice as well:


Kshiraj Telang has more than a thousand comic strips, many around the middle-class status symbol – a pug puppy on the web. Badmash is created by and aimed at the Indian diaspora. Curry Bear Comics is another popular Indian webcomic that revolves around three South Asian college students and their White friends, taking a dig at the Indian students at odds in America. Fly, You Fools (webcomic) deals with the daily irritants of life in India. Arbit Choudhury, regarded as the world’s first MBA comic character had to be created in India. Though, another Dilbert is what we are waiting for, to comment on our cutely corrupt and jugadu Indian work culture, Sunny Kris, a web comic, focuses on the unique idiosyncrasies of an Indian workplace.

And this is just the beginning.

Bringing back and boosting the fading love for comics, India recently saw the first Comic Con being held in the Nation’s capital, popularizing graphic novels and comics in India.
I heard that the two day convention saw more than 15,000 fans relishing the art in its new avatar. Fans dressed up as various characters, from American superheroes and villains such as Superman, Wolverine, and Harley Quinn to local Indian heroes like Chacha Chaudhary.
The festival had stalls for comics and graphic novels as well as workshops, activities and book launches. Illustrators, cartoonists, designers were awarded and felicitated for their contribution to the world of comics and fun.

Comic Con India also saw many new comics being launched – including “Uud Bilaw Manus: Back with a Vengeance” by young Adhiraj Singh, which shows off a new Indian superhero: a half-otter-half-human from the post-apocalyptic fictional place of “Beehar” in northern India, who fights corrupt officials, among others. That seemed somewhat striking. No matter how modern or western the graphics look; the stories, the subjects and the emotions that it carries is very distinctively local in flavor.
Sumit Kumar’s The Itch You Can’t Scratch, is an adult book, not by common connotations attached to adulthood-sex, but because of its stark honesty.

Amazingly, the sales over the two days at Comic Con spoke volumes about the love for comic books that still exists in a country like ours.

Overall, not just the sales, but the sheer enthusiasm and spectacular attendance and excitement shown by the people stands to prove that comics and graphic novels will never vanish. They had and always will find space in our hearts and bookshelves.

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Book Review of “Horn OK Please-HOPping To Conclusions” By Kartik Iyengar

Horn OK Please – HOPping To Conclusions

By Kartik Iyengar

Now this is what I call a fun-tastic read.

Kartik Iyengar chronicles his “journey” all the way to Ladakh – Chief Redbull, Goose Goldsmith and Derek Demonia in an SUV called ‘Motormouth’ jot their passion in overcoming problems during their adventure; write about subjects that need delicate handling wrapped with humor; share their experience of meeting new people and exploring new places; capture the essence of their “journey” to finally bringing meaning to life – a remarkable achievement in my eyes!

Every chapter beings with a sarcastic poetic snippet, goes on to set the context, present his points of view and culminates in a warped moralistic end from a virtual community. (Taken from the description – sorry this was the most apt sketch about the book and I definitely couldn’t ace it.)

The book is hilarious. It has anecdotes from the journey; snippets of randomness that end up instigating brain waves to ponder on the reality around us; and the foreword by The Dalai Lama himself.

The writing is lucid, raw and pertinent. Ample of humor, wit, nutty takes whilst on the journey, but great insight about things we turn a blind eye to. Describing the difficulties in proceeding with the journey, yet not deterred to stop mid-way shows great persistence and will power. Covering the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, Guarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttaranchal, Punjab, J&K and Himachal Pradesh and the memories binding the adventure make for a great read.

The blurb on the book said, “50% of this the proceeds from this book has been dedicated to the Mahesh Memorial Trust, Chennai (Tamil Nadu) and the Tibetan SOS Village in Leh (Ladakh) by the author. This copy was printed at an orphanage.”

Talk about urban Indians and their sense of responsibility. I bought 2 copies and gifted one to a f(r)iend. I hope he writes the review soon.

I urge you to go ahead, pick this up and release your mind of the mundane chores. And yeah, do your bit of charity, beginning right here.

A MUST READ FOR ALL!!! *smack*

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Author Interview – Sneh Thakur

From Kuwait to India via refugee camps; from being a Brand Manager and winning awards to now writing short stories by the beach and photographing the mountains, Sneh Thakur has lived quite an exciting life.

