Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Circle of Three by Rohit Gore: Impressions

If anything, Rohit Gore wins more brownie points for unexpectedness. I was revisiting my blog for when I reviewed his debut book, Focus, Sam and remembered liking it for exactly the same reason. So when he wrote to me asking to read and review his two new books, Circle of Three and Guardian Angels, I had to agree.

Circle of Three is another unique story by Gore. With three interesting protagonists - each vastly different from another - Gore's story is about finding hope and strength in the most unexpected places. 13-year-old student Aryan, 30-something screenwriter Ria Marathe and 60-something forgotten author Rana Singh Rathod are struggling to come to terms with life, until they cross each other's dark paths and become inadvertent beacons. With each other, Rana finds inspiration to write again, Aryan finds his identity and Ria, the courage to live again.

Gore's writing does not make any dents in your heart, but he has a good eye for detail. He paints his characters with deliberate care, bringing them effortlessly to life. It isn't hard to imagine a Rana in his delusional pomposity, an Aryan with his insecurities and a Ria withering away with her terrible loneliness and misplaced guilt. From these depths of despair, you see Gore pull them out gently, his story dripping with tender emotions. The unlikely trio help each other overcome the darkest phases of their lives and emerge better, stronger people.

What Gore lacks is a capacity for humour and finesse. The plot, while tragic, offers a fair scope for comic relief, but Gore's brand of funny is hardly that. Secondly, he is too casual a writer. His pedestrian use of language doesn't charm me, but may work for people who favour 'light' reading. And oh, Gore also needs to work with better publishers and cover designers.

Gore may have some way to go before he becomes a master storyteller, but he pulls the most unusual stories out of his literary hat. With fresh stories like this, Gore might just evolve into one of the better Indian English authors of our times.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kali in love

(Art by Bloodcult via Deviantart)

Bared fangs, bared breasts,
I am your goddess.
Now handover your heart.
I'm trying to kill you because I love you. 
Why else?
I will have you drunk on me. 
I will show no mercy.
I'll grind you to pulp with this love of mine.
A noose of my hair around your neck, 
That will my blessing be.
A sacrifice of your lips and limbs,
That's all I ask for.

Come Shiva, bind me with your dreadlocks,
Unleash the Ganges of your passion upon me.
You awakened it. 
Now deal with my Mooladhara Chakra
spinning in ecstasy.
Let me dance upon your chest, 
like an undying obsession.
Poison me with your blue lips
dirty me with your ashes.
Place your feet upon my chest
Thrust your trident in my breast
Sit me upon your thigh
wrench my pride out with your teeth.
Kali's yoni and yantras
come Shiva, take them all.
Love this is, yet I haven't forgotten 
The art of severing a heart from a body.
A submissive Kali will still destroy.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Kundalini and the Chakras by Genevieve Lewis Paulson: Impressions

Look at the cover of this book. Mighty attractive, no? The title too is all mystic and mumbojumboey - exactly the kind I fall for. But, here's one classic example of appearances being deceptive.

I really love to read books on energy work and having attended a workshop or two on Reiki and Pranic Healing, I understand and relate to the ideas therewith. Among all concepts in the sphere of energy work, Kundalini is one of the most powerful and I've always been fascinated with it. I've read a fair bit on the subject before, but there's always more to know, isn't there?

Naturally, when the opportunity to review a book on Kundalini came my way, I jumped at it. Kundalini and Chakras - Evolution in this Lifetime by Genevieve Lewis Paulson is a Jaico publication and that should have told me something about its quality. Sorry, but Jaico's acquisition editors really need to stop giving a nod to everything that comes their way. Few books from Jaico's stables make the cut and this one's just terrible. Paulson is such an artless writer, she has managed to kill this interesting topic completely.

I rarely abandon a book, especially if it deals with the esoteric. I had never imagined a book on Kundalini and the Chakras could be boring. But damn, this one is. In my several failed attempts at reading this book, I could never read more than three pages at once without feeling bored and/or frustrated. Every paragraph sounded the same with the author liberally using words like 'consciousness', 'energy', 'cleansing', 'healing', 'Kundalini', etc. It was like I would take in a mouthful of words at the end of a page, but take away nothing from it.

Through this book, the author aims to teach a layperson some tips and tricks on cleansing the chakras and awakening the Kundalini. There are some decent illustrations and tables too, but the style of writing extremely unhelpful. A good student is not always a good teacher, and this seems to be Paulson's problem. She may write page after page but few will understand what's going on. The book has chapters on Kundalini release, Chakra healing, Karma, The Different Bodies, etc., each more odious than the other.

If Kundalini and Chakra Healing are your interests, pick from the many books in the market - not this one.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Arjuna - Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince by Anuja Chandramouli: Impressions

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book. ~ Cicero M Tullius

If Cicero was to say this today, he'd have modified that last bit to ...and everyone's writing a book about the Mahabharata. After Ashok Banker, Devdutt Pattanaik and Amish Tripathi, India seems to be mass producing contemporary Indian English authors of mythology. Can’t blame them, really. Our epics are so rich and endless in their inspiration that any wannabe author without an original story turns to them for a reinterpretation, a retelling.

The Mahabharata, in particular, with its myriad characters, is a favourite and stories from the points of view of individual characters are flooding the market. It probably started when Prem Panicker translated Vasudevan Nair's Randaamoozham, a retelling of the Mahabharata by Bheema. Panicker’s book was called Bhimsen. Next was The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, which came out in 2008. The last couple of years have seen books like, Mrityunjaya (a story about Karna) by Shivaji Savant, Women of the Mahabharata by Chaturvedi Badrinath and more recently, even Karna’s Wife, the outcaste’s queen by Kavita Kane! There may be many others I’m not aware of, but one of this genre recently landed on my table for a review.

Arjuna – Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince by Anuja Chandramouli tells the story of the Mahabharata from the perspective of the most illustrious of the Pandavas. While the book focuses on the important milestones of Arjuna's story, especially his 12-year exile, the story is essentially that of the inexorably connected Pandava brothers. Either it is impossible to separate the five, or the author hasn't done a good job with the single perspective. Because I've not read any of the books mentioned above yet, I do not know how they compare. But if an author decides to pick one character, as a reader, I would expect a more fleshed out one than what Chandramouli has presented here.

The language is also simple to a fault. Its plainness doesn't make the book easy to read; instead it makes it dull. For a tale as amazing as the Mahabharata, it is sad if one doesn't feel like reading more than a few pages at once. For me as a reader, the language neither induced great visuals, nor was there any music in it. I remained impassive to the protagonist and the plot right through the book. The author fails to make Arjuna memorable for me any more than he already is. But the book will serve as a good refresher for anyone looking to brush up their Mahabharata trivia.  

