Tag Archives: books

Seven Secrets of the Goddess – Review


Yet another author whose works I’ve become a complete fan of – Devdutt Pattanaik. If there is too much hype surrounding him today, I would say every bit of it is worth it. I started reading his books from his later viz Shikhandi being the first one and now this. I have come across his other ‘Seven Secrets’ series titles and hope to read all of them in due course of time. Because one can only imagine how much knowledge – the sheer depth of it – can be contained within one person.

Like there is a pioneer in every genre of writing, I would say Pattanaik has taken up that space when it comes to demystifying Hindu mythology. And this is coming from someone who has been a staunch atheist for the better part of his life. And whose reading of Hindu mythology has been confined to children’s textbooks with colourful art and observation of family or community rituals.

Without going into the merits or demerits of my own beliefs in this regard, I can objectively say that a writer deserves all the more credit when he or she manages to deconstruct complex subjects to make it appealing to every kind of reader. Without compromising on quality everywhere. Maybe I’m saying purely from the point of a view of a reader who delves in the sheer pleasure of reading before anything else. Even then, Pattanaik’s writings have a huge significance today, given the constant churning and questioning of cultural foundations of society. It’s not a bad thing and Pattanaik only helps further this cause, while espousing the belief of ‘multiple truths.’ That is a belief I stand by personally. It would be easy to confuse this with ‘multiculturalism.’ But I would say multiple truths are more universal in scope – because even the tiniest of human groups have differences that they need to work with constantly – just like life partners.

Like Shikhandi, Seven Secrets of the Goddess talks of the very vital aspect – the role of women in society. It goes from the extreme ie Kali to the very mild ie Gauri and every aspect that lies in between. Pattanaik elaborates on every version of tales relating to Gods and Goddesses as seen by different communities of India. The influence of Western, Islamic and other cultures on Hinduism is also dealt with in this regard. And from this emerges a very interesting narrative which I believe also explains the current dynamic of Indian politics.

Concepts like gender and feminism perhaps cannot be explained merely with a few chapters or references to religion/mythology if one wants to view everything through a rational perspective. The author, having been trained in medical science himself, does not ignore this fact. Which is why he balances the spiritual and material references very carefully. This encourages critical thinking and doesn’t just end up being a portrait of a religion that has been wronged by others or seeks to stand out. It seeks to inform without a bias in an age where objectivity is like proverbial needle in the haystack.

To get your copy of the book, visit Flipkart


Under Delhi – Review


Let me start this review by being brutally (honestly?) honest here: I’m a huge fan of Sorabh’s work. On the screen and stage mainly as a standup comedian. And I’m aware that this is not his first book. But to be brutally (!) honest again, I could not make much out of his first book – The Wednesday Soul – though it had the similar Delhi Belle vigilante as the protagonist/theme. But maybe it was not meant for a mortal like me. Having said that, I can surely his next – Under Delhi – makes up for my experience in so many ways. And I’m also being brutally honest here! (!). I have always known that the best standups are also among the best writers. And Sorabh proves that no less with this cracker of a pre-Diwali read in Under Delhi. For those (which surely includes zillions of people) aware of his razor sharp jokes and sketches, this is more of a treat since the one liners and metaphors are trademark Sorabh Pant.

And this is totally besides the fact that a lot of the latest standup shows, including Sorabh’s, have been talking about women’s safety in India and especially in Delhi. Much as I hate to stereotype the national capital, having lived there and so on, the fact remains sadly that the city’s men (most, NOT ALL, please read between the lines before you plan to kill me) are Yo Yo Honey Singhs in real life. And so are a lot of men in other cities but yes, I agree that the Capital gets more media attention than other cities and towns. Besides, some of the offenders are actually from the heartland like Bihar and UP, as the book also shows. I found shades of Lisbeth Salander (Dragon Tattoo) in Tanya Bisht – the protagonist of Under Delhi and I liked that. I also loved the characters that defy the so-called Delhi man stereotype. And many words and phrases across characters and chapters in the book clearly show the author knows what he’s doing. That classic head vs heart struggle of a vigilante is also portrayed nicely. All in all, an awesome reading experience because dark humour is one of the toughest genres to excel in yet gives highs like no other!

So, if this review proved helpful then go right across to Flipkart and buy the book!

This Divided Island – Review


So here comes the second book review on the blog. And this time, a much more intense book – dealing with nothing less than war. Trying to write on topics like war is very tricky. Because it’s not just about justifying the pains or gains of either side, but trying to clear the painful haze the imagery of war forms in the mind – be it a movie or a book. This is what the author of this book Samanth Subramanian has stressed on, and very rightly so.

