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Sunday, 31 August 2014

zen and the Art of Happiness Book review

This small book running into 142 pages is based on the premise that “Everything that happens to me happens so that I can be benefited to the maximum amount possible.”

I kept on reminding myself the aforesaid lines all the time while I was reading the book. I had picked the book in a hope to divulge into the Zen philosophy. Zen and the Art of Happiness has a Zen in its name and has sprinkled quotes by Buddha and Tao here and there. But it not a book on Zen philosophy. It is a typical American self-help book. Yes, the same kind of stuff which assures to make you smart in 7 days and increase your memory in 30 days. It quotes Vivekananda more than once. Vivekananda’s contribution is towards Vedanta philosophy. Though Zen too has its roots in India, there is a stark difference between Zen and Vedanta. The book also quotes a Tamil poem.

So the book tells again that you are what you think. The philosophy that all that happens is for the best, may be new to the Western people, but we Easterners have been hearing it since our childhood. It also tells that everything comes at the appointed time. Again, this is an integral part of  our mental makeup. Even our Bollywood movies have dialogues to that effect. Any Tom, Dick and Harry will mouth dialougues like, “Jo hota hai ache ke liye hota hai” and “Waqt se pehle aur kismet se jyada na kisiko mila hai na milega.”

Still the book has some silver linings. It tells today’s materialistic youth that happiness cannot be linked to possessions. Yes, our youngsters may not appreciate this pearl of wisdom when it comes from our own grandparents. But when an American author who has written a dozen books on Chinese philosophy and personal growth says so, it has every likelihood of being taken seriously.

Like  any other self-help book, this book too speaks about forgiveness, positive thinking and using the tool of imagination. Like any junk book on spirituality it speaks about choosing your response, stress reduction, change management, forgiveness and of course living in the moment.

Once you accept that the book doesn’t offer anything about Zen, you will definitely appreciate the author for his writing style. He writes in a simple manner and quotes everyday situations which are easy to relate. Having overcome the disappointment of not getting to read much about Zen, once you start reading it, you will not keep it down until you have finished reading it. The book is a good primer for our adolescents to equip them to venture out in the real world. Lines like “The Universe always strikes at your weakest point, because that’s what most needs strengthening,” “The angry man will defeat himself in battle as well as in life” and “Happiness is being happy with what you have,” definitely have the potential of bringing out a change of heart, even if it is only for a few minutes. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Private India boook review

Private India is a suspense thriller.  It all begins with a series of murders. The victims are only women. The murderer strangulates them with hand woven yellow scarves alike to those which were used by the erstwhile thugs. The murderer also leaves trinkets on the corpses. They point to the nine forms of Durga. The murderer is against womanhood. Why? It has all to do with his/her  mother, principal, pop singer, judge, cosmetic surgeon, journalist, politician, yoga teacher and a cop.
Private India is a private investigation agency. Its head is Santosh who is always in a dilemma what should take precedence- work or whisky. His assistants are Nisha, Mubeen and Hari. His boss is Jack.

Private India takes good hundred pages to build the plot and takes off smoothly thereafter ensuring that you are riveted to your seat. Private India is definitely above average. But still it will disappoint you. Why? Private India is actually Private Mumbai.The novel does not move to any other part of India. The series has got Private LA, Private London, Private Berlin. Then why not Private Mumbai? It does not even explore Mumbai properly. It comes with the same stereotypes which we have come across in novels like Shantaram and Q & A. There is Dharavi and Kamathipura with all its sufferings. So there is a pimp who chews paan. There is a newspaper editor who smokes. There is a gangster who wears heaps of gold and runs the cricket spot betting racket. Not to forget a tobacco chewing cop who has good relations with him. There is a godman who is involved in many illegal activities.. There is amputing of kids for their use as beggars by the begging syndicate. Plus there is ISI a Pakistani terrorist outfit which derives support from a local Muslim doctor. Haven’t we seen all of them n number of times in our very own bollywood movies?

