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Book Review of “The Other Side of the Table” by Madhumita Mukherjee

The Other Side of the Table
By
Madhumita Mukerjee

The other side of the table

The other side of the table

When the book arrived, I was overtly excited to begin reading, given its soothing cover page and quite an appealing format (letters).

The book format quite unusual for a debut writer – in the form of letters, exchanged between two friends – Abhimanyu and Uma.

Spanning almost a decade, the letters reflect the friendship (and eventually the love) shared by the two protagonists. Uma is about 10 years younger to Abhi and is studying medicine in Calcutta, while Abhi is a practicing surgeon in London.

The ten years of their lives, captured through the letters exchanged, make for decent read. With each letter exchanged, you peep a bit deeper in to their lives and discover more about their personalities and surroundings. Their experiences, their joys, their sorrows, the challenge faced, the hurdles overcome, the dreams cherished and the ambitions brewed.

The format definitely is new and gripping but the language got me a little disinterested.

Given the fact that I can’t get myself to put a book down once I begin reading, saw me struggle through certain portions.

There were places where the language was overtly sweet, as if Abhi was trying to “impress” Uma. I personally do not like “sweet talk” or as you say “buttering-up”- for as far as I know, no one in the real world indulges in such verbose as used in the letters. No wonder I was immensely turned off to the extent of wondering if such people do still exist (and if they do, please steer clear of me!)

I agree that the premise of the story, though ordinary, does have a grip. I appreciate the fact that the author did not use medical terminology extensively at the risk of losing her readers. And the emotions, quite relatable, bring you closer to the protagonists.

Overall, it is a decent story of love, loss, friendship, overcoming difficulties and taking a stride in life to bring out the real you.

The story could have been more gripping, personally, had there been less of “jibber-jabber”.

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Book Review of “The Sari Shop Widow” by Shobhan Bantwal

The Sari Shop Widow

By Shobhan Bantwal

Shobhan

When the book reached me I wanted to start it at that very moment. There was something about the cover that caught my attention. From the time I turned the pages there was no stopping. At least for quite a bit of the 360-page book.

The main protagonist, Anjali Kapadia, an American-Indian, is a widow who runs her parents sari shop “Silk & Sapphires”. Their exquisite tasteful collection is devoured by most but with the rising competition and building recession, bankruptcy is round the corner for the Kapadia family. Strange how the folks running it don’t realize it until the last minute, and thus look to seek help.

To save their face and their shop, Anjali’s father calls his brother – Jeevan Kapadia, a rich/wealthy businessman from India. When he comes visiting to evaluate the business, he brings his business partner along – Rishi Shah – a complete charmer. With hidden motives none-the-less.

Though Anjali and her mother don’t trust this grey-eyed British Indian, there is something that draws Anjali to him all the more. An empowering attraction that captures her. But what she doesn’t know is a secret that unveils to shake-n-stir them all.

Though the plot of the book is fairly predictable (at least it was for me), the characters stand out with their unique personalities. The premise of the story has it all – love, culture, trust, hope, despair, sex, betrayal, courage, etc. The writing seemed quite effortless and flow- just right.

The characters have depth. Most readers are sure to find a connect with Anjali, or empathize with her.

Though glimpses of life in New Jersey, through Anjali’s story, seemed a bit predictable, the way Anjali has a fling with Rik, her “no-strings-attached” sexual escapades with him, her (fatal) attraction towards Rishi, her loyalty to her sari shop, her undying love for Vik (her late husband), her encounter with Rishi (and his girlfriend) – made the story quite interesting (for those who like chick-lit/romance genre).

The climax, yes, ended a bit abruptly. It could use a little more depth (just like the story overall).

The author brings out the colours (of culture and her characters) quite well. There’s drama, humour, emotions, love, and yes- a bit of senseless entertainment, all mixed well to make it a yummy “masala” read.

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Book Review of “The Fallen Love” by Rashmi Singh

The Fallen Love

By Rashmi Singh

The word love has such a mixed connotation. And bringing its nuances is Rashmi Singh’s latest fictional novel- The Fallen Love.

