Saturday, 11 November 2017

Hell! No Saints in Paradise

Hell! No Saints in Paradise is an urban fantasy fiction set in 2050. Ismael is a Pakistani-American student. After a tiring spirtual quest he enters into an alliance with otherworldly beings who send him on a precarious journey of self discovery. Ismael still remains a non-believer, in sharp contrast with his father who is a prominent extremist in Pakistan. Now Ismael has to return to Pakistan. To gain the trust of his father, who stays in a fundamentalist Pakistan, he has to pose as a true believer. Will he complete his mission. This is the story of Hell! No Saints in Paradise.

The book chronicles life of a non-believer. It is not easy at all if you are living in a country like Pakistan. I liked the way character of Ismael is developed. With this book the author has tried to step into a new territory. His writing is clean and error-free. Yet the story appears non-linear and difficult to comprehend. What is the use of germinating a great idea when you are unable to communicate it to the masses in unequivocal words. The novel certainly falters when it comes to comprehension. This book may have been a great book, if it was a bit simplified for the lay readers.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Unlikely Tails - Book Review

The blurb, the initial pages of Mani Padma's debut book Unlikely Tails announce that it is a collection of seventeen stories. However there are eighteen stories in this book. Two stories are numbered as five in the index and in the interior and that makes the eighteen stories seventeen. This blunder for sure makes a bad first impression.

Feeling of rejection, loneliness and death permeates most of the stories. The opening story Prince Charming is about the fluttering of heart of a young woman when she meets the man of her dreams. I really liked the second story in the book Eight Days with Sushil. In this story a depressed girl meets an old friend who lightens up her dead life. I liked the format which the author chooses for narrating this story. Its end though is quite shocking.

The story Harmony demonstrates how music can bring two unhappy souls together. Pammi's Escort Service is about how we all have the money but lack company. Broken heart is an interesting tale where an old woman tells how she broke a broken heart's heart again. Date with future is all about the games that girls play.

Man, Woman and capitulates the dynamics of a seasoned marriage. The story Sabjiwallah falls into the horror genre. The story Breakfast opens at a breakfast table. It is about a woman locked in a loveless marriage, who is drawn towards an out of marriage relationship. In Pursuit of Fame is a multilayered story about parental pressure on children who are forced into reality shows. I liked this story for the manner in which it welds reality with fiction.

Bhaavya delves into the mind of a mentally unsound woman. The Perfect Plan revolves around infidelity and a perfectly planned murder. Mamma's house shows how attachment to places changes with time. Dulliance deals with bride seeing ceremonies, customary for arranged marriages in India. Keep the Change again deals with issues of marriage and money. The last story in this collection titled The End tries to underline that in any given choice you have the power to chose your reaction. Again the author uses a unique format to weave her story.

What I liked about this book is that the writing is clean. These stories are projected as stories about as to what goes into the minds of women. While some stories indeed relate to this theme, some like Sabjiwallah are out of sync with the theme. Most of the stories are prosaic, too abstract. But yet if you want to read something really different, you may go for this book.

Friday, 3 November 2017

No Mud No Lotus - Book Review


No Mud No Lotus, the art of transforming suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh indeed offers a very different yet pragmatic take on overcoming life's problems.

The author who is a renowned Zen Buddhist master says that the main affliction of our modern civilization is that we don't know how to handle the suffering inside us and we try to cover it up with all kinds of consumption. He states that we have the seeds, the potential in us for understanding, love, compassion, and insight as well as the seeds of anger, hate, and greed. While we can't avoid all the suffering in life, we can suffer much less by not watering the seeds of suffering inside us.

We are truly alive only when the mind is with the body. What a simple yet profound statement. The book is full of such gems. At another place the author says the Buddha said that nothing can survive without food. This is true, not just for the physical existence of living beings, but also for states of mind. Love needs to be nurtured and fed to survive and our suffering also survives because we enable and feed it. We ruminate on suffering, regret, and sorrow. We chew on them, swallow them, bring them back up, and eat them again and again. If we are feeding our suffering while we're walking, working, eating or talking, we are making ourselves victims of the ghosts of the past, of the future or our worries in the present. We are not living our lives.

