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Thursday, December 06, 2012


Time passes like that now...

Of course, summer months, seaon of rains, the cold winter period added to it, a restless mind and a heart seeking adventure. I cannot believe its been so many years.
Seven years, its been since I started writing blogs too. Not very regularly, as we all well know.

A yearning, a deep rooted desire.
A longing, a deep hearted craving.
I do not know how,
Yet there it is.
I can see it, can feel it
I do not question anymore
I cannot question anything.
It will come...my time will come...

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Mythology, Realism, Magic! Take your pick...

Lately, I have been reading quite a bit of mythology or what I call a whole new world of modern mythology. Have noticed quite a few themes about the authors who have been delving into this world of magic mixed with science and reality.

We have come a long way from the time that Valmiki and Veda Vyasa wrote the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. And we would always have the erstwhile C Rajagopalcharis, Ashok Bankers and the Devdutt Patnaiks of course, equally wondrous and fascinating, but what makes the newest breed of authors different?

The Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi, Govinda by Krishna Udayasankar, Asura by Anand Neelakantan or even The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi are all different in their own right. They are adventuring into a new world of the not so godly gods, in all their avatars, but with a mixture of fascination and respect, I’m presuming, towards not just the text, but the entire theories in themselves.

There is all the talk of plots, adventures, action thrillers and even romance and sexual liaisons, all described with the same dexterity and ease, which one finds in the modern day novel, which probably has nothing to do with mythology. In fact, the language used in books by Amish, Neelakantan and Udayasankar; a mixture of modern terms and the age old words is fascinating.

What is it that makes them absorbing? It was probably the humour, which Amish writes with, or the anger which Anand Neelakantan shows towards Rama’s world, or it could be the smooth mannerisms of Krishna, which is put forward by Udayasankar and Sanghi.

There is a whole new set of opinions, whether it is creative storytelling or intelligent retelling. Call them what you will, interpretations or imagination they definitely make good reads. 

I was interested to know of the hint of romance between Draupadi - Krishna in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s 'Palace of Illusions' and Govinda - Panchali in Udayasankar's Govinda. Also, the father/ daughter linkage of Ravana and Sita in Neelakantan’s 'Asura'. Or even the whole concept of the nuclear weapon and the Brahmastra, in Sanghi’s 'The Krishna Key'.

Of course, we might have heard in passing of these interesting facets to the story, but in these narratives, these plots are given a little breathing space, actually a whole new room, so as readers, we are allowed bits of our own imagination to take wing.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book Review : 'Govinda' by Krishna Udayasankar

If you haven’t read the regular Amar Chitra Katha versions and your knowledge of the other Mahabharat versions is not well… sufficient, then you might be wasting your time reading this one. Krishna Udayasankar’s ‘Govinda’ is probably just another version of the epic.

What makes it different, are firstly, the simple yet almost lyrical language with which she writes it. One can almost see ACK volumes come up in the book; there were times when I almost stopped reading because I remembered how the scene played out in the comic. 

Firstly, the names. Govinda Shauri is of course, Krishna. Draupadi, who becomes the unlikely hero of the book is simply known as Panchali. Then of course, we have the Dharma, Bhim, Partha, Nakul and Sadev with the usual cast of characters, like Veda Vyasa, who is addressed as Krishna Dwaipayana. 

And a few surprises too. There are the Firewrights, First Born, the Secret Keepers, which are all characters, essential to the story of this book. Sounds straight out of the Lord of the Rings, doesn’t it? (The similarities are breath-taking but in another blog, perhaps)

We are introduced to the ‘fact’ that Rukmavati or the erstwhile Rukmini is not really Govinda’s wife, but his heir’s, Pradymna’s. One sees the fact that Govinda is not married nor will be, but his love for Panchali is very much there.  

It is not a fresh thought, especially if you have read Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s version of Draupadi’s Mahabharat, ‘The Palace of Illusions’. Yet something about the sequence of events grips one’s mind. Panchali’s role in this book has grown from the earlier shier versions into becoming not just another character, but a bow and a sword wielding heroine. 

She does not remain in the background as you are used to reading, but is the person to look to for politics and administration as you see her delving into her inner emotions of not just love but he affection and her intelligence, which shine through. 

There is the growth of Shikandin, from the half man/half woman character into a completely different role, of Govinda’s close friend, and also a warrior and a father of Yudhamanyu. It is probably best if one read this book, as a Mahabharata, which could/might have been. 

Logic, psychology, philosophy and science are all subjects which one has heard of, but never really associated them with Mahabharat per se.

Or where else would you see the Brahm weapon, which should come up again. And definitely Asvattama’s wider role, in the latter books, I’m guessing. Here’s looking forward to the rest of the Aryavarta Chronicles, and Udayasankar’s version of events. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review : 'Asura: Tale of the Vanquished - The Story of Ravana and his People' by Anand Neelakantan

What makes Anand Neelakantan’s ‘Asura: Tale of the Vanquished’ special? Is it the never ending prose, with which he describes Lanka’s emperor? Is it the words he uses to perhaps understand the man and his times? Or perhaps it is his views on the state of the country, the causes, and their results?