This Divided Island plays like a very slow reel of torture – and talks of torture itself in physical through well as emotional methods. This is one of those books that I took my time to finish, because I had to pause quite a few times while reading to really take in the depth of the events unfolding in the pages. I have read a lot of fiction talking of human suffering – physical as well as emotional. But then, it is just that – fiction. I’m not writing off the credibility of fiction writers here, but non fiction surely tends to rattle the strongest of minds. At the same time, this book reads at times like a spy thriller and at times like a romantic tale gone wrong. Some could point this out as a weakness of the book, but I would say it frees the reader of monotony.

Subramanian’s liberal use of adjectives and some very amusing metaphors are what show his brilliance as a writer. He talks of a country – Sri Lanka in this case – that is not just divided, but torn to shreds through the years of conflict that leave permanent scars in the minds of its citizens – or at least those affected by it. The author has also played the able reporter here – careful in not taking oh so clear sides but still not hesitating to depict which party may have committed the “greater wrong.”  The central characters, if I were to say it like that, in his book are quite intriguing, with their twisted identities and emotions. That again adds to the nice fictionesque touch of the book. The other interesting (or maybe alarming) thing about this book is the charting of Buddhism in Sri Lanka as a religion very different from what so many of us perceive.

One could object to the (at times) too graphic descriptions of suffering in This Divided Island. But then, this book is not for the faint hearted. Civil wars and internal displacements are such things that have layers and layers of history, to borrow the author’s analogy towards the end of the book. And the more one probes these layers, the louder the screams get. That is why, I do feel grateful at times that we do not have a physical time machine yet.

You can get the book here

God is a Gamer – Review


I’ve mostly confined my so-called book reviews to Goodreads till now. But henceforth, some or a lot of that wisdom shall be spouted on my otherwise mixed topic blog as well! So, I start off with God is a Gamer by Ravi Subramanian. I’ve come across a number of previous titles by the author but managed to read one finally this time! Given his background in finance and management, it is only apt Subramanian’s books deal with the same. Having said that, it also helps that my day job also involves things to do with finance. Hence, I could surely relate a lot to the book. And the premise of bitcoin-based fiction is definitely exciting. But, the book somehow loses grip while building up the suspense, or maybe does not try to build it. Either way, that was maybe the only disappointing part about the story I think. Otherwise, this is truly unputdownable fiction. The characters are slick and true reflections of things that are 21st century. Like a thoroughly action-packed read, Subramanian manages to squeeze in the best of locations and settings for the novel. And maybe that tends to undo it at times, as mentioned earlier, as one progresses towards the so-called climax or suspense. Because, I do not want to know all the time what the most eligible bachelor in town is wearing, or maybe Tony sounds more like a Goan cook than a Federal agent. Still, a very interesting plot development and outlining of the key characters.

Definitely recommended if you’re looking for current affairs based fiction with the twists and turns. Rating? Maybe a 3.5 on 5.

Get the book here

Characters We Love

So yesterday, I undertook this small crowdsourcing (yeah, even I like using cool words) project on Twitter. I asked people what their favourite fictional character(s) from books is/are, using the hashtag #CharactersILove. And yes, a lot of women answered with Howard Roark. But the list wasn’t so predictable as well. There were some interesting names indeed. So, here goes:

1. @RootKanal – Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

2. @rbd_sqrl – Scott Pilgrim and Susie Bones

3. @BillyMcBoney – Marvin from THGG

4. @_DesiPsycho – Lin & Didier Levy from Shantaram, Agastya Sen from English August

5. @AreyOhChampa – Sherlock, Alice

6. @1203JanE – Howard Roark and Dominique Francon from The Fountainhead

7. @WhysoDrunk – Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird and John Yossarian from Catch 22.

8. @Rhythmnguitars – Rebecca from novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier and the women of Saadat Hassan Manto.

9. @thenesseeffect – Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

10. @nari_ssist – Howard Roark

11. @thebongbabe – Marvin, Jeeves, John Galt from Atlas Shrugged and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice

12. @LizaSaha – Howard Roark and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights

13. @juneymb – Hercule Poirot

14. @vivekisms – Queen Elizabeth II from The Uncommon Reader, Roxanne from Bel Canto, Julian from The Song is You, Justine from The Alexandria Quartet, Bennie from A Visit to The Goon Squad, David from The Sacred and Profane Love Machine, Eiji Miyake from number9dream, Wendy from This is Where I Leave You,  Zenia from The Robber Bride, Renee from The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Saladin Chamcha from The Satanic Verses, Pecola from The Bluest Eye, Gustave from A Wild Ride Through the Night, Emma from Madam Bovary and finally (as he told me) Anna from Anna Karenina.

And here are some of my inputs, which I also tweeted: Rajkumar from The Glass Palace, Adrian Finn from A Sense of an Ending, Ishigami from The Devotion of Suspect X and Mikal from The Blind Man’s Garden.