Speaking of suffering he says part of the art of suffering well is learning not to magnify our pain by getting carried away in fear, anger and despair. We build and maintain our energy reserves to handle the big sufferings; the little sufferings we can let go.

The book offers eight meditation techniques for happiness. Indeed this book is to be treasured.

Let Him Not Sink


Let Him Not Sink First Steps to Mental Health is a manual for adults who work closely with children and adolescents. Unfortunately very little is known about mental health even to the educated people of our country. The poor illiterate masses are so busy in their struggle to make two ends meet that mental health becomes a neglected factor. But the truth is that mental health concerns everyone and mental ill-health doesn't look at if a person is rich or poor. It is for these reasons that this book assumes tremendous importance.

While I knew depression, bipolar disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders were psychological issues requiring expert intervention, I was totally unaware that even anxiety disorders, separation anxiety and selective mutism too form a part of the mental disorders spectrum. This book bursts many myths. A common reason cited these days for depression and many other mental diseases is lack of support system. Though this is one of the causes, the book tells us that mental disorders can be genetic as well as result of birth and delivery related conditions.

The book tries to simplify the mental disorders. It cites as to why early identification of mental problems is important. The book also enumerates essential skills for dealing with children and adolescents. Each disorder is discussed in separate chapters and in every chapter there are boxes containing red flags highlighting the factors which increase the risks. Self-harm among the youth is on a rise. There is a separate chapter devoted to it as well. It was startling to know that if there is history of self harm in the family, the probability of the child having suicidal tendencies rises many fold.

This book by no way can replace the therapist. That is not the intention of the book. It serves its purpose by enlisting symptoms which may fall under the category of mental disorder. If you see them in your children rush for help at the earliest. I welcome this book and wish many more flood the market for mental health is as important as physical health.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

You Never Know - Book Review


 
You Never Know is the story of Dhruv and Anuradha. Dhruv is married to Shalini and has kids. Dhruv and Anuradha work in the same office. They end up having an extra-marital affair. Things take an ugly turn when an influential politician Hemant Tiwari threatens to wipe out Dhruv’s children if he doesn’t get the video which Anuradha has. Dhruv doesn’t know anything about the video. The video revolves around Anuradha, her deceased boyfriend Sid and of course Hemant Tiwari. Will Dhruv find the video? What does it contain? To know the answers to these questions you will have to read You Never Know by Akash Verma.

The book opens with Dhruv in search of Sid’s phone at the spot of Sid’s death. There are references to Talk-Tel a telephone service provider in the first chapter. But you can’t make much about it. The following chapters revolve around Dhruv and Anuradha’s affair and you almost forget all about Sid and his mobile. They resurface only towards the end. By that time you are huffing and puffing about the Dhruv and Anuradha’s extra-marital affair which drags for eternity. The problem with You Never Know is that it is disjointed. You feel like the beginning and end were simply inorganically connected to the middle of the novel, which consumes most of the space.

Speaking of good things, the writing is clean. The end though predictable is good one. Of course, this novel could have been much better if the aforesaid flaws were taken care of, You Never Know.

'I received a copy from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.'  

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Different Beads of the Same String - book review





 

Different Beads of the Same String is a collection of short stories written by Sujay Malik. These diverse stories are interesting, with human conflict at their core.

The opening story And Then She Found It Again is about Anahita, a young woman of eighteen who has failed in her CA examination. Her relationship with her mother, like any other girl of her age, is rocky. This story demonstrates how a stormy youth can be transformed for the better by offering some love and understanding.

'He,' Pluto and the Incomplete Solar System is a love story which remains incomplete inter alia because of difference in religions. In Feelijus the writer adopts a scary narration style to highlight the plight of those millions who wait for justice. This story, though disturbing is a creative genius for sure.

Pushed into a Corner is about the discrimination, particularly sexual harassment which women from the North-east face due to their distinguishable physical features. Weaved amidst communal violence the Genuine Protector is a tale with a twist. What if you fall in love with the man from the same community which has massacred your own family member and robbed you of your speech and hearing, is a question dealt in the story Converted Language.