While this book was a little bit of a disappointment, I welcome this wave of Indian English books on our greatest epic. The Mahabharata belongs to everyone and its rich lessons ought to stay with us. It is only with such books that the newer generations will take interest in and take forward this fantastic legacy. I certainly look forward to reading many more from this genre of books.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Love is matter

(Image source: isiopolis.com)

Love is a need like no other.

Love is matter.

The terrible, unstable kind, yes?

The wild, sweeping kind that rips every notion apart until only nothing remains. And you weep, your tears are diamonds.

Or perhaps the luminescent, sublime kind.

The soothing, balmy kind, that caresses every scar, contains tides until only stillness remains and your smiles are rainbows.

Ah, of glorious hurts and shimmering pools of blood. Of nightskies dark with longing and days bright with impudent hope.

Of quiet acceptance that every drop of blood and sweat is mine, is thine, is ours.

Of every kiss that proclaims the tongue and every ache that screams for a union.

Of shivering limbs that crave steadiness from firm but gentle arms, but alas! Love must steady itself in its own whirlpool of collapse.

Of looking for answers in a beloved's eyes and the stoking of yellow embers that burn beneath the lids all night.

Of finding yourself staring back, a splash of white in every black; wind chimes tinkle in solitude and hearts splinter in gratitude.

Of blue cowherds and song and milkmaids and dance.

Of a day that won't see dawn on the banks of a swollen river, forever in spate.

Love is so many things, yet I know only your face.

I love so many things about you but all I can do is look at your face, helplessly, hopelessly.

(With @ScrollsNInk)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Journey to Ithaca by Anita Desai: Impressions

Now she knows why the Mother went on that pilgrimage, why anyone goes on a pilgrimage, and why she must go too.  

Journey to Ithaca by Anita Desai is about poignant pilgrimages of the protagonists, painted with so much beauty and pathos, it takes you on one of your own. Desai does that. She is masterful in carrying a reader in her arms to surreal places, in unforgettable realms. I shall always remember the time I read my first Desai novel, The Artist of Disappearance. I shall always remember how she took my breath away with almost every sentence. She weaves similar her magic in Journey to Ithaca, but in certain places, in certain ways. It is not a sustained work of genius like The Artist... is. I remember wanting to cry sometimes, so overwhelmed I was with the beauty of her language.

Like here: Isabel is quiet, separating two ideas and then putting them together again: Grandmother does not want them to go to their parents, and grandmother does not want them here. 'Then where can we go?' she asks, not knowing a third place for themselves. 

And here: ...and a jasmine that flowered and flowered as though it thought itself to be in paradise.

But I also remember being bored at times. Especially the last few pages. Perhaps I was tired of reading the the book, perhaps Desai of tired of writing it. The end of Matteo and Sophie's story and that of Laila or the Mother's and that of Giacomo and Isabel all come to a laboured end, but that's perhaps how it feels when one reaches Ithaca.

Journey to Ithaca takes us along on the arduous road to self discovery of Matteo, his antithetic wife, Sophie, and the spiritual journey of the Mother/Laila. As Mateo tires of his bourgeois Italian upbringing and heads to India with his newly-wedded wife, Sophie in search of life's true purpose, we fall and flail along the path with them. Sophie is disgruntled with the dirt, the disease and the poverty of India and wants to live the 'Goa' life, while Matteo suffers in his search for a guru, until at last he finds refuge in the Mother. Sophie does not understand Matteo's blind faith in the Mother and proceeds to uncover her past in the hope to open her husband's eyes. Sophie learns about the spiritual guru's past as Laila, a rebel, who dances her way to India, and finally meets her spiritual master and destiny.

Desai's portrayal of Matteo and Laila strike home particularly hard because their search for the Supreme is laced with a lot of pain, doubt and conflict. The author is brilliant when she deals with strong emotions such as these. You can feel it sometimes like a body blow, when Matteo lies on the cold hard ground in wait and Laila weeps in agony to be united with her divine lover. Sophie's bewilderment draws sympathy too, but not as much. The characters are stark and the plot sublime. Reading Desai needs you to be buoyant, to float, and to let it take you to Ithaca and beyond.

Nude 9

I like to call him Hulk on a diet. :)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nude 8

Nude 7

The seventh of my 10-part nude series, created on my Adesso graphic tablet via Art Rage. This, however, is the version edited on Pixlr. I created the original as a pencil sketch, which came out pretty well too (I think), but I absolutely loved this crayon like effect in the end.

Which one do you prefer?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Nude 6

I thought I'd switch to male nudes for the second half of my 10 part nude series. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Illicit by Dibyendu Palit: Impressions

What's that they say about great things coming in small packages? Dibyendu Palit's 'Illicit', translated into English by Arunava Sinha, is just that. With an artistically designed cover and a title like that, the book is a pick-me-up, and thankfully it doesn't disappoint.. ahem... even between the covers. One wouldn't expect any less from Palit, who is a renowned short story writer.

The plot spans just three days and is a slice of the protagonists' illicit life. Jeena, an attractive young housewife is bored of her 'wooden relationship' with much older husband, Ashim. Partha, her neighbour, is married, a father of two, and equally bored in his marital life. We are introduced to them in the high point of their illicit relationship when the two are planning a secret sojourn to Puri. Quelling her self doubts and pangs of guilt, Jeena takes the bold step to be with Partha.

In the next three days that Jeena spends with Partha, she discovers that all is not as it seems. Partha's lust takes an aggressive turn and Jeena feels violated. Beguiled by shame, self pity and doubt, she decides to head back home and put to an end everything illicit.

Illicit is a deliberate and intense book. The author takes his time to build upon his Jeena's guilt, purposefully punctuating it with the mundane. We see her squirm uncomfortably under the weight of her feelings one moment and pondering upon a cup of tea the next. Now she is losing sleep calculating her risks and now she is flowing with the moment. Palit's skill is apparent in the way he juxtaposes these contrasting elements, much like real life. He takes no moral stance and simply tells the story of the greatest kind of conflict - one that a person has with himself.

The language is simple and accessible; at least the translator, Arunava Sinha, makes it seem so. The lucid prose makes for easy yet thought-provoking reading. Palit is a gifted writer for he leaves you sighing at love's (sometimes) futile cause at the end of its 128 pages.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Land of the Seven Rivers by Sanjeev Sanyal: Impressions

I've been a bad girl as far as reading goes, and worse still, about reviewing books. A mad phase at work leaves me with precious little mental energy at the end of the day and by TBR pile looks at me accusingly. However, I not only made time for Sanjeev Sanyal's 'Land of The Seven Rivers' , but also found it quite unputdownable. It is unputdownable not in the manner of thrillers but by way of presenting the reader with many 'Oh!' moments.

'Land of The Seven Rivers - A Brief History of India's Geography' is a delightfully informative read, and Sanyal even manages to pepper it with wit! I was very intrigued by the title; finally someone was promising to tell me something about India's history that had nothing to do with the same old Marathas and the same old Gandhis. Geography was also not a subject that interested me much in school. Who wants to read endlessly about kharif and raabi crops, right? But here was a title that claimed to be none of the two, yet both.

