Book Review:The Peshwa by Ram Sivasankaran

I first read about Bajirao as part of a history lesson in
school. Very recently Film maker, Sanjay Leela Bhansali recreated and romanticized Bajirao to etch a memory that would stay in mind for some time to come.

Now you have Author Ram Sivasankaran who makes his debut with yet another version of Peshwa Bajirao.

I loved the bright and eye catching cover of the book as soon as I saw it, and was curious to find out how Sivasankaran would interpret this hero of the 18th Century Maratha Confederacy.
The book starts with the senior Peshwa, Balaji Vishwanath Bhat, foiling the plan of Nizam Ul Mulk of the Mughal Empire and asserting the power of the Marathas. A blow that would prove to be a costly one, with the vengeful Nizam lying in wait for an opportune moment to strike back.

A terminal illness snuffs out the life of Balaji Bhat, placing the heavy crown of responsibility on the young head of his son, Bajirao who is the new Peshwa.

Will Bajirao live up to his illustrious father’s name or will his lack of experience allow the enemy to close in faster? Will Bajirao’s love for his young wife and newborn son soften his resolve to place Confederacy before family? Will he live up to the title of Peshwa?

With his extensive research and clear and concise writing Ram Sivasankaran weaves a tale that keeps you turning the pages. What I particularly liked was how the story covered not one, but two Peshwas. Balaji Vishwanath’s solid character and his tete-a-tete with his son, Bajirao, were my particular favourite parts of the book. It is during these father-son conversations that Bajirao’s character is built and he is polished and readied to prepare him to be the future Peshwa.
Another character I particularly liked was the evil giant,Bangash,or The Butcher as he was known as. A man of unimaginable proportions and intentions that turn to childlike loyalty while they remain pure evil, he was a character I looked forward to.
What I found interesting were the little illustrations dotted along the book at most crucial parts of the story.
My only quibble? If the war bits could have been pruned a little it would have made the pace of the book crisper.

The book ends with an Epilogue titled, ‘The Princess of Bundelkhand’ introducing Mastani. Do we have a sequel or part 2 in store, Mr Sivasankarn?

I received a copy of The Peshwa from in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.

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.

Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire – A very ‘poor’ film

As I read Vikas Swarup’s Q & A, his simple, conversational style writing and perfectly etched characters brought the novel alive before my eyes. When I finished reading the wonderful book I eagerly awaited the release of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ promising myself that I wouldn’t compare the movie to the book, or the picture my imagination had come up with.

I then heard the story had been ‘adapted’ from the book with the basic premise being the same but changes in the storyline and characters. I admit to being a tad disappointed, but the cacophony of praise accompanying every tiny bit of news about the movie forced me to stay positive and eagerly await the release. After winning a multitude of awards and recognitions ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ finally did release here and when I saw it I wished I hadn’t.

For even if I do have qualms about the movie showing the ‘slums and the underbelly’ of India or about the way ‘they have depicted India in general’ the excuse of ‘cinematic liberty’ helps the makers get away with it. And, logically, when the film IS titled ‘Slum Dog Millionaire’ we can hardly have bejeweled maharajas swishing around in silk robes, answering questions in a rigged game show can we? Though slums, caste-fuelled riots filth, treachery, poverty do form a part of India, like they would of any country anywhere in the world, is it all that India is about, and is it all worth showing about India I wondered. And the American Lady telling the young Jamal ‘I will show you what the real America is’ was a real low-blow.

My only qualm is what are people praising to the skies? What did I miss?

What angle of ‘the love story’ and ‘Jamal’s love for Latika’ left people ‘misty-eyed’?

Where was the chemistry between Jamal and Latika? Where was the bonding? Where was the yearning? IMHO after Jackie Shroff and his dog in ‘Teri Meharbaniyaan’ Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto are the most mismatched couple on screen, ever!

Dev Patel is an awkward 16 year old in real life and it showed on screen as well. Besides the fact that his diction and body language were far too polished to be a chai-wala, he didn’t look like one either. As I watched him fumbling on screen, I wondered if growing up in England, he even knew what a chai-wala was?

Frieda Pinto just gets lucky by being in the right place, in this case movie, and at the right time. Her lack of talent is evenly balanced by her lack of looks. Older than Dev Patel in real life, she looked so on screen as well.

This probably had to be the 1st first film where I watched Irfan Khan hamming.

Mahesh Manjerkar looked so filthy I wished he would go and have a hot bath!

Madhur Mittal, playing the oldest Salim, was completely wasted in a miniscule part.
The only bright spots for me were;

Anil Kapoor, brown/red beard et all, in an ill-defined role, which he carried off with much aplomb, when he wasn’t hamming and looking like he’s going to seriously lose it any moment now!

Saurabh Shukla, who is an actor par excellence!

The kids playing Jamal and Salim, who were simply adorable bundles of talent.

Book Review: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Human Nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth – Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Custom-House.”

333 Pages. Hardcover.

Rating ****

After winning critical acclaim, loyal readership and multiple honors for her debut book of short stories ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ and her first novel ‘The Namesake’, Jhumpa Lahiri unfurls her third book.

Unaccustomed Earth is a book of short stories that traverse the globe, taking us from Cambridge to Seattle to India and Thailand. The stories are centered around relationships. The relationship of an uprooted immigrant with his alien land. The taut link between traditional parents and their second-generation, confused immigrant children. Fractured relationships which cause heartbreak to invariably follow love. Loveless marriages and detached bonds. All described in Lahiri’s exquisite prose that introduces you to the lives of the people who soon become a part of yours.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part consists of 5 short stories starting with
the opening story also titled ‘Unaccustomed Earth’, about a daughter and her recently widowed father who are awkward around each other without the common thread, the mother and wife, that connected them. They are both surprised by the changes in the other, and even more so by the secret that is gently revealed as the story progresses.

‘Hell-Heaven’ is about discovering love and heart break, after marriage.

‘A Choice of Accommodations’ was a rather vague story about a couple, who attends a friends wedding and reminisce about their own past there.

‘Only Goodness’ is about a brother and sister who grow up together, and then grow apart, with parents as silent witnesses on the sidelines always.

‘Nobody’s business’ tells you about the different shades of love, and the discoveries and heartbreak that follow, through the life of the protagonist called Sang.

Part two, titled Hema and Kaushik illustrates the span of their lives through a trio of linked stories. From when they first meet as malleable children in their home environment of Massachusetts, to when they meet again as inflexible adults on a neutral and transitory land of Rome.

I would have imagined that it would have been difficult, almost impossible even, to top ‘The Namesake’, but with her latest book Lahiri has managed to do so. Tinged with an emotional astuteness and maturity that surprises you, this has to be her best work so far. Each story is like a novelette in itself, rich with detail and emotions that linger in your thoughts long after you’re done reading, making you realize that Jhumpa Lahiri does not write stories, she crafts them.


My very own rating chart;

*Use it as a doorstop.
**Read it if you have nothing better to do.
***You will like it if you like this particular genre of writing.
****Must read!
*****What! You haven’t read it YET !