Tilottama at a glance – a book review

Book Title – Tilottama at a glance

Author – Sreeparna Sen

Publisher – Ukiyoto Publishing

No. Of pages – 68

Contrary to whatever you might expect when you read the book title, ‘Tilottama at a glance’ takes you on a journey through one of the metros of India, Kolkata. Those who have stayed in this once laid-back city, are bound to feel nostalgic reading about all the cultural icons and landmarks which are interspersed throughout this delightful book. Those who have had the opportunity to visit the city on work related or leisure trips, like yours truly, would have a feeling of deja vu. The book is short and sweet but the author manages to give dollops of information on many cultural aspects of a much loved city in the most charming language.

I am sure, once you have read ‘Tilottama at a glance’, you would be itching to visit Kolkata to experience its hospitality first hand.

Yatindra Tawde

Book review – In the Footsteps of Rama

Book Title – In the footsteps of Rama, Travels with the Ramayana

Author – Vikrant Pande, Neelesh Kulkarni

Publisher – HarperCollins Publishers, India

No. Of pages – 255

Ramayana and Mahabharata, the two Indian Itihasa’s, are the most loved epics across continents. Ramayana is considered to be older of the two.

Elders narrate these two epics to Indian children, in the most simple language. The same has been the case with me. In addition to hearing the stories from elders, I loved reading these stories in Amar Chitra Katha, an almanac of ancient and pre-independence Indian stories. I have an obsession with these two epics and still enjoy reading different versions by different authors, with equal involvement and fervour.

With that introduction, when I heard about this book, ‘In the Footsteps of Rama, Travels with the Ramayana’, I jumped at the opportunity to read it. And by the end of it I was satisfied that I had made the right decision.

The authors, Vikrant and Neelesh,  embark on a journey which starts at Ayodhya and ends at Ayodhya, traversing the entire route followed by  Rama and Sita, accompanied by his loyal and protective brother, Laxmana.

What makes this a memorable read is the inclusion of local folklore associated with The Ramayana, at each of the places they visit, showing how well Ramayana is ingrained into the common people’s consciousness across such a large geography, in India as well as Sri Lanka. While doing this, The Ramayana comes alive as a living legacy.

I am sure that this travelogue would motivate even those readers who might be unaware about the epic, to explore The Ramayana through the written word.

This enriching journey is highly recommended.

Yatindra Tawde

Book Review – The People Tree

Book Title – The People Tree


Author – Beetashok Chatterjee

Publisher – Readomania


I have read stories by Beetashok Chatterjee in the past so I was looking forward to his new offering, ‘The People Tree’. And I am happy to say that this new anthology is as good as his debut one, ‘Driftwood – Stories washed Ashore’. While ‘Driftwood’ dealt with seamen and their experiences, both good and bad, ‘The People Tree’ deals with the common man and his ordinary and some times, extraordinary life.


The stories take you all over the world and across time spans in their quest to peep into their lives and take you along on an unforgettable journey. While doing all this, the author etches some remarkable characters.


While the 14 stories offer something to ponder over, there are a few which stand out. For me, these were, ‘Ground Zero’, ‘A day at the races’, ‘The Holy Trinity’, ‘The Vintage Car Rally’ and ‘Two Close for comfort’.


So what are you waiting for? Rest and resuscitate yourself under ‘The People Tree’.


YatindraTawde

Book review – Memories – A Novella

 

Book Title – Memories – a Novella The hilarious nightmare of growing up.

Author – Soumya Mukherjee Publisher – Notion Press

No. Of pages – 142

Oh Boy!

What an amazing journey from childhood, through many adventures of youth and culminating with the realizations of old age narrated with dollops of humour.

Once you pick up the book, it’s very difficult to put it down, for, not only is it entertaining but also takes you on a nostalgic journey to your own childhood and youth. And if the reader has stayed in a hostel, he/she will find many parallels with their own life in college.

The author, Soumya Mukherjee has the God given gift of effortless humour which he uses to weave an unforgettable story.

And why did I start the review with ‘Oh Boy!’?

Well, read this Novella to find out.

Yatindra Tawde

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Book review – Born a Crime

Book Title – Born a crime

Author – Trevor Noah
Publisher – Spiegel & Grau

No. Of pages – 282

Without any doubt, I would say that I have made the best possible start to my reading journey in 2022. In fact, ‘Born a crime’ by Trevor Noah is one of the top-most books I have ever read. (And happy that it was recommended to me by my daughter)

An undercurrent of respect and love for his feisty mother runs through the entire book and culminates in the hard-hitting final chapter. He knows and he appreciates the fact that it was his mother who actually moulded him right from his childhood to his adult life and made him what he is today. This is what takes the book to another level and sets it apart from other autobiographies.