Then and Now cites the dramatic transformation of a person who had been wronged into the justice giver. The Missing Link shows the plight of a couple whose son is missing after a devastating earthquake. The Apt Time underlines the blind faith of masses in Godmen in India and its unfortunate repercussions. The Boy Who Uttered 'That' Word exhibits the double standards which teachers adopt sometimes.

Sujay's writing is poignant and disturbing, more disturbing then poignant. He touches varied subjects and sometimes simply leaves you shaken to the core, without offering any solution. When it comes to originality and social context, I give him full marks. The stories leave an impact on you. The dialogues though are a big problem. The characters speak bookish language and that makes them sound unreal. Yet if you, like me, admire short stories, would like this book. 
 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Milkman, his nephew and my old laptop


What I want to sell is a buffalo and not a laptop Mom.’
Come again.’
I said I want to sell a buffalo.... Sorry I wanted to say that what I want to sell is a laptop and not a buffalo.’
I know that’
and that is the reason why you told about it to the milkman.’

The burly milkman tore the non-existent curtains in front of my eyelids and stood there on his signature hard and sturdy black gents bicycle, adroitly balancing the two milk cans on each side. He smiled behind his flowing moustache as he watched the screen of my laptop which he had perched on the handle of his bike.

See if you want to sell, you have to speak.’
I agree, but to a milkman?’
But my mother was very firm on her stand. The following days our two maids with the same name, whom I had named as Shanta one and Shanta two, our watchman and the old aunty who took out her dog for a walk, and smiled back at my mother, knew that my old laptop was for sale. I told my friends and the laptop mechanic that my laptop was for sale. On second thoughts I felt that my mother, who didn’t possess any management degree, had succeeded in breaking into the market which I had never thought of.

Its brand new. My son, since his childhood handles his things with great care. So even after years of usage, his things appear as if we have just bought it from the market and the laptop it is super fast. These days he even buys groceries and some times vegetables too from it.’ This was my mother’s marketing pitch.

The next week the burly milkman came to our house in the afternoon.
Bhaiyaji did you forget to give us the milk in the morning?’ I asked when I opened the door for him.
Na, na babua, this is Ramesh my nephew and we have come to see the laptop.’ He said. A young man who appeared to be an abridged version of the milkman stood next to him.
I escorted them into the house. My mother joined us with a victorious smile on her face.

The young man examined the laptop. ‘I liked it.’ He said. My mother’s smile stretched all along her face. ‘Five thousand.’ He said, quoting the price for my laptop.
What?’ I said. ‘I got it for thirty five thousand.’

Then we negotiated. The prospective buyer increased the purchase price by rupees one hundred for every ten minutes and after one and half hour, during which I told him about the technical specifications of the laptop, hearing which he sounded indifferent but the milkman nodded his head in appreciation, his quote stood at six thousand.
If the laptop is so good, why are you selling it.’ Asked the milkman when there was an impasse.
That is because he has got another one from his company. What is the point in keeping two laptops in home. You cannot garland them around your necks.’ It was my mother. Now I was really appreciating her skills. It was only the milkman and my mother who laughed at the garlanding around the neck joke.

Then I used another strategy which I had learnt while studying negotiations. I offered the milkman’s nephew a set of speakers free if he purchased the laptop. But he didn’t catch the bait. His funda was simple. He wanted to buy the laptop for no more than rupees six thousand. That was the dead end to negotiations and my laptop didn’t reach the milkman’s nephew’s hands.

Finally I sold my laptop to a very dear friend, who was facing a financial crunch and was in dire need of a laptop. He being a friend, there was no any question of negotiations and I simply accepted whatever he thrust into my pocket. I wish I had known about cashify back then. You can sell your laptops, mobile phones and other gadgets on cashify. Use coupon code CLEANCASH and get additional Rs.250 on your sale. So what are you waiting for. #CleanUpCashOut

Friday, 13 October 2017

Mad Country - Book Review

I had read writers from neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But I never knew that English writers existed in the tiny mountain country of Nepal as well. Thank you Mad Country for introducing me to the Nepali writer Samrat Upadyay.