And Sanyal holds true his promise. With extensive research, a lot of which is based on his personal travels, Sanyal traces the origins and evolution of the subcontinent. The book is divided into eight chapters that chart the course of India, right from the pre-historic times down to the present-day. The first chapter, ‘Of Genetics and Tectonics’ deals with the formation of the natural geographical boundaries, using the continental drift theory and examines the latest notions about the nation’s gene pool. Citing modern research, Sanyal too finds the Aryan Invasion theory redundant and concludes that the Indian people are a truly eclectic mix from across the world, then as now.

The second chapter, ‘People of the Lost River’, deals with two of the most intriguing elements of India’s past – the Harappan Civilization and the River Saraswati. Sanyal does a quick recce of the vast body of research on the Harappan, or what is now called the Indus Valley Civilization. The author is in agreement with the modern researchers who propose that the Vedic and the Indus Valley Civilization were the same. Disproving the Aryan Invasion theory again, Sanyal points out that India’s earliest cities withered away due to the drying up of the great river Saraswati. The chapter also talks about the Bharata tribe, from whom India derives its name.

The third chapter, ‘The Age of the Lions’ discusses a period that roughly coincides with the Late Iron Age. It was the milieu of some of India’s most important personas including Gautama Buddha, Chanakya and Chadragupta Maurya. It was also the time of Alexander’s invasion, and the building of the first highways. Sanyal also discusses the introduction of the lion in the country, supporting it with scriptural and historical evidence, and the induction of the animal as a symbol of royal power.

‘The Age of Merchants’, the fourth chapter, talks especially about the ports of southern India that flourished during the Chola dynasty. It emphasises the importance of port towns in serving as the melting pot for cultures and commerce. Sanyal also points out how the once flourishing maritime trade in India diminished with the onset of caste restrictions on ‘crossing the waters’. Through the fifth chapter, ‘From Sindbad to Zheng He’, Sanyal continues to talk about traders that made their way into India and eventually set up communities here, slowly giving India its multicultural hue. There are many interesting tidbits about evolving maritime technology too in these sections.

In the sixth and seventh chapters, ‘The Mapping of India’ and ‘Trigonometry and Steam’, the author sheds light on the aspects of cartography, not just in India but the increasingly dominating European nations. Europe’s advancement in map-making, mathematics and technology paved their path to eventual world domination, while the Indian dynasties like the Muhgals and Marathas crumbled under the weight of the old world.  

By the time we get to the last chapter, ‘The Contours of Modern India’, the British have obviously established colonial rule in the nation. We read about Calcutta’s emergence and disintegration as the seat of power. We read about the making of Delhi all over again by the British, as by a long line of Indian rulers. The chapter also obviously speaks about the partition, the making of Bangladesh and the strained relationships we share with Pakistan and China.

The book is so full of amazing facts that I couldn’t help but write such a long review. It is a must read for anyone interested in India’s history, geography and even mythology! Sanyal’s authoritative voice and extensive research make it a great read and it may as well serve as a handbook for any student of ‘India’. I most certainly recommend it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Sea of Innocence by Kishwar Desai: Impressions

I don't usually read mysteries or thrillers because I do not find much in them to 'take home'. But an occasional read between heavy books serves as good refreshment, given that most mysteries are sharply written and are very pacy. If nothing, a Sidney Sheldon or a Robert Ludlum promise adrenaline-fulled entertainment. But not so a Kishwar Desai. In fact, not only is Desai not like those masters, she's downright BORING. I don't remember the last time it took me THIS long to finish a mystery.

From what I understand, The Sea of Innocence is the third of her Simran Singh series - a 40-something social worker who moonlights as a detective. Desai's first book, Witness the Night won the Costa First Novel Award, which was then followed by Origins of Love. I haven't read the first two, but after this book, I don't think I'll ever read anything by her again.

Inspired by the much publicised case of British tourist, Scarlett Keeling, who was raped and murdered on the beaches of Goa, The Sea of Innocence tries to depict the darker side of the sunny town. Goa's dark underbelly could have made a great setting for a crime thriller, but Desai fails to use it to her advantage. The book is painfully slow, even though she has thrown in all elements like drug-fuelled parties, beaches, holiday romances, ageing Hippies, politicians, power games and even rape tapes!

The feminists may come at me with pitchforks, but Desai 'talks too much'. As I trudged along its pages, I couldn't help comparing her with male authors, whose books seem to have so much more action. And don't even bring up Agatha Christie, okay? The book often sounds like a long rant about the single Simran's weight problems, her failed loves and mommy issues. There are lengthy monologue-y stretches and you want to shake her up and ask her to DO SOMETHING!

The plot is fairly simple; a young British girl goes missing from the beaches of Goa, and a year later, videos of her surface. The case is reopened unofficially, with Simran starting a covert investigation at her ex cop boyfriend's behest. Simran meets the missing girl's sister, Marian, who also implores her to help find her 16-year-old sibling, Lisa. Following trails and anonymous video clues, Simran discovers that the disappearance has to do with a drug cartel and that powerful men are involved.

Desai manages to keep the suspense till the end, but the plot is stretched so thin, that by the end of it, you don't really care. Most of it is predictable, but one must give her points for a scary twist in the end. The story, however, is wrapped up very shoddily, and the last few pages seem to have been written in a hurry.

The jacket of the book quotes the Telegraph praising the book as being 'Terrific'. My verdict is different by just three letters: Terrible.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Sex and the Citadel by Shireen El Feki: Impressions

With my aesthetic preferences, my world is often only made of pretty things like fashion, poetry, art, chocolate, literature and such. My mind conveniently filters out the grime that coats out daily lives. I stopped reading the newspaper for the lack of time, but I find myself happier for it. On social media, my eyes are unseeing of the steady stream of outrage on the state of this country. I bullishly swim upstream, spouting poetic lines when everyone else is talking about rape and murder and mayhem.

So It helps to pepper ones reading list with hard-hitting non-fiction books to bring one back to ground realities from time to time. I like my share of 'real life' in measured doses - in books like Sex and the Citadel by Shireen El Feki.

Feki, who is an award-winning journalist, a writer, broadcaster, an academic, the vice chair of UN's Global Commission on HIV and the Law and a TED Global Fellow. With extensive experience in the field of sexual health, Feki writes this commentary on the sociosexual life in the Arab world with great insight and authority. The book is not only an excellent social commentary on the contemporary Muslim world but also an eye opener on many subjects apart from the sexual. The author's Islamic background and her Western upbringing puts her at an great vantage point and makes her writing credible.