Trevor Noah grabs the readers attention right from the beginning.

While he tells his own story, he manages to paint a stark picture of Apartheid of those times even though it was on its last legs. The machinations of the white man where he created enmity between the different linguistic tribes of Africa so that they remained subdued to foreign rule,  rings a bell near home. Also the fact that most black people were kept deliberately uneducated for the longest time and made to think that their indigenous culture was something to be ashamed of, you realize that same formula was used elsewhere as well, to promote forced colonization of huge populations across continents.

Reading this book was an exhilarating journey of understanding other cultures and the realization that though other cultures may appear strange or exotic from afar but the basic human emotions and characteristics are similar.

Yatindra Tawde

 

Catch-22 – A Book Review

Book title – Catch-22

Author – Joseph Heller
Publisher – Vintage Books

No. Of pages – 570

The novel starts without much fanfare and I was unsure whether I would have the patience to read through all the 570 pages of it. But I pushed on and was I glad I did that.

The novel is a kaleidoscope of genres. If there is the silliest of humour, it is balanced by profound life lessons sprinkled throughout. The tragedy of a violent war is apparent throughout.

The scene changes skilfully from silly banter between fellow soldiers to a sudden struggle for survival.

The soldiers grapple for a semblance of sanity with death waiting around the corner. They try to live their lives, enjoying the few moments of illicit pleasure with gay abandon.

In all this mayhem of war, the author expertly captures the entire gamut of human frailties and characteristics, ranging from total avarice to total innocence.

The mentions of praise on the back cover of this bulky novel includes the following one, “Not only the best novel to come out of the war but the best novel to come out of anywhere in years”, by Nelson Algren. Though one may not agree wholeheartedly with this, but there is no doubt that every serious reader should have certainly read this one, once in his/her life.

Yatindra Tawde

 

Trail XIII – The Path to Perdition , a book review

Book title – Trail XIII – The Path to Perdition

Author – Various
Publisher – The Hive

The Hive are back to what they do best; frighten you out of your wits. And they are back to the ideal format, an anthology of 13 blood curdling stories. I always feel,  a compilation of 13 to 15 stories is ideal for an anthology.

Coming to the individual stories, there are quite a few which are page turners. Some of my favorites were –

 

A Legend of truth by Monica Singh – what seems like different stories of different characters are finally tied together in a crescendo of violence, after jumping different timeliness. The author has grip over her narration and never lets the story wander from it’s finale. A master story teller.

Summer Solstice by Srivalli Rekha – the author sticks to her strength, a fantasy of witches and normal people, at loggerheads with each other. And no guesses for who wins in the end. Srivalli weaves a tale which hypnotises you with unique characters and fantastical settings.

Look into my eyes by Anshu Bhojnagarwala – this story gave me the shivers every time the ghostly figure made an appearance. Something about child ghosts which gave me goosebumps. I can easily say, this is the best story by the author till date, atleast from all the stories from the author, which I have read till now.

Click Click, Bang Bang by Shankar Hosagoudar – the classic Shakespearean language, the old English setting and how the story unfolds to its gruesome finale  make it a must read. Great research by the author in churning out a masterpiece.

Mother Promise by Prachi Sharma – I had never read a story from the author before and was impressed with the way the story unfolded to its tragic climax in so few words. Another gem from the anthology.

The Dante House by Varadharajan Ramesh – Varadharajan never fails to surprise you and he succeeds with this story as well. The way the story unfolds and the twist introduced, surprises and shocks you.

Redivivus by Benjamin Wylde – the goriest and bloodiest story of this anthology, please read it on an empty stomach. Hats off to the author’s gory imagination.

Nani & the Shadows by Ell P – a good, engaging story but this time I found it a bit bland from what Ell P is usually capable of. She is capable of frightening you out of your senses but this story can be read at midnight.

The Seer by Richard Beauchamp – the international writers in this anthology are contributing excessive blood and gore and this story is as gruesome as one can imagine.

Insidious Thoughts by Angel Whelan – the author takes you through the psychological disintegration of the protagonist to its violent climax with great,  storytelling skills.