It spans the love that the main protagonist Rohan feels – for his mom, his first crush Shilpi, then Radhika and towards the end Madhuri. His fate makes him experience the pain of losing people he loves the most, or so he feels. So when it comes to Madhuri, Rohan pledges to strive for it and make it last…forever.

The story moves back-n-forth in time detailing Rohan’s present affluent status and his highly underprivileged background, during his growing up years. The dramatic and horrendous circumstances that bestow misery and grief are well highlighted by the author. And so are the sensually arousing love scenes, described quite finely without a hint of sleaze and disgust.

Life isn’t as simple as we want it. And it shouldn’t be. Without trying moments of misery and depression how are we to enjoy the happiness and joy of success and prosperity and love, of course!
The story shows many facets of the human nature- greed, friendship, relationships, compassion, benevolence…all tied by the thread of love.

I would suggest you pick it up and give it a read. The story has twists that will make you sit up and take note of the adversities Rohan faces and the trials he undergoes and how he realizes that love doesn’t come easy- and that giving up is not the way to go. Fighting for the one you love shows courage and real strength and dedication.

The author has put in a new perspective. The story shows growth for the author and her writing skills. The language used in this one shows a bold face of the modern contemporary youth. It makes you ponder on a lot many aspects, only to then realize – it is all but a story.
An enjoyable read.

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Interview with Rajiv Kumar

When I started posting book reviews, I wasn’t sure I’ll make it this far. I like it when authors appreciate the reviews (good/bad/ugly) and ask for more!

It always brings in a smile to see a new book awaiting my eyes and thoughts, and when Rajiv Kumar’s Navarasa By Lotus arrived at my desk, I was intrigued. The book definitely is a must read, and to know why I say that- read the review!

I could sense that for a first time author, Rajiv Kumar was nervous being interviewed (even over the emails!)
Don’t worry Rajiv, I understand how you feel (err…or maybe not!)

Anyway, here’s the author’s very first interview! (As confessed by him!)

Beginning with the ever clichéd question: What got you started with writing short stories? What are
your earliest memories of writing (I wouldn’t mind if you begin all the way back from school days!)
My failure in writing an interesting full length novel made me write short stories!
Somewhere in class four or five, the English text book contained a short story by Ruskin Bond. The story was about a half blind person traveling in a train and his beautiful co-passenger. The ending of the story left me in a state which is hard to explain. Even now, I get goose-bumps when I think about it. That is when I noticed the power of narration. But at that age I had no distinction between a short story and a novel. In class ten, I started an ambitious project of writing a story (novel)! Which I consider my first shot at writing, but the idea was immature and the interest faded out. The idea of writing went into hibernation until my
graduation. As soon as I got into a job after college, I started writing a novel based on a fictional illegal bike racing set in Bangalore, calling it “THE RACE CLUB” (does it sound familiar?Yes this name appears in “Seed”). Little did I know that my writing was really bad, however good and interesting the plot may sound. Soon I remembered the short story I had read long long ago and realized that narration is equally important as the plot. I tried to improve on my writing after that.

Instead of eating the entire pizza at once, I thought it’s easy to start by taking little pieces and it turned out that I was capable of cutting them in 9 pieces and still be able to finish it off one at a time.

Would you like to share a few details of your professional (and personal) life?
All my life so far, I have spent most of my time in Bangalore. Right from my kindergarten to my engineering and my current work place, they all have been within 2K.M from my residence! I enjoy walking. Walking  up to my destination gives me enough time and opportunities to observe and come up with story plots! In addition to that I am single, which I believe was a blessing in disguise to spend my weekends in writing and completing “Navarasa by Lotus”!
At office, during the breaks I get into discussions on movies, TV-shows with my friends.

Coming to Navarasa by Lotus – Why such a title? What was the thought behind writing 9 interlinked stories based on the 9 Rasa? (I did read about your contemplation with self, but I need more details on this. Yes, I am snoopy.)
The original title of the book was “Navarasa”. However I felt that the title was not catchy. I thought of renaming it into a vague English transliteration calling it 9emos, referring to 9-emotions. But my conscience asked me if I was embarrassed by an Indian name. In order to have a mysterious title and also to console my conscience I added “by Lotus” to the title though my pen name is not “Lotus”. I always like to keep the readers guessing. The moment anyone see’s “Navarasa” in the title they would get a fair idea regarding the theme of the book. However the rest of the title “…by Lotus” would keep them guessing and curious. The
blurb too starts with saying “every pen name comes with a story…” Though the mystery is unravelled to the readers by the time they finish reading the book!