Mad country is collection of eight short stories, all set in Nepal. The setting works in favour of the book for apart from the scenic locations in movies, we hardly know the true Nepal. The author paints an incredible yet true picture of the country which abuts us.

The opening story Fast Forward touches dynamics of media-politics relationship. I felt indeed Nepal has rubbed something from its neighbour and cultural cousin - India. Beggar Boy demonstrates how lonely we are amidst all the riches. Though the reason why the protagonist takes up the life of the beggar was beyond comprehension. The characters in Samrat’s stories work out that way, the way they want, even if it may appear crazy, absurd for the rest of us. He subtly touches homosexuality in almost every story for unintended reasons again.

What Will Happen to the Sharma Family is a light read. It narrates how destiny can turn a zero into hero. In Freak Street we meet an American woman whose soul has turned a Nepali within six months of her stay in Nepal. But what happens when her life oscillates between two nationalities and two contradictory set of values sprouting from them. Dreaming of Ghana again in true Samrat style is the story of freaky people and their freakier journeys. An Affair Before the Earthquake is the shortest story in the book and is about a love story gone all wrong. Mad Country shows who political prisoners are and their lives in the prisons. America, the Great Equalizer is a slightly incomprehensible story again where the protagonist behaves in the most illogical manner.

I liked this book for the different, refreshing flavour which it offers. If you are looking forward for something like that this book is to be lapped up.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Adventures in Farland - Book Review

Adventures in Farland by Moshank Relia is a wonderful book for children. This is the story of Meera who is invited for the New Moon Party at the Farland. Two brats Bira and Vira accompany her. Windman and Starhead ply her in the spaceship. Their spaceship has an emergency landing. The Queen of Witches holds the Windman and Starhead captive. She has a sinister motive of attacking the Farland. Queen Halo, queen of Farland is locked in the wardrobe. No prizes for guessing that our protagonist Meera ensures that there is triumph of the right at the end.

Writing a book for children is the most tasking task. But Moshank gets it perfectly right. I couldn’t control my laughter when I came across words like Bang Clank, Tick, Tack and Khee Khee Khee Khee. The names of the characters like Toad Hearty, Mastiff the dog and places like Lost Forest and Laughing Village show both the creativeness and understanding of the child psyche of the author. These interesting characters and places are sure to make the book a huge draw among the children.

The writing is simple and the editing is clean. I am sure children would simply lap this book up. Before I part here is a simple poem from the book.

We wish to be with princess everyday
Sandwiches and sausages, endless, ho-ho dance and pray
The Kingdom of Farland is a paradise
Everybody on their feet, dance and dance high
Clap for the toad Hearty
Look how well he is dressed for the New Moon Party
High and high, everybody try.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Invisible Ties - Book Review


Marriage, especially where a woman is trapped in it has made an interesting premise for novels world over. The runaway success novel Eat, Pray, Love had a protagonist struggling to get out of a stormy marriage. Back home, Shashi Desphande's Sahitya Academy winning That Long Silence wonderfully charted the less ups and more downs of an Indian married woman. Pakistani writer Nadya A. R's Invisible Ties wagers in the similar waters, albeit unsuccessfully.

This is story of Noor, who hails from an elite family in Pakistan. The internal disturbances in Pakistan hit her threshold when a gang of hoodlums ransack her house, and kidnap Daisy, Noor's mother. Though Daisy returns Noor's life changes forever. Noor marries Meekal Kalim. Its an arranged marriage and lands up in Singapore. Her husband and sharp tongued mother-in-law keep a distance from her. Unfortunately while reading the novel, I felt all the characters were keeping a distance not only from each other but also from the readers and were crushed under the verbose descriptions and insipid dialogues.

So Noor studies Psychotherapy in Singapore and befriends Ella, her neighbour, who is unwilling to have a child but wants to have one to save her sinking marriage. Ella introduces Noor to Jake, who is struggling with his past and needs some counselling.