'Sex and the Citadel' is divided into many clear chapters pertaining to sexual issues. The first chapter gives the reader an overview of the the Arab society's stance on all matters sexual. It is surprising to learn that there was once a fairly liberal system in place where practices like homosexuality, and even prostitution were not just tolerated but considered normal. Feki cites several literary instances that have spoken explicitly on sex and its many possibilities. Following political upheavals in the late 1800s, the Arab world's stance on sexuality changed, thanks to the likes of Hassan Al Banna and Sayyid Qutb. These men blamed Egypt's decline to Western culture and turned to Sharia laws to revive the region's Islamist glory. And that was the beginning of the downward spiral.

One can't help but be reminded one of the India that once produced Kama Sutra and erotic temple art of Khajuraho and in time turned into a land of prudes due to religious and political influences.

The next chapter, titled 'Desperate Housewives' is one of the longest in the book deals with the plight of the average niqab'd or hijab'd Arab housewife, who has little or no say in the bedroom or outside it. The problems for the girl child begin early on with customs like female circumcision, and only multiply with practices like the very public test of virginity, limited access to legal aid or medical care with regards contraception, pregnancy or abortion. Feki interviews many 'regular' people through the course of this book to understand the nature of the sexual problems that plague the country. She also speaks to a few firebrand women who are slowly but surely challenging the norms and helping lend voice to the otherwise silent Arab woman.

The third chapter is titled 'Sex and the Single Arab' and boldly discusses the biggest of all hush hush subjects - premarital sex. Feki speaks of the lengths to which single women go to preserve their virginity and the sexual frustration of young men who do not have the resources to marry among other things. One interesting thing I learnt from this chapter was that in Islam, there are various kinds of marriage. Many single people in love opt for a relatively hassle-free form of marriage called Urfi so they may have sex with some form of religious sanction and thus a clear conscience. 'Proper' marriages are, of course, the kind that is solemnised before the court, a religious representative and the community.

'Facts of Life', the fourth chapter illuminates the reader on the sad state of sexual education (which is pretty much the case everywhere), the depiction of sex in film and the media, the general misconceptions and taboos surrounding sex and a handful of brave men ad women challenging this state of affairs with the help of new age media. Feki also discusses how access to the Internet has significantly changed attitudes about sex among youngsters, even if this attitudinal shift is not easy to see.

The fifth chapter is dedicated to the business of flesh, aptly titled 'Sex for Sale'. Though officially illegal, prostitution manages to thrive in dark discreet alleys in Egypt and its neighbouring nations. Like in most nations of the world, most women are pushed into prostitution for financial necessity. It reflects the sad plight of women in the Arab world who have little recourse to a 'normal' and respectable life due to limited education and job opportunities. Feki also throws in bits about activism in this area as she is wont to do in all chapters.

In 'Dare to be Different', the author brings to light a marginalised community in not just the Arab world, but everywhere - transgenders. The chapter talks about the struggle of these people in accessing surgical and hormonal treatments in the first place, and then acceptance.

'Come the Revolution' sums up the contents of the book beautifully, and if you do not have the patience to read the whole book (it can seem boring and lengthy at times), read at least this one. Feki acknowledges how the revolution at Tahrir Square changed the old world order in Egypt forever, and how it will hopefully bring positive changes in the Arab world. Egypt's second wave of mass protests are being held even as I write this review. As Feki's brave work predicts, Arab's social soil is ready to be sown with the seeds of change.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Karma by Cathy Ostlere: Impressions

There are good books, there are great books and then there are once-in-a-lifetime books. Cathy Ostlere's 'Karma', which is a novel in verse, falls in the third category for more reasons than one. It hit all the right spots even before I had read the award-winning book. It was as if Karma was meant for me. The title, the cover design, the concept and the style of the book - everything called out to me.

Written in a diary format, the story is told through  Maya and Sandeep's poetic entries. Maya is a Indian-origin Canadian teenager who straddles the two worlds of Indian values and her Canadian life on the one hand and her mother's Hindu beliefs and father's Sikh pride on the other. She also has bestfriend-boyfriend issues like any regular teenager and struggles to stay afloat in a sea of identity crises. But Maya's already fragile world crumbles when she loses her mother to depression and is taken to India by her father to be married off. Maya and her bapu land at the time of modern India's worst political crises - the assassination of  Indira Gandhi. Maya is separated from her father in Delhi's riotous atmosphere and she escapes to Jodhpur leaving behind her life and her voice.

Enter Sandeep. Child of the desert, an orphan adopted, maverick and Maya's unlikely hero. When Maya is rescued by Sandeep's sister, she is no more than a frightened creature, rendered mute by her grief. Sandeep's family take Maya in for a while and through his words, Sandeep must coax back Maya's spirit and words. Several adventures follow and the seeds of friendship and young love are sown. Sandeep helps reunite Maya with her father, but they must pay the price with separation.

You see how the plot is so thick with action and emotion. Now multiply it many times over with Ostlere's poignant poetry. The poet-novelist writes striking free verse, which is laden with powerful imagery. I am hard pressed to pick a favourite (every line in the book is, really), but I don't think I'll ever forget these lines from Sandeep's diary on page 422.

Sandeep's answer

I hear him arguing

We are made of love. Love! Do you hear me, old
man! We are made of the love that finds us. The
love we make. And even the love we are fated to

Otslere strikes you down, lifts you up, makes you cry and moves you irrevocably with her poignant poetry. There may be only 15 words on a page, but you are never left wanting, so evocative are the images she paints. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is curious about poetry but thinks they do not have the patience for it.  Let not its 500 plus pages scare you. For once you've dipped your toes in its first few lines, you'll want to swim and drown in it and never come back again.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

There was no one at the Bus Stop by Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay: Impressions

Thanks to prolific translator, Arunava Sinha, I am learning to be a Bengali all over again. Sinha has translated a number of books by some of the most famous names in contemporary Bengali literature. Thanks to him, 'probashi' (expat) Bengalis like me are getting to savour the wonderful literature Bengal has had to offer in the last few decades. I grew up hearing my mother wax eloquent about writers like Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Sunil Ganguly, Bani Basu, Sankar and others and they were always a world away... until now. Sinha's long list of translations include wildly popular novels, short stories, young adult fiction, and children's stories so far.  I also hear he's also translating some poetry. He has opened many wonderful doors to my mother tongue, one of which is this novella 'There was no one at the Bus Stop' by Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay.

In the middle of a fact-heavy sociological book that I'm dragging my feet, I needed to read something light. So I picked up the slimmest volume from my to-be-read pile of books on my flight to Goa. I didn't realise just how much weight the pages of a book can bear. Although I finished the book in less than two hours, 'Bus Stop' was anything but light.