On why I chose 9 rasas. Let me quote an iconic line from the movie Forrest Gump. My momma always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” It’s a very simple thought yet pretty much says a lot about life. Similarly I wanted to keep the readers in dark as to what is going to come up next in the line of 9 stories. Also it gives me opportunity to give variations in the mood of stories. I know that when a reader picks my book he or she is spending their most valuable time in reading it through. It becomes my top priority to make them feel redeemed for their time spent, when they finish reading the book (a cryptic message for the story title “Redemption”). A collection of stand alone stories, I felt would be predictable with an impending twist in the end. In order to give a different experience to the readers, I had to re-invent my writing skills to come up with non-linear narration, Rashoman style of narration, add more dimensions to the story with depth, varied timeline and finally link all the stories! I would call them as a hybrid of novel and short stories.

Coming to the 9 interlinked stories – the titles for all of them are quite weird, in a different, intriguing sort
of a way. I mean, Seed, Rat, Mutiny, T20, Loop, Wish, Office, N.H., Redemption…How did you stumble upon
them? What were you thinking?
“What’s in a name?” is what I initially thought, but I wanted to leave a mark of creativity in all areas of the book. A book’s each and every square inch according to me is a premium real estate for creativity! Be it the cover page, blurb etc hence I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. Being a title for short stories, it made sense to keep the titles as short as possible. More than a title, they serve as a cryptic one word blurb of the story, which may not be evident the moment one reads the title but eventually towards
the end of the story the name makes sense.For e.g: Seed, the title refers to the seed of hatred sown by the character “Dev” in his nephew’s mind. Also, down the line, the reader would realise that the first story “Seed” is literally a seed for the entire book as the following stories are one way or the other linked to this. Another example would be “Redemption” which I already mentioned previously.

 


Most first time authors end up writing/mentioning about incidents that they have experienced in life. Among the 9 stories, which one is closest to your heart or life?

All stories are purely fictional! Especially the story where mosquitoes wage a non-violent war against Humanity. However there is no denial in inspirations drawn. I would say that all story plots are a result of fantasized projections of my experience. For e.g: Once, my day was ruined because I hadn’t slept well the previous night, I couldn’t sleep well because the dogs were barking and on top of that the buzzing mosquitoes. When I thought about it, I wondered what could be going on with them and suddenly ideas
mutated and fantasized coming up with my theory “Mutiny”! I feel bad for other stories now that I pick “Mutiny” as the one closest to my heart!

Name some of your all time favorite authors/books.
I have been reading this book since maybe 5 years, and I am still unable to finish reading it as it is never ending with its main and sub plots, it’s written by V.Vyasa! The-Mahabharata. This is easily my most favourite book.

In recent times authors (pun intended) I would go with; Stephen King – Pet Cemetery, Matthew Reily – Temple and of course Chethan Bhagat’s classic – Five Point Someone. But it would be cruel if I don’t mention the books I began reading…Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

Any of the new-age young/budding authors that you think have potential and talent to gather more readers?
Err…I am sorry, I am not sure if I can justify by answering this as I haven’t read a book in the last 2 years as
I was writing mine…

What next do we expect from your desk?
Currently am working on a full length novel finally! It’s tentatively called “Once Upon a Time…Revenge of the Poet!” It’s a story set in a fictional medieval time, with cryptic character names such as Jaci, Jenjhan, Panvyr etc. It is to me the greatest challenge as I experiment with a complex story narration and a story plot which deals with Kings, Princess, Ministers, Masked Vigilante, a Poet and a very mysterious condition of the society they live in! I am hoping that I complete the first edit by the year-end.