I got talking and digging for more about this beautiful, chirpy and multi-talented lady.

In a nut shell, tell us about Sneh Thakur.

I would best describe myself in 6 words as: Pint Sized Rapunzel. On a Cloud.

I’m 29 years old, born to a Rajput father and a Malyali mom – so dinner conversations were never dull! With 6 years of a career in FMCG under the belt in various leading FMCG companies in roles ranging from Sales, Business Intelligence, Innovation and Brand Management, I’ve travelled and explored India in a ‘real’ way which is one of the reasons why I love my job. My life-long loves have been of music that moves- U2, the lyrical quality of Jim Morrison and reading – A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry being my all time favorite.
Is it true that you made your way to India travelling across refugee camps? Looking back, is there an experience you’d like to share with us?

I was born in Kuwait and spent the first decade of my life there. When the Kuwait war broke out, the NRI community had to leave the country under difficult circumstances. It was at that point that my parents, who had every luxury in the world, had to bring me (then 11 years old) and my younger sister back to India. The journey involved travelling from Kuwait to Jordan on a long bus journey and camping as refugees in the deserts of Amman, Jordan till we got to safety and were flown into India. I believe in seeing the brighter side of life and remember an incident – it was midnight and the light from an innovatively created lamp (cottons wicks dipped in the remaining sardine oil from canned foods) lit the tent we were in and my sister and I spotted for the first time in our lives a Scorpion in the sand and almost picked it up. Thank god mom was close by! We all have a good laugh about “Deepti (my sister) and Sneh’s adventures in the desert” now.
We also read about you selling candy on the streets of Howrah. Could you elaborate that account?

My first assignment in the corporate world was as a Management Trainee for a major FMCG Confectionery company. I was based in Kolkata and as a trainee was expected to go through the learning ropes in Sales (due to which I am a better professional today). The first step involved starting from the scratch and seeing how “field sales” was done – so we could in time become better managers and leaders. This involved going to the market with boxes of candy and making sales calls – almost 55 to 60 shops a day. It was an amazing, tough experience but I must say that the shopkeepers in Howrah were very kind and generous and a smile was often enough to convince them!
Would you like to share, with your readers, your tryst with writing?

My tryst with writing started as a teenager when I’d keep a journal and play out with great drama my life, my friends and my angst at times! But in recent years I found myself turning to it very naturally as a form of self expression in blogging, notes, short stories, flash fiction and poems. In the corporate world you draft out oodles of memos and presentations every week, and I guess all the quick typing practice had to find a more creative outlet!
Tell us about your stories in “Down The Road”. What brought about the ideation?

I have written 2 stories in “Down the Road”. The first one is called “The Café with No Name” and is set in a Parsi café in Mumbai. When Ahmed Faiyaz of Grey Oak offered the opportunity for me to contribute, he mentioned that the tales had to have a campus connect. “The Café with no Name” is an off beat campus story revolving around the protagonist Dinshaw, a Parsi Café owner and the unlikely friendship that develops between him and a student who visits the café. As a student at SIBM, Pune I often used to travel in Pune and Mumbai for unique culinary experiences. This story is inspired by many a gastronomic delight!

The 2nd story “Fresher” is set in Indore and is about a spunky girl from Delhi who lands up there and her experiences in settling in to her new life from school to college, a different city, being a fresher and dealing with the challenges presented in a brave, resilient way. For me, this was an important story to tell as I know of many young kids from cities who end up going to smaller towns very different from their cocooned city life and getting bogged down by ‘seniors’ and ‘introduction sessions’. For me the ideation on this was to inspire young college goers to be who they are and not worry about the rest.
An exciting weekend for you would comprise…?

Since this is an fantasy question, I’m gonna have fun with it, so let me pick my favourites from all the cities I have lived, worked in:

A play with Naseeruddin Shah  at Prithvi Theatre, Lunch at one of Bandra’s world class restaurants; Endless conversations with friends; the rain in Delhi, the smell of the scented earth after and an evening walk at Lodhi Gardens, and perhaps a boat ride and barbeque in Muscat, Oman!
Read her stories in Down The Road and see the talent of this real Pint Sized Rapunzel. On a Cloud.

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