No. It is not. 

What truly makes it special is the effort with which, it was written. And the subject, which makes it all the more interesting. Ravana makes not just a subject in the book, but he carries it forth albeit, a little precariously. His views are put forth with a sense of justice, making him not the villain as he was always portrayed, but as a man, with all the views, values, and the ability to drive him over the edge, on which he stood.

The story begins with watching him die. The End. But with very poignant words, when Ravana says with true regret, “I only wanted to return to my childhood and start over again, every single damn thing, again, again and again…”

He goes on to describe who he was, what happened and what could have happened. The one thing that struck me is how much it reminded me of a history text book, pages and pages of history almost being lectured to me. There are pages, I felt could have been done away with.

But still, I read on. So many parts of mythology, which I did not know, never read and probably was  never interested in. Rama’s society takes on an evil note, but so does Ravana’s. I met characters all over again. Characters, whom I wold not have read about, or given any importance to in the Ramayana. But while reading the Ravanayana, you are forced to give them all another thought.

Of Ravana’s wife, of his sister, of his friend, of his sons both illegitimate and otherwise. And of Ravana’s first born, of his daughter, Sita. I was interested to know of so many wonders of Lanka, of the wonders of medicine, architecture, and arms, and contraptions like the Pushpaka Viman. It had me in awe.

A good book, with so much potential falls short. Falls short by its length, and one can see that the author’s words in a few areas are so ill-written, that it reads as if it were a lecture. I think that the book could have been written, if the author had forgotten to lecture his audience. Though it is well meant and is almost close to every human being’s thought process, it loses its essence.

Yet, I bought it and read it.

Because of the protagonist. Curiosity got the better of me, and I could see the reasons behind the decisions. The decision of a man and his words, “…, God is a very personal thing and prayer needs to be spoken silently in my heart.”

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review : 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak

It has been a long time since I took the time to write. I mean really write. Words had stopped flowing from my fingers, thoughts refused to touch my mind.

Was it the end?

It seemed so until that day when I walked into a bookstore. And I saw it. It wasn’t doing much. It just lay there probably placed by somebody, who was tired of browsing, placed by someone sickened of reading about death, left behind by a reader who read the blurb, and never gave it another thought. 

But I think you, my dear book and I should not give it such an abrupt end. Because then how would I have found you? I just happened to be there, just going through the books, while you lay in the corner, never asking, and never begging, for me to read you. But what was it about you? What was it, that drew me back to you at least three times, and what was it that forced you into my hands? 

I do not know, now would I want to, just that you are in my hands. You were literally placed into my hands; I was forced to run my fingers across your pages. Never in a hurry was I to finish you.

I have never heard of the author, much less read any of his stories. Why do I have you? Was it you, Death, who wanted your story told to me, was it you? I’d like to believe so.
I felt pretty much like the Book Thief, when I had finished it here in this room, a week later. I did not pay for you. Yet, you are here. With me, on my bed, and in my slumber, haunted by words, haunted by your words, Markus Zusak. 

Do you want me to thank you then, do you want me to say the words that have been hovering on my lips for days, do you want me to tell you that if it wasn’t for you, words would probably never have come out again? Do you want me to tell you that your book did not make me cry? I did not shed tears, nor did I feel like telling you to go on and on filling my nights and days? Do you?

I think I just felt you telling me that you were there for me. That you would not rest, and would not stop. I have a feeling that I must tell you, that this book has probably filled my life, emptying the emptiness out of it. And asked me to never be scared again, of anything. 

When Death told me this story, I had to listen, really had to. Nazi Germany, an orphaned child, a best friend, parents and love, all just things which came in the way of you telling me this story. 

So, read it now if you must, and tell me if this story has touched you. Not your heart, or your mind. But, if it at any point, truly touched you.

So, why did you come to me, you book thief, you?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review : 'The Sins of the Father', by Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer’s second instalment of The Clifton Chronicles is a rarity. A rarity, not because of Archer’s usual literary talents, whether in jail or without. What he managed to build carefully, composedly, and methodically in his earlier book, ‘Only Time Will Tell’, all comes apart carefully, composedly with the same method, in this one. 

What made it so brilliant was the end of the book. I personally felt there could not have been a better finish. Though sad, it managed to touch you. You could not imagine it better, even though you would have liked a different but happy ending, you wanted Harry to marry Emma, yet you could not wrap your head around it. Sadly, neither could Archer.

He wrote, ‘The Sins of the Father’ and used the same care to ruin the effect of the first book. In the first book, he wrote about Harry Clifton, a truly nice guy (there are no better words to describe him, I could say a lot, but it would not take away, that much), who unfortunately is the victim of circumstances, leading him away from his almost wife and into jail. Again, I was saddened a little more because of the fact that he landed up in jail, when he could have met his maker. 

But unfortunately, this maker laid his hands on him first, Archer i.e.

