book review, Fiction, humour

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

 

book review, horror

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

 

 

 

book review

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

 

science, Uncategorized

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

book review

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

 

book review, humour

Vellagiri on FB – A book review

Book title – Vellagiri on FB

Author – Krishnan Seshan Iyer
Publisher – StoryMirror Infotech Pvt. LTD.
No. Of pages – 150

‘Expect the unexpected’ when you pick up this book because it is unlike any other. There are no short stories, it is not a novel nor is it a serious commentary. Instead it’s ‘Vellagiri’.

Now what is ‘Vellagiri’ someone may ask. It is a totally Mumbai lingo which the author has used so innovatively in his book title. ‘Vella’ comes from ‘Velle’ which is used for people wasting time, doing nothing. So, ‘Vellagiri’ is a tongue in cheek reference to the author sharing his treasure trove of quotable quotes on FB to the benefit of his immense friend circle. And now we, the mango people, can equally enjoy the fun.

Now, why do I say it is a treasure trove of quotable quotes? Well, for that, open this book and start reading.

Whoever said only famous personalities are capable of quotable quotes have not met the author, Krishnan Seshan Iyer. His quotes arise from his intrinsic scathing sense of humour and a sharp mind honed over the years in the Corporate law field. He is blessed with an ability to critique and capable of giving ‘Jor ka jhatka, dheere se…’ and sometimes not so ‘dheere se’ at all. You may not necessarily agree with him, but please do enjoy the sarcastic humour while you are at it.

And for those who cannot do without FB, here’s a quotable quote from the book, ‘I just realized that MZ is my wife – keeps reminding me of things I said a few years back!’

So guys and gals, go for this book. Let me assure you, you won’t be disappointed.

Yatindra Tawde

book review

A Book review : Tea with a drop of honey

Book title : Tea with a drop of honey by The Hive

An anthology of short stories

Author – various

Tea with a drop of honey is an anthology of short stories by 28 different authors so you can be assured about the variety on offer. As is the wont for The Hive, this anthology gets a smashing foreword by Aparna Vedapuri Singh, Founder & CEO, Women’s Web.

The anthology opens with a beautiful love story, Not so Parsi Love, a story of love overcoming the religious divide.

Coming to my most favourite story in this anthology, The Heimlich Manoeuvre, I loved how the author has woven a humorous situation around the national lockdown.

Another story which stayed with me is My Big Fat Punjabi Divorce, a tale of a Punjabi family putting aside their petty differences and supporting their daughter/sister. I wouldn’t want to reveal more, do read the story…

To Sculpt a dream is a story which took me back in history and the setting is magical, with a profound message hidden in it.

  Cup of Tea for the Misfit Two beautifully weaves a fairy tale-like love story around the title of the book and was entertaining.

Much Ado about nothing is an audacious and hilarious prequel to a very famous love story,by the author and she succeeds in entertaining the readers.

Raz’on de Ser is a surefire tearjerker of a love story which tugs at the heartstrings.

Table number 9 is as philosophical as they come, with some great quotes. 

The Murphy Conundrum surprised me with a mixture of genres and leaves you with a feel good feeling at the end.

The other stories are entertaining too and you must read Tea with a drop of honey to know still more hidden gems.

Yatindra Tawde

Uncategorized

The path to recovery

First written on #ArtoonsInn…

Bhumi stood before the crowded hall, her eyes burning with defiance. The cross questioning had gone on for long but she refused to budge. It was as if the whole league had gone against her desparate action plan. 

Finally Kamalodbhava got up from his throne, fuming in anger. A part of his creation was facing unprecedented danger and he could not just sit back. He was surprised that it was the docile Bhumi, who had lost her composure.

“Bhumi!” He thundered. The hall went quiet, the sisters of Bhumi stared wide eyed at the fiery Kamalodbhava. 

“Bhumi, this cannot go on any longer. You cannot just take out your frustrations on your own children. They have every right to take advantage of your sustaining power.” Kamalodbhava’s eyes bore into Bhumi’s looking for a glimmer of surrender.

Bhumi stared back at Kamalodbhava.

“Answer me Bhumi.” Kamalodbhava uttered these words with an authoritative tone.

Bhumi rose from her seat. Her blue eyes combined with the blue garment, embellished by a white wavy pattern, stood her out from the crowd. 

“Surajyeshtya! I know I am being made into some sort of a monster but please understand my plight.” Bhumi was ready to defend herself.

“Surajyeshtya! You know that the Manus have been my most favoured children. Right from their childhood I have admired their ability to learn. While my other children like the Vyaghras, the Gajas, who are so majestic and the Mayuras, the Hamsas who are beautiful; they all stuck to a routine, living life only to eat, procreate and die.” 

The sisters knew that Bhumi was passionate about all her children, while they had none to call her own. It was no secret that a few of them like Mangala and Shanini were jealous of Bhumi. Shanini wore beautiful drapes, which formed a halo around her and she would have been the cynosure of all eyes in the Mandala, if only Bhumi had not grown into a graceful, blue-eyed beauty. 

Mangala had lost all her children due to the utter foolishness of one of them, whom she had banished. This child had managed to seek refuge with Bhumi in her young age but it was rumoured that he had been a bad influence on the Manus. It’s another matter that Mangala’s child escaped from Bhumi’s Adobe as well.

“Surajyeshtya! You will say that I spoilt the Manus, I indulged them.” Bhumi was almost pleading.