How does Rupesh, the cop, go to jail and enlarge Hari without any court order is a big question? Moreover the writers seem to be unaware that in our country no person can be detained in jail or released from jail without an order of Court. In today’s age it is difficult to believe that there is only one store in Mumbai which is selling the black buckled shoe. There is no explanation as to how Santosh recognizes Firoze Quadri. The murderer calls up the newspaper editor. His soliloquies tell us that he/she is murdering women for publicity.  At the end however we discover that he/she was doing it for very personal reasons. The soliloquies are not only boring but not in sync with the character. Even the prologue of 2006 bomb blasts in the trains is totally misleading. It has nothing to do with the story in hand. The thug connection does not evolve anywhere. How can a girl who has been brought up in a Parsi orphanage with a Christian matron be obsessed with forms of a Hindu goddess? Why does Rupesh see every dead woman naked and ravished? He did not have only sexual feelings towards the woman whom he had lost to our whiskey boy Santosh. There is no scientific evidence to say that gender reassignment surgeries make  a woman strong like a man. Why would a cosmetic surgeon who is best at her job do trivial acts like blackmailing a spa owner that too in a distant land?

The lines like “The fact that one woman’s hobby could often be another woman’s hubby” and “Men who are active in their professional lives tend to be equally active in their personal lives” do entertain. But those were the only two lines which were comical. I know it is a suspense novel and not a humorous one. But if they are sprinkled at two places, they could have been used at more places as well.

In suspense novels the reader knows that the person towards whom the needle of suspicion points is never the culprit. The reader knows that someone who is the last to be suspected is going to be the offender. All that he looks for is some plausible reasoning for his act by joining all the dots together. Unfortunately Private India falters there.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

House redone in an ethnic / royal style

I have always dreamed of living in a palace. Yes, heritage hotels do offer that luxury. But it is for a limited time. So I decided to redo my house in an ethnic style. I wanted to give little touches which will give me the regal feeling of living in a palace. Thanks to, which came to my help. It is one stop shop for household products. It helps in making the transition from house to home. In my case it was from my home to my palace. Palace is all about living a comfortable, luxurious life. Live life king-size, isn’t it? So let us go to my bedroom or Khwabgah which literally means room to dream.
Little India Jaipuri Lady Bani Thani Wooden Jharokha
Would a palace be complete without a Jharokha, offering glimpse of all the happenings to the royalty? This elegantly crafted wooden frame, with its beautiful carvings and etchings, as well as the photo poster of the  traditional Rajasthani lady popularly known as Bani-Thani it carries, will instantly turn walls of my spartan home into a palace. Little things make a huge difference you see. Whenever, my eyes will fall upon this wall hanging adorning my wall, I will be reminded of my regal lineage.
Silver Indian Traditional Lamp
Lighting plays an important role in the look of the room. The silver lamp looks like a traditional lamp, but is actually an electric lamp. All the splendor of that splendid bygone era and all the comfort of modernity is embodied in it. In the night my bedroom will bathe with its soothing dim light, like a marble palace does on a full moon day. In case, I require more light, its covered top can be removed. Isn’t that amazing?
Me Sleep Red Monument Digitally Printed Cushion Cover
Raja Ravi Verma and his masterpieces are a treasure for art lovers. I have the luxury of having Raja Ravi Verma’s muse Saguna on my cushion cover. The cherry on the cake is that she is accompanied by a magnificent historic edifice. Thanks to for turning my ordinary, mundane life into that of a member of a royal family. 

This post is a part of Makemyhome activity at

Friday, 15 August 2014

Rise of the Sun Prince book review

When every child in India knows the story of Ramayana since it was in its mother’s womb, writing a book on Ramayana is no less than lifting the Shivadhanusha. Shubha Vilas lifts it quite successfully in his first book on Ramayana known as Rise of the Sun Prince. Shubha knowing that everyone already knows the story, gives his book a startling start. When the book starts Sita is already in the Walmiki’s Ashram. By this masterstroke Shubha hooks the readers to the known story with his different treatment. The book tells many little known facts. I did not know what is the meaning of Ram until I read the book. I did not know that the monkeys in the vanar sena were actually demigods reincarnated. For the first time I came to know that Ravana means one who makes other cry. Did you know that Kubera, yes the same one who is treasurer of demigods, is Ravana’s step brother? Why does Kumbhakarna sleep all the time? If you are interested in such mythological tidbits, then Rise of the Sun Prince will surely delight you.