From the aforesaid premise it is clear that Invisible Ties had all the elements of a good novel. But the narrative mars the novel. The complex language holds back the characters from taking any shape and make them appear like aliens from another planet altogether. The result is evident – you don't feel anything for any of the characters including Noor. This unintended detachment transforms this novel which otherwise would have been a good novel, if not best, into a boring trip undertaken to satisfy the idiosyncrasies of the author.

Friday, 22 September 2017

The Story of My Second Marriage


For paperback in India http://bit.ly/2nOcVGT

Kindle  India http://amzn.to/2opGYaR

Kindle Amazon US http://amzn.to/2nwmsl0

Paperback Amazon US http://amzn.to/2ntiVTA

Amazon UK kindle http://amzn.to/2oyzP3P

 

Zero Debt, Break the debt cycle and reclaim your life - Book Review


Zero Debt, Break the debt cycle and reclaim your life is wonderfully simple and simply wonderful book by Neeraj Deginal. This is the real life story of a man who was crushed under endless EMIs. It narrates us how he was neck deep in debts and how he came out of it to become cent percent debt free. I am sure most of us, who bought a home to save tax, bought second home as an investment, purchased a car because it was on EMIs and are left with paltry salary after all the deductions, will be able to relate to his case. The book states how real estate investment is not always a profitable proposition. The author has incurred losses in all his real estate investments. ‘Buying was always easy; however it is very difficult to sell a real estate property.’ He says.

The book highlights how both the schools and families fail to impart any sort of financial education, and how as earning adults we have to pay the price for it.

The book is extremely well written. The language is simple, yet riveting. The editing is superb. The book is divided into several short chapters. Apart from finance it also covers health and simplification of life. In the words of the author, ‘the overall objective is to celebrate life, enjoy life’. The book is interspersed with quotes like ‘If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will end up working until you die – Warren Buffet’ and ‘The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates and monthly salary – Nicholas Taleb.’ However I wasn’t able to digest one particular averment in the book. ‘Fixed Deposit attracts 30% tax on the interest earned, irrespective of years deposited.’ This cannot be a blanket statement and the tax on fixed deposits depends upon in which tax bracket you fall.

Another startling fact about this book is that it is a copyright free book. Though the book is based on the personal experiences of the author, according to him the ideas are not original. The objective of this book is to offer help and hence the readers are free to copy or reprint any content from it.

So if are struggling on the financial front this book could be your saviour. 
 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

My Way of Being Healthy


1. I get to bed early
By the time the hour hand of the clock passed ten in the night, I start yawing. I slip into my bed. My body clock tells me that it is five and open my eyes.
2. Exercise
I cannot do without thirty minutes exercise, every day morning and evening. While the time period of thirty minutes is fixed, the exercise regime is quite flexible. So I run, I walk, I pick the weights and do some yoga. The mind co-operates when you don't tie it tightly to one particular exercise.
3. No fried items
While there is nothing wrong with fried items, the residue oil which is high in cholestrol and triglycrides is used for cooking food. It is harmful. So I have a rule, no fried things at home. I do eat them when I am out. That restricts the intake of samosas to one or two and the remainder oil doesn't find its way to my stomach.
4. Meditation
I love to meditate. Again like exercise my meditation is flexible. If you impose anything upon the mind it revolts. But you give tiny morsels to it and it begins to like it. I not only meditate behind the close doors, but I am also happy being in the moment while going for a walk and while touching the soft cheeks of my baby.
5. Eat sprouts
Everyone knows the magical effect of sprouts. So I add a little sprouts to my rice. Sometimes I have delicious curries of sprouts too.
6. Count your blessings
Counting your blessings inculcates a sense of gratitude in you. Gratitude goes hand in hand with happiness. A positive state of mind is very important for a healthy body and mind.
7. Eat flex seeds
Flex seeds are the heart's tonic. Some times I eat them raw, some times I make chutney out of it.
8. Laugh a lot
Laugter is so important for a good health. My one year old baby and me have formed a laughter club, where we laugh for no rhyme and reason. When I say, laugh it is good belly laugh and not just parting of lips.
9. Accuspressure
Stepping on the accupressure mat and pressing the points with the accupressure pen is one of my favourite pasttimes. I belive in alternative therapies and indulge myself into it whenever time offers.
10. Don't bloat yourself
Yes I am a foodie and sometimes I eat like a glutton, but at the same time there are days when I spread my food over a stretch, instead of eating it all, at one go. 
I am joining Saffola #ApneTareekeSeHealthy initiative and sharing my ways of being healthy in association with BlogAdda