“But who wouldn’t? See the speed at which they progressed. Weren’t they the only ones to tame Agni? Weren’t they the only ones to increase their speed manifold? Within no time they had progressed from an ox cart to the fast vehicles of today.” 

Suddenly her countenance turned steely. “I should have known then itself, when Manus used and abused their brothers and sisters for their own selfishness, for their…but no, I was blind with love for my Manus.”

“But Bhumi, don’t your other children eat each other? So how are Manus any different”, Kamalodbhava interrupted her.

With a helpless smile, Bhumi answered, “Yes, I satisfied myself with this very logic. But now I realise that while the others eat their brethren, they do it only for satisfying their hunger; Manus eat and kill wantonly…for pleasure.”

Now tears were streaming down her cheeks. Everyone sat, avoiding eye contact with her.  

Bhumi continued, “In the years gone by, they looked at me for sustenance. The green, docile Vrikshas provided them with their vital pranvayu; whenever needed Manus used to clear the Vrikshas but were careful to settle them in nearby areas. I never realised when they stopped settling the poor Vrikshas in other places and started the aridification. This in turn wiped out many of my children.”

“And then they violated my very body to reach at the tailadrava, the drills hammered away, shaking me up to the very core.” Her voice choked up as she remembered the violations. 

She continued between violent sobs, “And they used the tailadrava in the most reprehensible way; with most Vrikshas already history, the tailadrava’s misuse resulted in increased poison which killed more of my other children.”

As the entire hall listened to her in rapt attention she continued passionately, “Using the tailadrava to make abhigatya, their most heinous product, they had gone too far. One day it will kill me, Surajyeshtya! I don’t want to die. Too many of my other children are still dependent upon me to let that happen.”

Though his most favourite creation, the Manus, were in danger of being wiped off, Kamalodbhava was getting influenced by Bhumi’s strong logic.

Suddenly she declared, “Ok, Surajyeshtya! I can still forgive the Manus, they were my favourite too. But they have to change their ways. I am sure they won’t do it on their own because my past warnings have gone unheeded. 

“The vishanu I have released, it was always there with me for many years, the Manus themselves helped release it from its heem confines, and now it is devouring them. Mind you, Surajyeshtya! It is not poisonous for any of my other children. 

“Now Manus can only survive by making lifestyle changes, they cannot stay in huge groups together, they have to spend maximum time within the confines of their abodes, majority of their time will be spent in curing themselves till they find the antidote, which I am sure they will. Surajyeshtya, you have certainly given them a big advantage in their heads; it’s a pity that they hardly use it productively. But by the time they find the antidote, I am sure to heal myself for the benefit of my other children. Already, I have started feeling better, my other children have a twinkle in their eyes, they are roaming about freely even in the ghettos of the Manus…”, Bhumi’s voice trailed off, a smile finally lighting up her face.

Kamalodbhava was now fully convinced and he granted a mandate to Bhumi to stick to the path charted by herself.

—-

Glossary :

Bhumi – Mother Earth

Kamalodbhava – A name of Lord Brahma

Surajyeshtya – another name of Lord Brahma

Mangala – Mars

Shanini – Saturn

Manus – Human race

Vyaghras – Tigers

Gajas – Elephants

Mayuras – Peacocks

Hamsas – Swans

Vrikshas – Trees

Tailadrava – Oil

Abhigatya – plastic

Vishanu – virus

Heem – ice or snow

book review

The Vedas and Upanishads for children – A book review

Book title : The Vedas and Upanishads for children

Author : Roopa Pai

Publisher: Hachette Book Publishing India Pvt. Ltd.

No. of pages: 410

Let there be no doubt about it, The Vedas and Upanishads are no simple subjects that anyone and everyone can attempt writing about them. First of all, they are so ancient; second, they are originally written in the ancient language of the Indian subcontinent, Sanskrit. This language has very few current aficionados. Third, there are quite a few translations available, from the 19th century to quite recent, where, not everyone has managed to capture the true gist of those great works. 

However the author, Roopa Pai has studied the best among them like the works of Bibek and Dipavali Debroy, Swami Vivekananda, S. Radhakrishnan, Sri M and many others. Please refer to the select bibliography at the end of the book.

Studying is only half the battle won. Interpreting it for the target audience, who are the teenagers, and keeping it interesting enough throughout the entire length of the book is a stupendous achievement. 

And mind you, this book is not only for teenagers, though written in a language they understand. Those who have only a cursory knowledge of the Vedas and Upanishads, like yours truly, will find it equally interesting and wonderous. I mean, those ancient rishis and sages really developed some profound thoughts which acted as guiding principles to innumerable generations. 

Like the author says, there might be parts of the Vedas and Upanishads that you will love and others which you don’t feel comfortable with. Just take from them the useful and illuminating lessons and set the rest aside. Even those ancient sages are not asking you to believe everything they have said but exhorting you to think for yourself.

Speaking for myself, I felt those sages certainly had a scientific bent of mind, the way they thought and tried to unravel answers to some very fundamental questions. They sought to inspire people to seek the truth for themselves. Of course, the science of those times may not have been so advanced (though many would disagree) that few of those ideas would be relevant in today’s age too, but you can’t deny that the methodology they employed is still applicable. You might think I have said something preposterous, but read this book and then form your own opinion.

Hats off to Roopa Pai for attempting to communicate in simple language, the very difficult and sometimes confusing world of the Vedas and Upanishads. She says that the old, old answers of the Upanishads are among the most convincing, for a significant number of people still swear by them. So grab this book to find out more!

Totally recommended.

Yatindra Tawde