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Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Review : ‘Quantum Siege' by Brijesh Singh

Mumbai or rather India is under siege, when the prime minister is threatened with a nuclear attack. Lashkar has warned India of this attack, if a referendum is not declared in Kashmir, within the next three days.

Rudra Pratap Singh and his Anti-Terror Cell have to find the bomb and the attackers at breakneck speed. India gets ready to fight with its nuclear weapon and grudgingly it is agreed to by the PM. He communicates this to the Pakistan PM and the two countries get ready to combat each other.

As RP, tries to find the attackers, he also has his wife and unborn child to deal with, and also his love interest to deal with. He has the cops behind him with the top cop, Kant. The race against time, and the attackers, the technical help that he needs at the time and of course, his favourite Zen monks and their stories, which he keeps telling are all parts of this story.

Will RP save India and its millions and will India circumvent the nuclear threat are questions, which the book has answers to.

Personally, I did not like the book. There was no flow in the writing, especially in the dialogue between RP and the bureau chief, Kant and also in the love dialogue between RP and Sana.

Quantum Siege, by Brijesh Singh is a story, which begins, goes through to the rough middle and bumps into the end. I’m not sure if to read this book, I needed to find out more about the cops and their lifestyles, and the terrorist agenda. But this book definitely needs more in terms of language and spacing of its chunks of matter.

Author: Brijesh Singh
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 9780143422877
Price: Rs 250/-

Friday, June 27, 2014

Spelling... Its Necessity. Its Importance.

I have always been proud of my spellings. ‘Who needs a dictionary?’, I used to think. Whenever I noticed the children at school literally memorising the words from a dictionary, right before the examination, I used to smile (snigger is probably a better word) and head to the exam hall.

But, times have changed and today, I find the need for a dictionary. But this post isn’t about dictionaries, but about spellings. Spellings improve with writing. And I mean writing without a computer.

When we write by hand, we would realise that there is only one way we can learn a word. And that is by writing it. Write a word, Wrote a word, Written a word, Writing a word. Writes a Word. Every little nuance of the word can now be at your hand, if we write it first.

Also, look up its meaning in a dictionary.

And write it down a few times. And not just that day, but tomorrow and day after too. And two to three days after too. That way, it would stay in your head.

Write a mail using that particular word or words. Write it on your story, an essay, a report or even your blog.

See that a few people read it, and they might find mistakes, which you could have missed.

Also, read up as much as you possibly can. Newspapers, books, advertisements, magazines, anything with good spelling.

Go back to your school books, which teach you how a word can be spelt. See, if you can find a few rules of writing.

Make a list of your commonly misspelled words.

Read with a pencil. Mark whatever you need, and look it up.

Also, read as much as you can. You cannot possibly be a good speller, if you are not a reader.

Finally, use mnemonics. There’s a MnM in mnemonic, too.

English is a funny language. But where would we be without it? Best of luck… And use the spell check and notice if you have got everything right!

PS: And  finally, get my spelling right! It's Sruti Not Shruti or even Shruthi. :P

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Author Interview : Charu Singh, author of 'Path of the Swan : The Maitreya Chronicles'

Understanding mythology and that too something, which we only have a clue about, is tough. Charu Singh is one such person. She has successfully managed to like and explore a varied set of mythology.

Tibetan Buddhism, Shambala is something, which is similar to Hindu Mythology, but in this book, it has freshness and seems an unexplored territory.

You can catch the Review, right here. This is what Singh has done in the ‘Path of the Swan’. So, let us read on to understand how and  why this book came about…

This is your debut novel. It also comes after quite a few mythological novels. What according to you was different about it?

Well, I think that the theme was rather different, my book is based on Tibetan Buddhism, and I don’t think anything has come out in the mythology genre in this area.

Also, my book is not centered on a particular deity, I have used the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon and mythology but the story is my own mix. So as such, it is not the retelling of a story centered around a deity.

How did your ‘Path of the Swan’ happen? What kind of research did you put into it?

The ‘Path of the Swan’ was an after effect of my stay in Sikkim, I lived in Sikkim for a short period, a couple of years ago. Sikkim and Tibetan Buddhism had a lasting impact on me.

At this time, I explored Vajrayana Buddhism which held a fascination for me; I was surprised at the vast pantheon of Bodhisattvas, Buddhas, Taras and lesser deities that make a part of the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon.

At that time I studied Buddhist lore, the mysticism behind this form of Buddhism and felt I could base a book on this. However, I am not a Buddhist; spirituality for me is an interest.

How did you come up with the core idea and develop it?

I came across the central idea of the book during my travels across Sikkim and other parts of India’s north-east. The book developed as an idea through the years.

Authors have a way of telling their story, with elements that are most important. Between your storyline and your characters, which takes precedence?

The story line was important, you can’t have a book without a plot.

I developed the plot in various stages as I wrote and the characters are equally important, I did not rest in my writing till I was satisfied with the character I drew.

Which particular character did you feel most close to? Why?
I felt very close to both Tashi and Yeshe, I liked Tashi’s simplicity and the story really formed around him. It began as Tashi’s adventure and his realization.

Yeshe came into the book at a later stage, she was inspired by the Tibetan yogini Yeshe Tsogyal though their stories are not the same at all. Yeshe was a female character I could relate to her and yet I built her into something that grew from my vision of what a dakini would be like.