Set in Kolkata the 70s, 'Bus Stop' is a simple enough story of an extra marital affair. However, it is the sea of emotions that the protagonists experience that drowns you with them. Debashish, a impudent man in his middle age is in love with Trina, a woman he knew as a girl. Freshly widowed, Debashish feels little or nothing about his late wife, but his young son, Robi has many of his heartstrings. Trina is ageing gracefully, with two adolescent children and a husband who cares more about his garden than his wife. A chance meeting brings them together and sows the seeds of desire in Debashish's heart. A melancholy Trina, squarely ignored by her family, gets drawn to him too.

The plot unfolds in a single day marked by two momentous decisions taken by the protagonists. Debashish is compelled to leave his son with his sister for a 'better' upbringing, while Trina, spurned by her family, leaves her home and goes to Debashish, hoping to reach some conclusion about her life. However, they are unable to savour their togetherness plagued by guilt and wrongdoing. It's a love that never will be.

 It is in portraying these evocative feelings that Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay's genius lies. The author's language is shorn of frills, yet amazingly lyrical in places. There are clever suggestions and plenty to read between the lines. There is none of the melodrama to express overwhelming emotions, nor explicitness to express intimacy that we see so much of in today's 'literature'. Understated, yet hard-hitting are adjectives that best describe the author's style. All I can say is that I flew through the book with lumps in my throat. Read it for Bangla literature. Read it for an insight on the beautiful and complex nature of human relationships.

Monday, June 24, 2013


There is a drop of longing everyday
that falls from the sky of your being
Small and sharp and brilliant
It catches the light and shines
defiantly, brightly,
searing the grey of every-dreary-day
shamelessly calling attention to itself.

There is a drop of longing everyday
that I must hide in a jar
in a cool-dark place (like forbidden candy)
There is a drop of longing everyday
that no one must see.

The jar in the cool-dark place
is almost full
It blinds my eyes each time I look
A million little drops of brilliance
that have morphed into a sea of desire.
Viscous, iridescent, proud.

There is a drop of longing everyday
that I must furtively add to the jar
Fuel to fire
And close a hurried lid, afraid
my home will go down in flames.

There is a drop of longing everyday
that refuses to be quietened, diffused.
Small and sharp and brilliant.
Unchanged, since I felt it first,
A drop from the sky of your being
Right into my barren heart.
'Plop', it fell, I remember
Catching me, drenching me, unawares.
I stepped away from my body,
To stare at that brazen drop.
Catching light, so much light,
shamelessly calling attention to itself.
Scared, fascinated, I hid it in a jar
in a cool-dark place.

Since then, every day,
there falls a drop of longing
from the sky of your being
small and sharp and brilliant.
Diamonds from a heaven
where you are.

I'm running out of space,
I'm running out of time.
The jar won't hold much longer
There are cracks, and light shines through
even in that cool-dark place.

There is a drop of longing everyday
Bigger than the drop of yesterday
Drowning me, drowning all.

I will need you soon,
and your mouth and your hands,
to swallow this luminous sea
so the game can start over.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Nude 5

I started this Nude series a while ago, intending to do 10. Here's the fifth one of the series and I hope I get around to finishing all.

Saturday, June 01, 2013


I haven't painted in a long time and few things seem to inspire me these days. But a colleague introduced me to this song a few days ago and it became more than a earworm. Sanam Puri's voice made my heart leap with pure ecstasy and I wanted to dance with joy - or paint it. I made this quick watercolor work in not more than an hour and was quite pleased with it. My long-standing fear of watercolour seems to have gone, at least some of it. I thought it came out quite okay. And you?

Monday, May 27, 2013

My Kind of Girl by Buddhadeva Bose: Impressions

Some books grab you by the throat, some lie next to you under shady trees on summer afternoons in companionable silences, and some, you must coax and cajole into a friendship. My Kind of Girl by Buddhadeva Bose started out being the third kind, but by the time I finished, it had become the second. My relationship with this book was one of old school romance - just what the book is about.

In the 'literary' age where more people know of E L James than say, Jane Austen, where consummation comes before courtship, My Kind of Girl is a 'difficult' book. It is a book that forces you to slow down, a book that will take you back in time to an inhibited world, where the only way of loving was longing.

My Kind of Girl, a translation of the Bengali 'Moner Moto Maye' is really a collection of four short 'love' stories held together by a looser, larger plot. Four stranded travellers - a doctor, a writer, a bureaucrat and a contractor - find themselves in the waiting room of a railway station and must spend a night together. They seek the warmth of each other's love stories to fend off the cold in their air and their hardened hearts.

Stories of young, and mostly unrequited love are narrated, transporting the reader to a time of innocence, a time purity, a time where a brush of the beloved's hand was enough to last one a lifetime. There is the thick-headed Makhanlal's story of  love for his neighbour that never comes to pass; Gagan Baran, the bureaucrat's story of Pakhi, who loved him as a 16-year-old and forever after; Dr. Abani's story of how he met his wife through a friend who broke her heart; and the writer's story of 'Mona Lisa', who he and his two best friends loved and lost together.

Every story is told with a tenderness we, as a people, as readers, have forgotten. To those who've grown on the fodder of Mills & Boons and Sidney Sheldons, Buddhadeva Bose's book will seem painfully primitive in the beginning. But one must give it time; one must open their hearts to the kind of love that is not about easy, sweaty sex and porn-perfect characters. One must slowly dance to the plaintive flute that a lovelorn heart plays. One must partake of the pain of longing, a pain that has no recourse or end. There are no happy endings, just twinges of sorrow to take back from these elegiac love stories. These are stories about 'Your kind of person', but one you can never have. Through its stories and its style, My Kind of Girl harks back to the romantic in you, the romantic you thought was gone forever.

Kudos to Arunava Sinha for translating not just the words but the delicate sentiments bound within the pages of this book. But this book is only for those who know how to take it slow.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino: Impressions


I would begin and end my review with those three words had this not been a review copy. 'Salvation of a Saint' by Keigo Higashino landed in my kitty as a book reviewer as a result of fierce PR activity that this writer/publisher is wont to do. I remember the massive noise Higashino's first book - The Devotion of Suspect X - made in India's blogging circles.

I finally managed to finish the book today after lugging it around for a while. And I call it lugging not for its weight or volume but for its sheer bore factor. Higashino is a genius with his basic plots but boy, does he drag his feet. If I was disappointed with Suspect X, I've downright disliked Salvation. Like the previous book, I have a problem with this one's title too. 'Salvation of a Saint' makes no sense right to the end. I'm beginning to wonder if these are translation problems. Perhaps the Japanese title has nuances that are lost to English readers.

The plot revolves around the principal characters of Ayane Mashiba, wife of a young and wealthy Yoshitaka Mashiba, Hiromi Wakayama, her young apprentice and a bunch of detectives. Ayane and Hiromi are prime suspects when Yoshitaka is found dead from poisoning. In true Higashino style, a case is built up with iron clad alibis, investigative dead ends, scientific solutions, and with even a romantic angle thrown in for good measure. But for the longest time - almost two thirds of the book - the plot goes round and round in the same place exploring the same angle. You can almost picture the author laboring to fill pages to match the commissioning editor's page count. I was tempted to abandon the book very often at this point. It must be super hard being a thriller writer, weaving in dead ends and sub plots in a story, staving off the end the way Higashino does. Yawn.