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The Quest of the Sparrows - Book Review


The Quest of the Sparrows has an interesting premise which instantly strikes a chord with the reader. The protagonist crushed under the work pressure and whose marital life is on a toss may appear a reflection of many of us. We then encounter the fundamental question, what is life all about? This leads to a spiritual odyssey. The protagonist Nikhil starts a soul searching journey. When he visits the ashram, he realises that the swami is dead and now he is succeeded by a strapping youth Partibhan. Nikhil has his own reservations about the new Master. Yet he becomes a part of the group lead by Partibhan, which undertakes journey to Ganpatipule on foot. They do not carry a single penny with them and live on alms. In return they agree to do some chores for their benefactor. On this journey they meet people with different temperaments. They touch each other lives and elevate to another plane. Partibhan emerges as a spiritually evolved person in this journey. But there are some who are apprehensive about Partibhan. They believe Partibhan is a charlatan. Again Partibhan has his skeletons of his past buried inside the cupboard. Is Partibhan indeed a charlatan? Are Sanjeev’s apprehensions true? To find an answer to these questions you will have to read the book the Quest of the Sparrows.

When it comes to writing the book is extremely well written. The editing is clean and the pace keeps you hooked to the story. Lines like ‘Being spiritual doesn’t mean one has to be indifferent. Sometimes, controlled anger is necessary to check injustice,’ indeed do offer a new spiritual insight.

But the novel falls off-track with Sanjeev and Partibhan’s past, and our journey to Ganpatipule is abandoned midway. I believe the novel would have been class apart if the authors had chosen to stick to the Ganpatipule foot journey alone. Not doing so makes this novel just an average read.


Monday, 4 September 2017

The Life of Hinduism

The Life of Hinduism is a montage of classic essays on Hinduism. The book almost touches every aspect of the revered religion or way of life, whichever term you like to use. The book is divided into eight parts.
In the first part Worship idol worship, fasts and discovery of Vrindavan are dealt with. In the following part The Life Cycle, the menace of child marriage is discussed. It tells us how divorce and remarriage is easier in so called lower strata’s of the society, while the higher caste widows are expected to lead a lonely life without a partner. It is in this part that the most exciting essay in the collection features. Titled Death and beyond Death: The Ochre Robe, many esoteric secrets are shared in this marvellous write up. This essay builds a suspense, intrigues you and towards the end even offers some solace.

In the part Festival, Diwali and Holi are discussed. Being an Indian I didn’t find anything interesting about these essays for I have been celebrating these festivals throughout my life.

Another part of the collection which sparkles is Performance. Ramlila, TV serial Ramayan and possession by deities feature in this part. It is interesting to know about Ramnagar’s famous Ramlila and its distinctiveness. The author of this essay views it not only from her own eyes but also through that of ordinary peasants who have assembled for the Ramlila. In every part of India we have seen many women and a few men who claim to have been possessed by God and Goddesses. Here the author quotes the reason why deities like Vishnu and Shiva never posess anyone. She narrates how cults are formed by these godmen and women and their clashes, at times fights with each other.

In the section called Gurus we meet Anandmayi Ma and Radhasoami. With Anandmayi Ma, the Goddess first time came in the form of a woman and women felt secure in her company for even then there was no dearth of Godmen who exploited the poor, illiterate women. Though Ma kept on telling that God was present everywhere including the devotees, she was exalted to the status of God.

In the caste section, Ravidas, his poetry and politics surrounding it find mention. A Brahmin Woman : Revenge Herself by Lalitambika Antarjanam is a bold short story. Here she discusses sensitive issues like sexuality. Indeed the author was much ahead of her times.