How much of the series is based on facts and how much is fiction?

Fact and fiction, the book is set against a Tibetan Buddhist mythology backdrop and the legends I have used in the book are really there as a part of Tibetan and Mahayana literature.

For instance, the legend of Shambhala is an important part of Tibetan Buddhist literature as also that of the Maitreya or the Buddha to be. I have also used certain deities that are worshipped such as the Goddess Tara and the Buddha’s mention in the court scene in Shambhala

But these again form a part of the fabric of the book but the central characters of the book are my own creation.

So yes, there is an element of imagination used in the book side by side the mythology.

The second part of the series is expected next. When do you see it released?

I am currently writing the second part, so it will take a year give and take before the publishing process takes off.

In your second part, what is being repeated and what are the new elements that are being introduced?

The second part is under work, I am introducing several new elements but let that be a surprise.

What was the most challenging part about writing a series, such as this?

Writing a series is challenging, right now I am only thinking of part 2, I’ll reach 3, as and when I come to it. I believe, I have  finished it when it is done.

What was the most challenging part about writing this book?

This was a challenging book to write, I have tried to combine fantasy with a subtle use of Tibetan Buddhist and Zen imagery in the book that conveys a different level to the book.

Hence, I call it a spiritual fantasy. Only the reader and critic can tell me whether this worked out.

Which book are you currently reading?

I am currently reading 'Thief’s Magic' by Trudi Canavan.

Which book are you currently reading?

My favorite authors are JRR Tolkien, Terry Brooks and his Shannara Series, MM Kaye, of course and John Masters.

It is a mix of fantasy and colonial period literature.

What else do you do on a day to day basis?

I’m journalist and write freelance, I’m also an amateur classical dancer.

What advice do you have for the young writers of today?

I’ll advise them to write slowly and enjoy the process.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review : ‘The City of Palaces' by Sujata Massey

Sujata Massey’s ‘The City of Palaces’ is a lot of stories mixed into one. The story is Pom’s to begin with. Set in the British time, we are put through several lines of her life and how tragedy strikes, when she is left without a family. Orphaned, she roams around, until she ends up in a school where she is hired as a maid.

The best thing about the beginning of story was the Anita Desai touch I felt in the story of the village. Though both these stories have a similar base to them, yet when she does take Pom’s story away from Lila’s (from ‘The Village by the Sea’), she gives it a completely different touch. 

As Pom lands up at the school, she is made to pull the fans of a classroom and instead, she ends up learning English! The various classes, the lesson in prose and poetry teach her an odd hand, which would help her in the future. Pom or Sarah, since she is now a Christian, finds a friend of the past at the school. 

Bidushi was in her village and is also orphaned, yet she finds that she has an aunt and uncle to live with. She goes to them, but here she finds that she is living a closeted life, until the person she has to marry, a Pankaj Bandopadhyay who makes sure that she is at the school.

Pom and Bidushi become fast friends and Pom finds that she is better versed at English, and is meant to teach Bidushi. Bidushi asks her to write letters to Pankaj, since she does not find herself adept at it. Pankaj and Sarah, under the name of Bidushi find that they both enjoy writing to each other. Until, Bidushi is taken ill. Pankaj comes to see her, but only on her death bed.

Sarah is accused of stealing and she takes flight, with the help of Abbas, a kindly tonga driver at the school. She takes a train to Calcutta, but ends up in Midnapore, quite by mistake. As she is looking for something to do, one day she is chanced upon by Bonnie, an Anglo-Indian girl. Bonnie takes her under her wing.

Sarah or Pamela, as she is now known finds herself in a situation, which she cannot get out of. She is a prostitute in Rose Barker’s home. There are quite a few girls under Barker and she pays the girls under her charge.

She soon finds herself pregnant, and has a baby girl, Kabita. She promises herself that Kabita would not be put through the same circumstances, she finds herself in. She manages to put her under Abbas’ care and finds herself in Calcutta.

Here, she looks around for a job, with her English speaking skills. She soon finds one Simon Lewes, who is willing to pay her for organising his personal library. Lewes, who has no clue of her past life, is happy to find somebody, quite proficient at the job given to her. Known as Kamala Mukherjee, now she finds herself liking the job.

But it is here, where she rediscovers her first love, Pankaj who is now a lawyer. She is asked by him to spy on her boss, Lewes for he is working for the British in a high position. This she does, and also finds friends in a Bengali family. She also continues to send her daughter, the money she would need. She also finds herself unwillingly attracted to Lewes, who still remains a British loyalist. (This kind of reminds one of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but Passey has more to add to this story)

Stuck between these situations and the British getting ready to leave the nation, she has to make quick decisions. What happens now and what does she need to do to prevent anything bad to happen to Kabita, what could she do about her love for Simon and her love for the country is this historical fiction’s finish.

This piece with all its numerous research, its various novels and poetry, as well as the research books, which are all mentioned in the book and a part of the bibliography, as well has been done with an expert hand.

The flow in the language to put forward almost four different kinds of chunks into one solid book requires patience and an adroit hand, which this author had, alright. So, kudos to the author and her research.

Author: Sujata Massey
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 9780143422976

Price: Rs 499/-