The book picks up pace only in the last 50 pages, when the real story and the real suspect are brought to the fore. There has been no evolution of style from the last book, and Higashino still writes in his crisp, visual manner, and with an evident love of science and forensics. If I make the mistake of reading a third book by the same author, I'll perhaps be able to tell that it is a Higashino book even without looking at the book cover. Familiar characters from the Metropolitan Police Department hold the plot, including detectives Kusanagi and Kishitani and chief Mamiya. A new addition to the characters, in the form of Utsumi, a junior female detective, is welcome. We also meet eccentric physicist Professor Yukawa from the Imperial University, who is instrumental in cracking the case.

When the mystery is finally revealed to the reader, it is nothing short of amazing, but it was definitely not worth my time and patience. Don't think I'm going down a Higashino lane again.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Neera pays back

Neera. Where can she go?
She is but a line that curves and stretches and dances
to the tunes of your pen
Neera will go where your nib drags her.

Neera is the colour that is your colour,
Neera is what you see in the mirror.
Neera does nothing. Neera does all.
Like a heart that must beat, without being asked.

Neera is a work of art,
made good or bad by the way your fingers move.
Neera is your food and your hunger.
Neera is the fine line between the real and the imagined.

Yes Neera is a moment arrested,
a breath held (within your lungs)
Neera is that stretched sunset you wish for,
an evening that never ends.

It's time Neera paid back in ink.
Passion with passion, worship with worship hundredfold,
Neera now burns (the midnight oil)
the way you burnt for her.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Other Side of the Table by Madhumita Mukherjee: Impressions

There are some books where you are part of a respectful audience and then there are some when you are a voyeur. I felt like the latter when reading 'The Other Side of the Table', written uniquely as it is in the form of letters. Letters, those wonderful things from a bygone era few from this time will know of. Those blue-brown things that smelt of sweat and perfume and musty mailboxes. Those things that made you to learn to wait and be  happy with one little piece of love at a time.

In her debut novel, Madhumita Mukherjee assumes the voices of Abhi, a budding neurosurgeon based in London, and Uma, a young medical student from Kolkata and charts their friendship through many, many letters exchanged over the years. There is no real beginning and no real end to this story, no one tells you how Abhi and Uma came to be friends, and what their friendship culminated into. When you open the book, you suddenly find yourself in the middle of their lives, secretly reading through their private, prized stash of letters.

The quintessential bachelor Abhi, and the nubile Uma talk earnestly to each other through these letters, sharing details - big and small - about their lives. They talk about love, they talk about friends and family, and they talk the talk of doctors. Abhi is ever the light-hearted and well meaning older friend, while Uma is feisty in her blooming youth. There is warm affection some times, and sweet reprimands at others. Some  faux anger here, and real appeasement there. When a crisis befalls one, there is firm handholding by another. Sometimes, Abhi is the guardian, and sometimes, Uma the caregiver. Roles switch easily in this beautiful Platonic relationship, where they seek little else from each other but honest words on a piece of paper.

Mukherjee writes as efficiently as Abhi as she does Uma, and the reader never finds a gender bias in her voice - at least I, as a woman reader, didn't think so. Her style is easy and her words, relate-able. A doctor herself, she offers some interesting insights into the lives of doctors. She also balances perfectly the distance and dynamics of this fictional relationship, with neither Uma nor Abhi ever stepping into the sexual zone a man-woman are so wont to do. But one sees the foundations of their relationships growing stronger, an invisible yet undeniable proprietorship building over each other over the years. When Abhi is faced with a life-threatening illness, Uma takes the final leap of faith and seals their bond by joining him in person, their distances bridged forever.

'The Other Side of the Table' is a part light-part poignant read and it has its memorable bits. However, neither Abhi nor Uma are people who you will count among your favourite characters. That's because you are never really part of the plot, but a mere reader of letters they've written immersed in each other.


Friday, April 19, 2013


I like how you levitate
right here, amidst the throng
daring us all to see
but we are blinded by voices
How you float in space
right here, between us all
but not quite here
untouching, untouched.
How you take off into the sky
right here, from the couch
no rocket propelled shoes
only words for wings
How you circle the Earth thrice
while we're passing the salt 
How you create windows
wherever you fancy them
and jump off into infinity
ever so often.

(Nidheesh, this is for you.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013


You perhaps do not remember.
But how would you?
You didn't see it for what it was.
A lipstick stained table napkin
I left ever so carelessly
on the table across which 
you sat, drinking coffee
Hoping you'd steal it, save it
as a souvenir 
from our last meal together
You also didn't see
my heart on your platter
So I put them back in my purse, 
heart, napkin and hope
And left with as impassive a goodbye
as I could manage.

Now all that is left,
Is a line of ash
From the cigarettes 
I learnt to love from you
from the cigarettes 
that remind me of you
Light, grey, warm testimonies of a high
that wore off all too soon.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Middle of a dream

We are running, despite no gravity
on this road to nowhere
We are in someplace strange
that could be heaven or hell
There's no way of knowing
in the absence of signboards. 
But i'm feeling, i'm feeling
feeling so hard, 
and falling
and reeling
and flying
all at once.
My fingers are locked in yours
(but who are you, again?)
this is surely the middle of a dream.

The dream sits heavy
on the palm of my hand
(so soft, so unbearably soft)
and sometimes it cozies up
on the tip of my tongue
(so sweet, so searingly sweet)
Bits of heaven strung together
on a string of endless hours
being passed from your mouth to mine
from your hand to mine
but I still don't know who you are
what this place is
or where we are headed
this is surely the middle of a dream.

We are sitting now, floating now
by and in a rainbow river
counting stars like lovers do
and laughing at what lovers do
eternities are passing,
without the trappings of life
no birth, no shame, no want, no death
My fingers are still locked in yours
Your identity still a mystery
this place as unfamiliar
this place as desirable
this is surely the middle of a dream.

Don't wake me up yet.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dozakhnama by Rabishankar Bal: Impressions

Have you ever been burnt by a book? Been trapped between its pages, gasping for air? Have you felt that if you read any more you'd die; but if you didn't read, you'd die anyway? If you've not had the pleasure of such a pain, read Dozakhnama.

Page after page of this book, I've been burned. Page after page, I've suffered as a reader. Page after page, I've yo-yoed from heaven to hell and back. I've seen creations divine, and endured the labour pains that every creation demands. Author Rabishankar Bal takes you through the agonising journey of two creators of beauty and if you are a writer/poet yourself, the book feels like a kick in the gut. And yet I held on, read it as slowly as I could, wishing this sweet pain would never end.