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Interview with Judy Balan

 

As I walked in to the bookstore for the launch of Judy Balan’s debut novel, Two Fates: The Story of my Divorce, I was greeted with a sweet smile and a hint of a rollicking time!
I managed to get Judy’s time and attention before the launch and indulged in a candid interview.
On enquiring about the ideation of the story, she was quick to respond, “I happened to be in a store   and noticed Drink, Play, F@ck, the parody of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. The author of the    parody had managed to sell film rights to his book and I thought, “Wow! You can simply rip off a  best seller and do wonders!” I was reading Chetan Bhagat’s “Two States: The Story of my Marriage”,  and I thought of doing a parody of the book.
I went home, and posted this incident on my blog and asked my readers if they thought it was a good idea. And most of them reverted with a “yes”. Would you believe it only took me about less than three months to wrap up the book!” smiled the author. Continuing her part of the story, she said, “And it was a wonderful experience. I was surprised as to how quickly I even found publishers willing to launch my book. It truly felt like a Cinderella moment…”

So do we see glimpses of her life in this book? “No no! This is definitely not the story of my divorce,” Judy responded quickly. “In fact the only thing common between me and the character of Deepika is the job (as a copywriter).”
“Oh and the aunties of course! The ones who keep coming up to me or my parents enquiring about my age, and they seem to be obsessing about my marriage and my divorce more than my folks. It’s hilarious (now) but it is so true!”
Digging a bit in to her professional background I enquired about her decision to be a “full time parent”.
“Well, even after those five and a half years in the advertising agency as a copywriter I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t satisfied doing what I was doing. I was scared to quit initially as I did not know what I would do next. Quitting was not an option but when my divorce came through I knew I had to dedicate time to my girl. The ups and downs of divorce were terrible. I took up freelance writing and of course started blogging ardently.”
So how was life at home? “Very different. It was mundane, yes. It took me about a bit to adopt the sedentary lifestyle. There was a drastic change in momentum. But it gave me time to spend with my daughter and write. It was the best thing that happened to me.”
Ask her if she would plunge in to a marriage (or love) again and she chirps, “Why not! I’m a die-hard romantic. A million times bitten and still not shy sort of a person. Divorce hasn’t made me cynical. I’m the incurable optimistic who still writes letter to “the one”. If life gives me a chance to fall in love, I’d dive!”
As the focus shifted to her writing and her blog, she confessed “Blog writing gives you almost instant gratification. Your readers revert real quick. Writing a book, a fiction, needs commitment. It is hard work.”
For those who don’t know, Judy also writes scripts for plays. Her shyness prevents her from being on stage, but off-stage she seems to be the “queen of the written word”. “I would love to have a column someday, though my blog sometimes serves more like a column,” smiled Judy. “But writing an epic adventure series (like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series) is one thing I look forward to. I know it’s a long long way yet, and for now I will focus on light fiction about relationships and break-ups.”
Humor and comedy is one key ingredient Judy feels that she cannot do without in the books she reads and pens. “If you’ve read Two States, you’d get all the jokes in my book”, confessed the author sheepishly.
“I do love romantic comedies. Nothing can quite beat Erich Segal’s Love Story and Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult’s works. I also like reading books by Candace Bushnell and Marian Keyes and Elizabeth Gilbert.”
Getting to the juicy part of the conversation, we asked Judy to share an exclusive detail about her as a writer and she confessed, “My writing will always precede the love of my life. I think I devote more time to my writing than anything else.”
And Judy as a mother? She quickly said, “I’m forever obsessing over the fact that I’m not good enough. Trust me, all that art and craft and wonderful things parents do for their kids, I’m bad at all that.”


Over more smiles and jokes I enquired about her next book and she said, “It’s wonderful how I’ve already signed the deal for my next book. It is again a light fiction. But I can’t give out much on it. You’ll have to wait a bit!”
For sure we would look forward to her next book, since her first one has definitely got us hooked!
It’s true all good things definitely come in small packages. And this package is amongst the best!
I’m sure she captured more hearts and readers with her smile and her book that evening.

 

Grab a copy of her book before the stores run out of copies! You will definitely enjoy the read.

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Book Review of “Two Fates: The Story of My Divorce” by Judy Balan

No matter how “modern” we become in our thinking, some things will never change in the Indian society. I’m hinting at one of our most primary concerns, or should I say arrangement – marriage. People still have a lot of trouble convincing their folks to approve of their love/marriage, when they fall in love with a person outside their “community”. A “love marriage” sometimes is still looked down at, in most clans.
Let’s say you face all the music and convince your parents to get you married to the person you love and think it’s going to be a “happily ever after” sort of a life, only to realize that things are not really all that fine. And you (mutually) think of a divorce. Bhamm!
How do you think you’ll convince your parents for that!??!