Diaspora section is about building of a temple in United States with the help from Tirupati Devasthanam. In the section identity, the Ayodhya dispute finds mention. Ironically this chapter also tells us about many places where Hindus and Muslims pray alongside, and even together.

These essays are well researched scholarly works, and it is a pleasant surprise that they are interesting and not insipid pieces of research. This book, backed with solid study and fine equilibrium is not to be missed for sure.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Listening for Well-Being - Book Review


How would you feel if you entered the cinema hall seeing the poster of a Salman Khan film and instead of a blockbuster masala film, an insipid government documentary was dished out on your face. You may say this contingency is not likely to occur. Well something on the similar lines happened when I picked up Listening for Well-Being Conversations with People Not Like Us.

The catchy title had increased my expectations. I wanted to learn to how to listen to people who are not like me. That is exactly what the title promised right. After skimming through the initial few pages, I thought that perhaps the style of the writer was different from other self-help books. But after reading further, I realized that I was wrong.

The author simply seems to have forgotten that a book is meant for the readers. Absorbed and lost in his own days of planning commission, he simply misses to forge any sort of connect with his readers.

This book is neither a self-help book nor is it an interesting memoir. Enter it at your own risk, is all that I can say.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Greatest Urdu Stories Ever Told

The Greatest Urdu Stories Ever Told is undoubtedly a gathering of the finest stories I have ever read. There are twenty five stories in this collection. The introduction to the book by the translator is also worth being treasured. It offers hereto unknown insights about Urdu stories. I knew Munshi Premchand as one of the greatest writers in Hindi. The introduction told me that he is the first professional short story writer in Urdu. Now, this completely shattered the image of the man who portrayed poverty in most of his poignant works.

The story which I liked the most is Beyond the Fog by Qurratulain Hyder. Until now for me short stories were good only if they had a very strong emotional content. I don’t mean to say that the aforesaid story lacks it. But this story of rags to riches of a sweeper woman’s daughter is packed with entertainment quotient. I could not control the mirth which aroused after reading this story. This story for me is a course in story telling itself. Purists may prune it aside saying this story tells and doesn’t show. But as a reader I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Toba Tek Singh another story in the collection by Saddat Hasan Manto narrates the plight of lunatics in an asylum in pre-partition India. On partition the Hindu lunatics will be swapped for the Muslim lunatics in India. This story is quest of a lunatic to know on which side of the border his town Toba Tek lies. Premchand’s The Shroud is different from the rest of his work that I have read. This story if of two lazy men, a father and son. They strangulate the humanity by feasting upon the funeral expenses of the wife of the son. Obscure Domains of Fear and Desire by Naiyer Masud demonstrates how the mind both desires and undesires the desires. In Rajinder Singh Bedi’s Laajwanti the wife who has returned from her captor says. ‘He never hurt me. And yet I was afraid of him. You used to beat me, but I never felt scared of you.’

Banished is another jewel in this collection by Jamila Hashmi. In this story set amidst the turbulent times of partition, Sitaji accepts the life with Ravan. Anandi by Ghulam Abbas shows how remote areas turn into magnificent suburbs. The Saga of Jaanki Raman Pandey is another masterpiece in this collection. This is a tale of Muslim junior wife of a Hindu and the walls that stand between them, the walls which are not pulled down even after his death.

A startling fact about this collection is that the stories sound very contemporary, even after years of their publication. In the Fable of a Severed Head by Sajid Rashid, a family is left with a tough choice, whether to admit that the head is of a family member, who the police say was a terrorist. The Vultures of Parsi Cemetery by Ali Imam Naqvi reflects how humanity is dying on the streets. The Tree by Tassaduq Sohail is about a tree which thinks there is nothing after death. I really liked this story for its treatment.

Ismat Chughtai’s Of Fists and Rubs is a hard hitting tale about botched up abortions carried out at home. Poignancy, disgust, anger, disbelief all this welled up inside my chest while reading this story.

Yes some of the stories are too prosaic and difficult to comprehend, yet they are outnumbered by stories which are literary marvels. I knew Urdu literature was rich. But this book told me that it is prosperous beyond my imagination. This book is surely not to be missed.