Dozakhnama is originally a Bengali novel by acclaimed author, Rabishankar Bal and it has been translated into English by Arunava Sinha. Between its pages lie Saadat Hasan Manto and Mirza Ghalib conversing with each other from their graves. The sutradhar is an author who has stumbled upon an unpublished work of Manto's and has set out to translate it. In this mysterious manuscript is recorded this fantastical conversation between modern Urdu writer, Manto and one of the greatest poets in Indian history, Ghalib.

Speaking across nearly a century, Manto and Ghalib share the stories of their lives with ghosts for company in the night. Manto and Ghalib take turns in every alternate chapter to share a piece of their lives and soon the line between historical facts and fiction is blurred. Bal owns their voices with such confidence that one is loathe to believe that the words are not really Manto's or Ghalib's. Sprinkled with little dastaans and poetry by greats like Mir and Rumi and of course, Ghalib, the book charts not just the life of these two artists, but also the literary ethos of India from the 19th through the 20th centuries.

Though far removed from each other in time, Ghalib's and Manto's journeys seem similar. But then, all artists have journeys like these - travelling through their personal dozakhs, their private hells while creating honest art. Ghalib and Manto both had their share of love, poverty, victory, heartbreak, alcoholism, and persecution for their truth, their words. Ghalib's India at the end of Mughal rule, and Manto's India at the end of British rule are very different, yet the trials of an artist's life are the same, the cycle of pain and creation neverending. Bal chronicles their lives and poetry and pain in one seamless breath, creating this masterpiece of a book. A thought must also be spared for Arunava Sinha and how he too must have partaken of this fire when translating this book. It's brilliant and I believe none of the effulgence of the original work was lost in translation.

Do yourself a favour. Read this book.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Club

I've never before seen so many vacant eyes in one place,
so many people united in purposelessness.
Like a city of ghosts - full, yet empty as empty can be;
like a city of ghosts - frightening.
A pitiable attempt by lonely city souls
to drown themselves in noise
popping aspirins of mindlessness,
hoping for salvation in alcohol-fueled amnesia.
Glassy eyes, meaningless words, hollow laughter
clutching on to their phones like they would a feet of a messiah
begging for a portal to escape this prison of shallow.
Music, smoke, the spirits and strobe lights,
an army of gyrating zombies in a full/vacuous room.
I drank when they drank, danced when they danced,
 smoked when they smoked, dressed like they dressed...
I fell in line; a doll on a carousel of a toy factory; no will of her own.
But before the night wore out and I could be claimed by this city of shadows,
My voice found itself and I ran, screaming "NO NO NO NO"
I will not be sucked into this trance, I will not dance this terrible dance,
I will not be amused by this adult rattle.

Friday, March 01, 2013

A River Sutra by Gita Mehta: Impressions

The good/bad invention/addiction that is Twitter is perhaps the single most influential sphere of my adult life. I've made and parted with friends here, built some real and imaginary relationships, had some genuine camaraderie and also some unnecessary fights; I've generally allowed it to dictate big chunks of my emotional life. For me, Twitter is as real as virtual life can get. Of the most dear people I've met here is @scrollsnink or Reema. I've never met her in real life, but I can claim to love her as I would a sister. It is she who gifted me 'A River Sutra' by Gita Mehta, and I owe her big time for this one.

When Reema sent me this book, I was unimpressed with the aesthetics of the cover. It seemed mystifying, but not enough for me to pick it up immediately. After months, when all my 'review' books were finally done with, I sat down with 'A River Sutra', and it wouldn't be exaggeration to say that I drowned immediately. I realised within a few pages what The Illustrated Weekly of India meant when it said 'A River Sutra is a seminal book' (as quoted on the cover).

Page after page I wondered why the Amishs and Chetan Bhagats of the world have gotten popular and why a book like 'A River Sutra' hasn't enjoyed its share of accolades. The book is a collection of stories - the monk's, the teacher's, the executive's, the courtesan's, the musician's, and the minstrel's - interlinked by the retired government official's, who acts as the sutradhar. The stories are all based along the banks of the Narmada, bringing alive its many myths and legends, coloured through the lenses of human emotion and experience. Each story is poignant, absorbing and with a magical quality to it. They are all tales of human transformation from the physical to the metaphysical, just like deliverance through the sacredness of the river Narmada.

Mehta's genius shines through in every story - both as a short story writer and a novelist. The vivid, human and completely believable protagonist of every story illustrates the writer's masterful character sketching, and one is led on consecutive rapid journeys. Whether it is the executive's bored life in the city followed by a mysterious encounter with a tribal woman, or the courtesan's tryst with a notorious bandit, each tale not
just involves the reader, but inundates him, washes him away like the swollen waters of the Narmada. Mehta writes lyrical prose and often quotes the most beautiful couplets from famous works, ranging from Rumi to Shankaracharya. She writes with the kind of simplicity only possible for geniuses, yet never compromising on her artistry. The musician's story, in particular, pierced my heart with an intensity I've not encountered in literature often. Her knowledge of the Narmada myths, Indian culture and music come through without her ever sounding pedantic.

Gita Mehta has easily become one of my favourite Indian English authors, and I can place her among the ranks of Anita Desai. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in contemporary Indian fiction in all its beauty.    

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The 7 Secrets series by Devdutt Pattanaik: Impressions

I was gifted the 7 Secrets series by a dear friend recently, and I read the 7 Secrets of Vishnu and the 7 Secrets of Shiva back to back. They are both structured in the same way with the author explaining the myth and symbolism of many a Vishnu and Shiva lore. The Vishnu book takes the avataars and forms of the Preserver God (Matsya, Kurma, Mohini, Krishna, Ram, Kalki, etc.) and explains why the incarnation was taken, what it represents, and the common stories associated with it. The Shiva book, on the other hand, picks the Destroyer God's many roopas or forms (Kala Bhairava, Ardhanarishava, Nataraja, Shankara, etc.) and tells the story behind each of them.

The books are half full of pictures and serve as helpful cases in point. There are images of temples, paintings and statues on every other page that help a reader understand the symbols associated with a certain God. With the help of these pictures, the author also demonstrates the regional variations in a single lore thus reaffirming the complexity of mythology. Our epics are not a linear stories, but an intricate web of stories which have God-knows-from-where branches.

The modern reader of mythology will find many insights in the books. My favourites include the reason why Brahma, or the Creator God, is not worshipped among Hindus, the function and meanings of the Adi-Shesh-Anant Nag, the significance of the Shiva Linga, the Deva-Asura symbology, and the nature of Goddess Lakshmi.  
What I like about Pattnaik's style of writing is that he treads with perfect balance on this treacherous ground. In a country full of religious fanatics and self-proclaimed mythology experts, he writes with confidence and caution, taking care to not sound like a blind believer or like an insensitive rationalist. He sometimes proffers logical explanations, but mostly sticks to storytelling and tries to be free of bias. The author is also a gifted illustrator, and I missed seeing his wonderful illustrations in this book.