The Voice by Priya U Bajpai – a good story, it’s another one which brings down the gore as compared to some of the others in this anthology.

I would safely say, this is the best offering from The Hive till now and they really excel at frightening and thrilling the reader.

Go for it. It’s available on Amazon, Kindle as well as paperback.

Yatindra Tawde

 

 

 

To kill a Mockingbird

 

Author – Harper Lee
Publisher – Arrow Books, The Random House

No. Of pages – 309

The children, Scout Finch and Jem Fincher and their creative friend, Dill have loads of fun and suddenly one is sucked into their lives. They enjoy themselves walking to and from the school, and you recall your own childhood. They make fun of their teachers and have their petty fights among themselves. While Jem progresses from a naughty boy to an early teen trying to show maturity, Scout, his younger sister continues to be her feisty self. In fact, she is the protagonist and the entire story unfolds from her point of view.

The denizens of Maycomb, where they live with their Lawyer Father, Atticus, go about their daily lives and one gets a glimpse of America in the 30’s. Or at least, a town in America in the 30’s. Or, the lives of a people in a town in America in the 30’s. It is a town in Southern America and an undercurrent of racism runs through the entire novel, some characters in the story for it while many against. But the children’s innocent life is always in the foreground. And you never realize that Harper Lee has actually dwelled upon the principles of humanity itself by tackling the serious topic of racism in the most subtle manner while you are charmed by the spunky and guileless children.

What stays with you, long after you have finished the novel, is the fact that Harper Lee has conjured up a mind grabbing story using humour and simple language.

Yatindra Tawde

 

Magnetism

Ability to attract is known as magnetism. Ferrous materials are known to be magnetic. Are humans magnetic?

Over the years humans are known to have displayed magnetic properties but they were quite uncommon. In the olden times, before the television and movie era, when human circuses were one of the entertainment options, such rarities were displayed to the watching public. People paid to gawk at them. Such human magnets were made to sit in cages with an assortment of spoons, nails and the like sticking to their bodies. It is also possible that the paying public were fibbed off by glueing the spoons and nails to the body of some poor fellow desperately in need of cash.

Many things have happened to people after taking the covid vaccination. Some unfortunate fellows with comorbidities didn’t benefit from the vaccination and they fell prey to the dreaded disease. Some had side effects, mostly mild but sometimes serious. While some had mild fever, body aches and headaches, some had to deal with blood clots.

But today I read that one person in India has turned magnetic after the vaccination and I was zapped.

How can someone turn magnetic after vaccination which is actually administered to repel something sinister?

So, the news channels are running a clip on loop where a man wearing a vest, stands with many spoons and coins sticking to his arms, chest and back.

Can this really happen? Well, watching the video one is tempted to believe. But is there another angle to it? Was his body magnetic before the vaccination, but he came to know only now? But he is a senior citizen, could have known it before. Is he a publicity hound? Doesn’t seem so…

So while the concerned authorities and doctors study his case to find out, a strange fear gnaws my mind. After all, my second vaccination is due in a few days…

 

Yatindra Tawde

White as milk and rice – A review

Book title – WHITE AS MILK AND RICE

Author – Nidhi Dugar Kundalia
Publisher – Penguin Random House India

No. Of pages – 241

Frankly, when I went for this book, my expectations were different. I don’t know why but I had thought that the book will have stories from mythology of the various tribes of India.

But once I had read through the introduction by the author, I grasped that it was going to be something totally different from my initial expectations.

There are six stories but each story takes you to a different territory in the vast expanse of India, ranging from the hills of South India, the chambal ravines in the west, the forests of Central India and finally culminating in the North East.

You peek into the ordinary lives of some extraordinary tribals and the back stories of the protagonists and their tribes enrich your knowledge of many aspects of their history. Their daily struggle to keep their unique culture alive amidst the all encompassing march of modern life is what enriches the stories to the next level.

By the time you reach the end of the book, you know something more about the Halakkis, the Kanjars, the Kurumbas, the Marias, the Khasis and the Konyaks. And wonder whether they have lost their heritage or are we, the so-called modern denizens of this world, the real losers.

The author injects charm and pathos into each story.

A Common thread which runs through all stories is how the tribals take only that much from the forest, as is required for survival and don’t exploit it for greed.

I must thank the author, Nidhi Dugar Kundalia, for staying in their midst for a long time and documenting a vanishing way of life, weaving charming stories and enriching us, the lay readers.

Yatindra Tawde