 

Judy Balan’s debut novel “Two Fates: The Story of My Divorce” revolves around this very plot.
We have a cute couple, Deepika Sundar (a chirpy Tamilian girl) and Rishab Khanna (a handsome Punjabi boy) who after a lot of trials and tribulations convince their parents and get married, and within a couple of years think of getting divorced! On mutual grounds, of course. The trouble they majorly face here is: their parents have developed a fondness for them as well as their respective families. They now look up to Deepika and Rishab as the ideal couple and wish for the other children of their community to follow suit. Oh, and did I mention, how desperately both the families look forward to the couple having a baby!?! It’s true when they say, in India you don’t just marry a person, you marry the entire clan!
The crux of the story definitely is way different from any that I’ve heard/read in a long while. And let me confess, the writing got me hooked from the very first page – the acknowledgement and the prologue had me giggling and laughing and smiling and loving it all the way till the end.

The scenes (almost all of them) are funny and rightly over-dramatic. I could absolutely relate to each and every situation since I share a similar background (professionally and personally).
Imagine the roller coaster ride that the readers are put on, when a money conscious, traditional Tamil family blends in with the forever-partying-and-drowning-in-whiskey Punjabi family!
There is not a single page in here that will not crack you up. If you think the portrayal of Punjabi’s is overtly dramatic and “louder than the drums”, well…it is so! There’s a reason we are “fun-jabis”!

 

Judy has done justice to the plot and the story. It is simply interesting, humorous, entertaining, intriguing, and yes captivating! (Yes, that’s how impressed I was!)
The sweet quibble of the couple; the randomness of the forever-after-your-life- aunties; the pseudo-sophisticated behavior of the so-called NRIs; the typical struggle with boss/colleagues; and the understanding and love that the couple share will stay in your mind even after you put the book down.
For a debut novel, Judy has done wonders. The book makes up for a light read over a relaxed weekend.
Let’s give truly fictional scenes a pass, after all this is just a parody of “you-know-which-book”.

 

I recommend this to every person reading the review. Go pick it up!

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Book Review of “Navarasa by Lotus” by Rajiv

 

The author sent me a review copy and I was quite thrilled with the synopsis – 9 interlined stories based on the nine “rasas”. With interlinked characters, the author spins a web of captivating tales spanning different genres – love, fantasy, sci-fi, drama, all of course fictional.

Seed tell the story of a fading movie star (Rajan) – being the first story it got me really hooked. Very articulately drafted.

Rat is the story of a youth accidently taking form of a masked vigilante and brings out very human emotions.

Mutiny was like a surprise. Truly. I did not expect this to be a story of mosquitoes! I liked the names given to the characters (Hz , Ghz, Hag, etc.),who gang up to fight human domination.
One thing that stood out quite visibly was the poor edits in Rat and Mutiny. The author (or the editor) seems to have ignored major errors in the stories. Or did someone else fill up the author’s shoes momentarily?  The narrative / writing style hampered the reading pace. The flaws overshadow the novel plots.

T 20 talks about a couple, living in, facing hardships in their relationship. This story of Teja and Manoj has a different narrative then the rest of the stories in the book. I did not understand the usage of such a title for this story. It seemed unrelated.

Then we have Loop- a story where a girl (Lucky) is entangled in a loop that keeps her entangled on a particular day in a particular loop. Intriguing!

Wish tells the tale of a young school kid struggling to vent his anger.

Office and N.H. are linked and they spin around Rajiv and his love for Rashmi. This sci-fictional story glances at our society post 2012.

And finally, Redemption links them (stories) all.

The ideation and the thoughts behind each story are commendable. The cleverness in interlinking the stories brings out a unique story-writing capability. The editing flaws are barely any (apart from Rat and Mutiny) and the style is quite riveting. I did not mind reading the book twice only to notice the connects more prominently the second time.
Definitely a must read. Highly recommended!

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