However, I find that I'm beginning to get bored of reading Devdutt Pattanaik's books. While the author's admirable style of  writing remains the same, it is the content that is getting repetitive. Not the author's fault, of course. He cannot change mythology. He may write about different things, but the common interlinking stories, which are necessary for explanation's sake, appear over and over. The profusion of books on Indian mythology in the market are also to blame, for I tend to pick and read them all. How Ram goes to vanvaas and Krishna kills Kamsa must remain unchanged.

I am going to take a little break from books on Indian mythology, but I wholeheartedly recommend Pattanaik's books to a more eager student.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

This is love (LOL)

(Image source: Deviant Art by Yoda13)

The summary of all I'll ever have to say to you is I love you.
A love that breaks shore over and over at your stone feet, 
hoping you will feel something; anything.
Step into my skin for a day, and know how I bleed for you.
It's hard on days when the voice of my love will not be tamed.
That helpless, shameless kind of love that I can lay at no one else's altar.
My songs are orphaned without you.
My heart, a lost child in a fair.
My life, an endless spin down a black vortex.
When love is on the other side of the thick red line of morality.
But I've chosen to be blind to all else but you.
It's harder still when I almost believe that my love will be returned.
Kill me, if that's what it takes to make you lay your eyes on me.
Let me peel away all that is not about you. You were made for worship.
'Love me' I beg, you walk away, we start again.
I resign everyday to a life without your love, and the damn thing just grows stronger.
This is love. (Laugh out loud.) Exit.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Maid in Singapore by Kishore Modak: Impressions

Despite telling a complex grey tale, Kishore Modak's is one of the coldest voices I've ever read. A lot happens in the 239 pages of this short novel, yet the author remains impassive, failing to draw the reader in. It's more like reading a newspaper than a novel with no emotions evoked, and no connect made. I read the book in a day; not exactly sucked into the vortex of the tale, but like a rooted bystander observing its morbid goings on.

But 'Maid in Singapore' has a plot that one will not forget in a hurry. Kishore Modak writes about a modern nuclear family with an Indian wife Rashmi, a British husband, David, and their adolescent son of mixed ethnicity, Jay. When they are forced to move from London to Singapore, their life takes an unexpected turn. The presence of their new Filipino maid, Mary, triggers off a chain of events stemming from infidelity. The lead up is rather complex but it will be safe to mention that the plot has a lot of meat in it involving kinky sex, bastard children, cancer, homosexuality and even a gender change operation thrown in for good measure.

The story is apparently based on true events (gulp), and it chills one to think this is more than fiction. Like I've mentioned above, despite the intrigue of the plot, Modak's style of writing is strangely sterile. It is difficult to put a finger on what exactly is lacking in the style, but it's somehow clinical. Despite the shame, anger, blame, resignation and acceptance the protagonists go through, they fail to touch you. Here you're reading about a  man-wife relationship gone bad, a terminal illness, even sexual deviations, but you never once feel anything on the left side of your chest, or the corner of your eye.

And then there are times, when the author gets into a philosophical mood and leaves you with a mouthful of words and little else. Sample these lines:

Time, it simply moves away from us, leaving us in a rut of petty, personal tangles, forcing us to look down, down where there is nothing but the mundane to toy with, while on top things move steadily away on the waves of time, reaching the horizon before moving out of sight, forever, never once waiting for us to look up. 


Isn't marriage supposed to enliven our sexual fantasies, keeping us physically contented in its holy circle, nuptial gravity ensuring that we don't waver outwards, tangentially away from the circumference into the realm of infidelity?

You feel like slapping the editor at these points, but then the next murky turn distracts you. So, Maid in Singapore is a twisty story of human frailties - convincing, well-told even, but one with no heart in it.


Friday, February 08, 2013

50 Shades of Grey by E L James: Impressions

I'm very late for the global kinky party, but I finally read 50 Shades of Gray by E L James. And no, I'm not going to act like a literary elitist a-hole and say things like oh, this book is such a load of bull. Because it isn't, and I, ahem, lapped it up while it lasted. That, however, doesn't mean I'm rooting for it to get a Booker. I read it like millions of women (and men) in the world because hey, everyone needs a trashy break. That, and everyone has secret voyeuristic needs to satisfy. Oh, admit it already.

So 50 Shades of Gray is apparently, a what they call, a mommy porn book. I don't know about the mommy bit, but it is definitely like porn - exciting and boring, if you know what I mean. Actually, it's like an advanced M&B that struck gold. After the first three times of reading about Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele's kinky sexcapades, you're like 'yeah, okay, get on with it already'. Exciting, boring.

For the 30 people left in this world who still haven't read the book, it is the story of super successful-rich-handsome young industrialist, Christian Grey and nubile little Anastasia Steele, who get into this kinky dom-sub (dominant-submissive) agreement, resulting in a stormy relationship, BDSM sex, emotional turmoil, yada, yada. I was reminded very much of 'Pretty Woman' while reading the book - obscenely wealthy guy meet charming regular whore girl, except Christian Grey is young, has a dark past, and twisted in the head, and Anastasia Steele is a student and not a whore.

James writing is nice and pacy, and she tries hard to let the reader know how much she has researched wine, obscure music and the ways of the filthy rich. But the same cannot be said of her vocabulary, because by the end of the book, all you seem to have read are the words 'flush', 'dark', 'orgasm' and 'oh my'. Her use of  dialogue using Anastasia Steele's 'inner goddess' and 'subconscious, though' irritating at times, is mostly amusing. Her characterization is also good, making Christian Grey very believable and oh-so-desirable. And yes, Anastasia too.

I'll remember 50 Shades of Grey mostly because of the *cough* new things I've learnt from it, but will I read the remaining books of the trilogy? No. I'd much rather wait for Hollywood to make a movie and dish it out to me, and perhaps do the following. :D

Monday, January 28, 2013

Not a goodbye yet

Blow away you say?

Blow away all preciousness

Blow away everything

that truly matters to this heart?

Poked, probed, pricked, pinned

Broken, tattered, worn thin,

Whatever its state or shape,

It is an object of my love.

How can I wish away

the fire to my cold,

the rain to my drought

the rhythm to my heart?

The waiting never ceased

The wanting never ceased

I may have turned my face away

But I never stopped loving

Invitation for destruction

(A Bill Jones painting from http://www.painters-online.co.uk)

Yes, love

rain again, flood again

even nature isn't cruel this often.

Why you? Why me?

I've held in my palms

long lonely nights

fingertips shriveled

with wiping tears.

I've held in my palms

a hope that wouldn't die

a hope that bloomed

even in hatred's Sahara.

Yes, rain again cruel one

One drop, a million drops, 

until this deluge

destroys me once more.