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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Book Review : 'Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar' by Kochery C Shibu

In the book, ‘Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar’, Kochery C Shibu’s characters arrive with a bang, and then weirdly settle in. And then, they go off for the romantic beat, and then come up again for another round of violence, and finally crawl towards the end. It is all about the characters, starting off with the main one.

Nanda who is an engineer, with the mastery in Kalari, (Kalaripayattu is a martial art, which originated as a style in Kerala). Forever, suspicious and incredibly careful is Nanda.

He would never talk too much to his fellow workers around him. He wakes up early, starts off with the Surya Namaskara, and begins his Kalari routine. His roommates and he must get to the site on time. The AM Hydro project is the biggest in Dhauladhar. As night comes on, sleep keeps away from him, and the range of mountains around him seems to talk to him.

Earlier, he goes and is suddenly struck with marriage because his brother had died and his wife was left without a husband. So, the two of them are put through marriage and another of his enemy’s incredible killing, which puts him straight in the north, in Dhauladhar.

We find the beginnings of Nanda and therefore we have to travel back in time our way across to Indumati, his mother. She comes in to the family, through marriage to Prabhakaran. Luckily for her, she has an understanding husband, who though lived under menacing circumstances, allowed her to study further. She found herself, travelling to Finland and studying there. She also had a life, quite different from the life in Kerala. She found herself studying, dating, speaking the Finnish language, and also eating the comparatively bland foods and also found herself in jail.

After all this, she managed to get out and now, that she was counted days when she would finish up her course and make her way back to India. Back home, she then gave birth to Nanda. She wanted her family to be safe, but he husband was killed and she blamed herself. But she knew that, his son would pay the price and that is why she was glad, when her son went off to the north.

Khusro, born in Kashmir is recruited by a Pakistani terrorist group. Rekha, a dancer cum doctor finds herself trekking in Kashmir when she is suddenly captured by terrorists, and actually one terrorist, Khusro falls for her.

The love story is kind of foolish in its own way. You do wonder why an incredibly intelligent and talented woman would firstly fall for a terrorist. Then you do wonder about the terrorist himself, who has been asked to kill is just looking confused and lost in love himself. But of course, there was always his main plot. To kill so many people by blowing up the dam being built by Nanda, who does not have a clue of this till now.

Plus, you have so many other characters within the story, and you have the author giving you so much, in terms of characterisation.The research was extraordinary, but the plot kind of gets lost in the middle of all these. The plot travels from Kerala to Finland to Kashmir to Pakistan, without any glitches. From the Kalari to the mountains, to the countries and to the states in India, itself, it is truly magnificent.

Kochery C Shibu
Yet, there is always the plot making its way towards the end. Would it all work out? Would Nanda manage to do away with his enemies in Kerala? Would he save his dam in the Dhauladhar? Would Rekha manage to find her love? Would she and Khusro live together in love as she hoped?

Overall, the plot begins and does find an end. But the characters are simply superb and went in so many ways. One of course, one wishes that all these had a single end and they found it, but how would it end?

You can Buy the Book, right here. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Book Review : 'Prithviraj Chauhan : The Emperor of Hearts' by Anuja Chandramouli

She has done it again. At the end of last year, Anuja Chandramouli called and said that she wanted me to review not one or two but three books, which she had written!! 'Kartikeya : The Destroyer's Son', 'The Burning Queen :
Rani Padmavati' and 'Prithviraj Chauhan : The Emperor of Hearts'... I do not know how she could have written them almost at once, but there it was. And there they came, one after the other. 

Today, I have finished all three of the books. ‘Prithviraj Chauhan : The Emperor of Hearts’ is a terrific end to the three of them. While I liked the first two, as well, I thought this one took the cake, and ate it too. 

Anuja’s best at writing mythology, but here was a chance to write history too, and she has grabbed the chance with both hands. Not only does she manage to retain her talent for writing the story in parts with the mythological touch but also describe, certain parts of history too.

We all know Prithviraj Chauhan’s story. The story takes off with his birth, his mother’s love for him, and her own heroics considering the position she was put into. Karpuradevi had her own charisma, which was transferred to the young prince. He finds himself fatherless at a young age, and we see him rise to the occasion.

His swordsmanship came to the fore, as did his talent for everything he reads; when he was sent off to the forest to be educated. He also fell in love for the first time, with Yogita, but was met with so much opposition from his mother that he only shed a few tears, when she heroically left.

Then, happened the coming of age. He was now ruling over his kingdom, and also found himself marrying princess Padmavati of Paramar, who had a will of her own, as you would discover towards the end of the book. One after the other, he found himself in so many wars. He did not want to, and if he was given the freedom to choose, he probably would not have won over so many kingdoms or destroyed so much around him.

Then, happened Princess Samyukta, and the eternal love story that he has with her began. But Chandramouli does not let us forget how he took he on his horse. And the wars came into focus too. He had not much of the harmony or peace or even a little of the love he felt for Yogita, then Padma and then Samyukta. He would always be remembered for his heroics, all over the north. And the eventual defeat by the Sultan Shihabuddin of Ghur… 

You can Read this Book, right here. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Book Review : 'The Burning Queen : Rani Padmavati' by Anuja Chandramouli

The story is about The Burning Queen : Rani Padmavati, Alauddin Khalji, and King Rawal Ratan Singh, and the cruel and bizarre way, their lives meet.  Alauddin Khalji’s desire for authority and inevitably the throne, leads him to murder his father-in-law, by tricking him. So, foul is the plan, that Jalaluddin Khalji meets his death, by a sword lashing at his neck, all of a sudden. 