And led him away from death into another series. Which, fortunately had quite a bit of Archer’s notes from jail, the only saving grace of this part of the series. It is with remarkable understanding, and empathy does he write the notes, which only he could have, thanks to his stint in jail (Remember his Prison Diaries).

It was a truly a tragedy, that which described Clifton and Emma Barrington’s lives. Clifton in jail and then released thanks to Emma’s efforts and his newly found talent (that of a writer). Now, we will have to wait to see what Archer does to his protagonists. I thought that life in jail had made him more sensitive, which I found in the first part, as well as his earlier book, ‘Paths of Glory’. They had a certain empathy to the nature of his characters. 

Here’s hoping for the best, in the sequel, hopefully his last bid at saving Clifton’s life and the book!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Never give up: Fairness Creams in India??

Earlier, there was a time when I'd watch a fairness cream ad and roll my eyes, and change the channel. Sigh and give up. Now, I am just mad. 

Yesterday I was at a lunch, where a lady was describing her perfect daughter-in-law. She should be fair, she said. While her dark husband was nodding, beside her.

Now, I know, that's an age old line and we must be tired of it. But what I fail to understand is why? Why would you want your daughter in law, or your daughter, or niece, or friend's kid to be fair?? 
Why the hell is it your business? Or even the business of television?

Every day, I am put through a series of ads, Vaseline, Fair and Lovely, Garnier, etc. I guess the best you can say is that, in these ads, they are not trying to discriminate. Men and women are treated equally alike. They are all supposedly looked down upon because they are all dark! So, SRK 's Fair and Handsome or Priyanka's Garnier are pretty much the same piece of crap!! Or perhaps, a better job, or success at different events! All because of your daily fairness cream.

And then they are our only chance at love too! Because, from what I see, that is the only chance we have. Be fair and lovely and automatically, you can miraculously find your fair and handsome man! Or else... 
Or you could make coffee best, if you are white enough! As the wife does for her husband in some silly powder ads, for a whiter tone!!! Drinking Coffee can cause darkness too, I think, so why not come with a white coffee?

White, fair! I think it is high time we realised that Indians could only be wheatish at best, or even better, dark or the colour of chocolate! (Or maybe white chocolate, perhaps at the rate at which the ads are going.  As if we have no dearth of photoshops to make us all look fair.)

The problem with these ads is that they are failing to serve their purpose! That is to show that darkness caused by tanning can be lost by using these products, temporarily! It is a different issue, if you are fair, naturally! What are these ads trying to tell us? Kajol, who is of dark skin, and who once proudly wore it, is now a victim of a product, which automatically makes her fairer! Seriously, if one saw the ad, one can easily tell! The use of a graphic editing program, is eye boggling! The product does offer much more, but the entire purpose is lost considering her 'fair' skin. You are left wondering what is what!

Otherwise, we can all just sit at home and give up our taste of  Vitamin D. The sun rays strike the skin and stimulate the forming of cholecalciferol. This can be imporatant, and is best in the early mornings or late afternoons. Not in the afternoon's blazing sun, mind you!

Cholecalciferol is a vitamin D3. Vitamin D can help absorb calcium from the stomach and for the  calcium functioning in us. It can be used in treating or preventing conditions of the skin or bones. This is only an example, but my point remains.

A quantity of the compound, Melanin, which is present in our skin determines our skin colour. Melanin is up in areas, where people live close to the equator or where the climate is hot, receive a lot of sunlight, and with sunlight also come the UV rays. Due to this exposure to sun, the skin protects itself, through the process of melanin production. This gives the skin, a colour. In fact, the blacker your skin is, the less the chance is, of you getting skin cancer!

A chemical compound called  hydroquinone, which is found in most of the lightening creams and acts as an inhibitor. So, basically, melanin does not appear as fast if you use this. But the use could cause skin diseases, which is why it has been prevented in European countries.
Alternatives to it could be mulberry, white mulberry, paper mulberry, fruits, kojic acid, vitamin C etc. They inhibit the melanin production or take out a layer of the skin and in turn exposing new skin. You could try reading this up on http://www.thegeminigeek.com/do-fairness-creams-really-work/ for more.

Reasons such as wounds or genetic problems could also be the cause of us being dark. We can stop blaming the dark parent!
Why should we be fair? If we can find a superb way to still be ANY colour or if we can find ways to show that such products are superficial, and colour would show up, when you stop using them, that would be a brilliant ad. And I look forward to them. Kudos to Aish Rai who refused to so such ads!

Apparently, there are ads for skin whitening to the private parts as well! Just when you think you have said enough! Really? You want this too?? Next, we should be bleaching them too...

When I was in school, I remember reading that we would not be discirmainted based on colour. Then why this? Rascism at its best! It is not funny anymore, though I was put through a lot of hilarious ads, websites, and writings on the topic, from which I have liberally taken to make my point. But, I trust and I hope that people do see my point and if you do, see the anger behind all this.

You must realise that people look good, whatever colour your skin or private part takes! So, screw the fairness creams and the bleaches... coz at the end of the day, we all do look good! And we will not be discriminated based on the c word! Colour!