Book Review : Before We Visit The Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I have been a huge fan of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni ever since I read her first book of short stories, Arranged Marriage. Sister of My Heart and The Palace of Illusions have been amongst my constant favourites among all of her books I’ve read so far.

When ‘Before we visit the Goddess’ was released I looked forward to reading it, the title intriguing me especially.

The book spans three generations of women from the same family, connected by blood but disconnected by distance and misunderstandings.
Sabitri, a strong woman who fights all odds and emerges a winner, or does she?
Sabitri’s daughter, Bela, a problem child who resents her mother and blames her for all the wrongs in her life. Is Bela justified in doing so, or not?
Sabitri’s grand daughter and Bela’s daughter, Tara, Daddy’s Girl who knows nothing about her grandmother and does not want to know her mother. Will Tara regret this distancing?
The men is their lives who keep them apart, knowingly and unknowingly.
From a small village in West Bengal all the way to distant America lives are shattered and the jagged pieces cause wounds that leave scars.

The story and writing seem haphazardly put together, like a patchwork quilt. Sadly the pieces are mismatched and don’t form a pretty picture. The story left me confused, dissatisfied and wondering if CBD had actually written it, or had it ghost written. I could not connect the title to the story either. This book lacks CBD’s trademark eloquent prose that connects you to her writing.

Here’s hoping that CBD was having a one off, after a constant string of best sellers, and is going to be back again with a bang. Soon.

Book Review – Dying To Be Me by Anita Moorjani

Each of us has grown up listening to, believing in and following certain ideologies which have been passed onto us from our parents, our religions, our cultures and later got firmly entrenched into our being from our experiences. More often than not we’ve followed these without questioning them or continued following them even after not getting satisfactory answers when questioned.
The concept of heaven and hell and karma has been dominant in almost every religion and culture and most people fear it which leads them to believe it, thus making fear and anxiety the triggers that lead us to make most decisions, whether we are convinced of them or not.
Cancer ate through author Anita Moorjani’s body till she slipped into a coma. After which she experienced a sense of being that was beautiful, and where she was given a choice to come back to the living world, or not.
She chose to come back and share with the world a story that may seem amazing and unbelievable.
After her Near Death Experience (NDE) Moorjani was completely cured, astounding doctors who were working on her and delighting her family who were glad to have her back.
‘Dying To Be Me’, was recommended to me by a friend. As I read through, I initially scoffed at Moorjanis experience, but as I continued reading, patiently and keeping all judgement aside, I realized that I found the answers to a lot of questions that had been unanswered for a few years now.
I would like to admit, this book seemed very emotionally overwhelming in places, so much so that I needed to keep it aside for a bit, compose myself and resume reading it. 

The question this book made me ask myself was, if we’ve believed, and continued believing ideologies fed to us without any proof of their claims, why not believe someone who has proof of coming back to life and healing herself? 
It helps that Moorjani uses a neutral narrative, not putting down any religion or perspective and/or propping up her own instead and only shares her experience, her insights and the results of the changes she made in her life post her NDE, all which seem practical and achievable. The simple writing makes it an easy read, and reading it felt like I was listening to a friend.

Each of us who reads this book would experience it differently.  There is one thing I would say though, if you don’t/didn’t connect to it, it probably is not yet your time to, and quoting a well known line also used in the book, ‘The master will appear when the student is ready.’

This post is part of the Half Marathon Blogging Challenge with BlogChatter 
Day 4

Book Review: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell

With her debut novel, Nadia Hashimi takes us to Kabul where women were child brides to men thrice their age, were rarely the first or only wives and were treated depending on the number of sons they gave birth to.
Rahima is the 3rd  of 5 sisters. Of a father who fights for a warlord, when he isn’t delirious on a drug high, and a mother who lives in the perpetual guilt of having given birth to 5 daughters and under her mother-in-laws constant threat of getting her husband remarried.
The lack of a male child forces her mother to covert Rahima into a ‘Bacha Posh’, a custom where a daughter is dressed and allowed to live like a son, till she attains puberty. Treated as a male Rahima, who is now Rahim, tastes freedom and realizes she likes it even as she notices the lack of it given to her own kind.  
Though the story telling of her feisty aunt Rahima discovers  that she isn’t the only Bacha Posh in the family and her great-great-grandmother, Shekiba was the first. From here starts Rahimas fascination for Shekiba, women who lived 100 years apart.
A foolish mistake on Rahim’s part leads to her angering her father, who marries off three of his daughters at one go, and Rahim is back to being Rahima, and the fourth wife of the warlord her father works for.
From here on starts 13 year old Rahima’s struggle. Her life drawing parallels to Shekiba’s life, the story she seeks inspiration from and which becomes her strength.
A simply written book that shows us that a society is  oppressive because women make other women miserable and it is only women who can make things better for their kind.
Read it to gain inspiration from women who do not let society or their ‘naseeb’(destiny) dictate to them. Read it for the strength of will, even though the body is weak. For that tiny glimmer of hope and heaps of courage that keep these women going despite all the atrocities committed on them.
Read it to realize that Khaled Hosseini has set a trend for Afghan writers to bare the scars of their battle torn country they are all so proud of.
Read it. Just read it.

Book Review : Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin

Here we drink three cups of tea to do business: the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything – even die.’ Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan.

In the year 1993, Greg Mortensen an avid mountaineer, attempted to climb the mountain K2, with disastrous results. Disappointed and dehydrated he followed his porter to the nearest village of Karakoram in Baltistan, Pakistan to rest and recuperate.

Endless cups of rancid smelling Paiyu Cha, the butter tea that forms the basis of the Balti diet and a healthy dose of the inhabitants of Baltistan’s kindness later, Mortensen recovered enough of his strength and spirit to return to the USA. But not before he promised to return and build a school for the education-deprived children of Karakoram.
Return he did, to build not just one but 55 schools spread all over the dangerous and forbidden terrain of Pakistan, in villages so remote that some didn’t even have a dirt road connecting them to the next, making the delivery of supplies for building the school an arduous task.
But Mortensen’s selfless mission to ‘Promote peace, once school at a time’ was so intense that he found roads where there were none, literally and metaphorically, and braved everything from dishonesty and the lack of money to a kidnapping and a fatwa, to keep his promise to the children of Pakistan.

Reading ‘Three Cups of Tea’ was a strangely humbling experience. Greg Mortensen’s story managed to raise my awareness, about how important a small thing like a pencil could be for some people, and via it, my thankfulness towards my own life, which has a million things I stop appreciating and take for granted.

David Oliver Relin, who has co – authored this book along with Mortensen, is a graduate of Vassar and was awarded the prestigious Teaching/Writing Fellowship at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Over the years he has won dozens of national awards for his work as both an editor and investigative reporter.
Which is why the, at times insipid, narration of the book surprised me. I wish ‘Three Cups of Tea’ would have been written and edited better because I did feel like it dragged needlessly in certain places. A more gifted and prolific writer could have helped bring forth the passion of Mortensen’s inexhaustible spirit and compassion even better. Nonetheless, Mortensen’s inspiring chain of achievements and the geographical and cultural insights into parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan I had never heard about, were enough to spur me on to continue reading page after page.

Greg’s work is commendable. Like mountaineer Charlie Shimanski predicted in the book, I wouldn’t be surprised either to see Mortensen get a noble prize sometime soon.

To learn more about Greg Mortensen and Central Asia Institute, the foundation he is the Director of, visit;