He had originally come, after getting news of his daughter, being with child. He was told that his daughter, who happens to be Alauddin’s wife, was pregnant. Despite the warnings from his followers, he still makes his way there.

18th Century Painting of Rani Padmini from Wikipedia
In the whole course, a young princess at a Sinhalese kingdom finds herself in the crux of the situation. Fortunately, she is made to marry Rajput King Rawal Ratan Singh, whom she falls in love with. This happy turn of events, occurred due Jalaluddin’s plans for the expansion of his Kingdom.

Originally, it was his father-in-law who had brought Mongols to his kingdom and gave them a chance to convert to Islam. The idea was clear in his head, the Mongols, followed by Rajputs and finally, down to the Southern, most Deccan.

Meanwhile, Padmavati's marriage to an already married King Ratan Singh takes place. So much in love with Padmavati, he was that the face of Chittor was changed to welcome his new wife. He was married to Nagmati and his new wife was bound to bring some jealousies and anger to his Chittor palace. The kingdom had its share of harems and of course, the palace with all its beauty and its secrets behind the walls.

Following this was Ratan Singh and his involvement with the Raghav Chetana and Menaka incident. All he wanted to do was rescue Menaka from what occured and have Chetana pay for the breaking of her wedding due to Chetana’s illicit act. But he would not do so, and instead he manages to capture Chetana and quickly orders his execution. But, unfortunately, Chetana manages to escape, having the help of a so-called goddess!

Chetana finds himself in Delhi, and meets with Khalji telling him of the stunning beauty that Padamvati is. He, of course is not too interested straight away in Padmavati. But he does act on Chittor and the war, he puts it through.

Within a few months, Chittor falls and Padmavati commits jauhar (self-immolation) on hearing that Khalji is making his way over to take her. The wicked gossip was spread by Nagamati that Khalji is doing this for seize her.

Anuja Chandramouli
What would follow this? Treachery, prejudice and killings? Would all this prevent Chittor from being taken over? Would jealousy be the ultimate cause of everything? Would Nagmati’s dream of killing Padmavati serve its purpose? Would Ratan Singh be captured?

One tiny mistake: in Page 157, 'Our troops were waiting to harry them' :) Anuja Chandramouli has given us a well-written ‘novel’. It’s no history but of course, there are a few snippets. It is her imagination that gives this bird its wings.

You can Read this Book, right here.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Author Interview : Anuja Chandramouli, author of ‘Kartikeya : The Destroyer's Son' (Part 2)

Read up, the second part of the Interview with Anuja Chandramouli, author of 'Kartikeya : The Destoryer's Son'. Here, she explains how she explains, how she feels plugging the holes in the Sons of Shiva's phase, which her favourite character is besides Kartikeya, the most challenging and fulfilling parts are in writing the book, and two other books that were released around Kartikeya, Folks...
How does it feel, now that you are plugging the holes in the 'Sons of Shiva’s phase’?

I tend to get impatient with the tendency of many folks to treat half remembered tales that have been haphazardly handed down as the gospel truth and fight each other over it. It is the height of ridiculousness.

I am glad you mentioned the holes in the existing narratives, because it is important to look past the obvious and accepted versions to arrive at deeper truths and the beautiful essence of Indian Mythology, before it was sterilized and politicized.

This is what I have tried to do in my books on ‘Arjuna’, ‘Kamadeva’, ‘Shakti’, ‘Yama’ and now ‘Kartikeya’. I have reinterpreted the existing texts and used my imagination to arrive at a version that makes sense to me.

And I expect my readers to join me on the journey and form their own conclusions that may or may not be at odds with mine.

How would you relate the life of Kartikeya to the lives today? Any similarities?

Writing my books is an intensely personal experience and I am always surprised at how relevant it all is to the many issues and problems, we all face on a daily basis.

Kartikeya may have been Shiva's Son and powerful in his own right but like all of us, he had to deal with the demons within, before dealing with those without.

And he too experienced love and loss, and the entire gamut of see-sawing emotions before he learned to be at peace.

To my gratification, readers usually tell me that they love how contemporary and timeless, the themes explored in my books are which makes it easy for them to identify with the characters.

Which is your favourite character besides Kartikeya? Why?

Tough one! I love all my characters! But if I had to choose, it would be Devasena, Kartikeya's consort.  She is no helpless Hannah or the good, dutiful wife who does exactly what is expected of her.

Instead she fights by Kartikeya's side and makes her own way in the world. I also liked Nesha, for obvious reasons and it gives me a huge kick to know that this version of classical lore is unique.

Shiva and Parvati, who are the perfectly imperfect couple, are adorable. I also like the Asura brothers - Soora, Simha and Taraka. Even Indra, who I am really mean to in my books is like an old friend! Did I mention Chitra, the fun sidekick?

What were the most challenging and fulfilling parts about writing this

The challenge was to take familiar themes and come up with something different. I am satisfied with how the book shaped up and it has been a wonderfully fulfilling experience which will always have a special place in my heart.

What about the two books, which were released along with Kartikeya?

Prithviraj Chauhan : The Emperor of Hearts and Padmavati : The Burning Queen mark my first foray into historical fiction. I am really excited about both.

Like Mythology, history is another subject where people who can't be bothered with research attack others over largely fictitious accounts of what went down centuries ago.

With Prithvi and Padma, I have attempted to recapture a slice of the past to help people look at the bigger picture and put things in perspective.

Now that you have written three books already in such a short period
of time, what else can we expect from you in the next year?

Come on, you don't expect me to answer that question and ruin the suspense do you? ;)

You can Read the Review, the First part to this Interview and also, Buy the Book right here, too.