Rise of the Sun Prince is basically the Bal Kanda. The bal or child here is neither Ram or his siblings. It is actually Sage Vishwamitra. It traces his growth in devotion or bhakti.

Ramayana itself is all about lessons of morality. Shubha keeps the narrative akin to a pravachan in a Ram Katha. His writing style is simple, lucid and easy to comprehend.  Just see how beautifully he describes Dasharatha’s reluctance when Vishwamitra asks Rama’s help to kill the demons. “Vishwamitra viewed Rama as an unpolished diamond and himself as the jeweler who had the tools to polish that diamond. Unfortunately, the jeweler did not own the diamond, and the one who owned it could not see the radiance it could emit on being polished.” His commentary, underlining the moral lesson, comes in the form of footnotes. You can perfectly identify with adages like combined strength can enhance individual capabilities. Another comes in the form of peer pressure faced by Vibhishan. Can you imagine mythological characters feeling peer pressure like today’s adolescents. The book is full of such references in an attempt to make the age old Ramayana contemporary.  The footnotes gel so well with the narrative that you wonder why the footnotes were not incorporated in the narrative itself. There are footnotes on almost every page. It is troublesome to read the foot note and again revert back to the narrative. Shubha successfully incorporates boxes for laws of sharing, dependence, balance, awareness, trusteeship, discrimination, self control and the principles of marriage. The same could have been done for the foot notes as well if he wanted to keep the story and the commentary apart.

Though the blurb of the book claims to tell the story of a little known stone maiden, she is none other than the well known Ahilya or Ahalya as spelt in the book. So the stone maiden which in a way is made highlight of the book isn’t the one. The highlight of the book is the tussle between Vishwamitra and Vasistha. This part involving Trishanku along with these two mighty teachers indeed brings out a little known story which can give fast paced thrillers run for their money. The book has one or two Sholkas in Sanskrit here and there. They give you feel that you are reading an ancient text. At the same time Shubha has refrained overusing them, which is a good sign as most of us don’t know the language and conveniently skip them to read the English meaning given beneath them.

Shubha’s book comes with a magnificent cover. It is hard to take your eyes away from the colourful cover. The book drifts away from many known facts as well. So there is no mention of Anjani, Hanuman’s mother, sharing a part of the divine dessert which impregnated wives of Dasharatha. There is no Sita Swayamwar. As a result there is no Ravana’s failure to pick up the bow. There are couple of imaginary scenes like Rama and Lakshmana trying their archery skills on a woman’s nose ring and Rama throwing a mud ball on Manthara as a five year old child. It is said that the latter incident deepened Manthara’s hatred for Rama. This is unheard of. There is no any reference given for the same. Another line in the book “ The most prominent demigods were made captives to cut vegetables in Ravana’s kitchen,” made me laugh aloud. The writer describing Rama and Sita’s love at first sight, did not appeal to me. He has described the first sight and the resultant uneasiness of the love smitten Divine couple in a very filmy way.

This book, the first in the series, tells the story of Lord Rama from His birth up to His marriage. The book contains a preview of the next part in the form its first chapter. The  book describes the 24 qualities that make a true hero as told by Narada muni as an appendix.

In Shubha’s own words Rise of the Sun Prince, is essentially about fighting grave internal battles and overcoming great odds to emerge victorious and become exemplary. Let me make a confession here. While I was reading this book, my reaction towards those whom I had termed selfish, liars and untrustworthy completely changed. I cooperated them ignoring their shortcomings. So I give full marks to Shubha for bringing out this change of heart through his commentaries. 

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

A Date with a Bollywood Star review

Mills & Boons novel in Indian setting was an interesting proposition. Though the terms like bindi, halwa are sprinkled here and there, the writer duo, who go by pen name Riya Lakhani, have set their novel in England.

The heroine Rani, is a twenty five year old journalist of Indian origin working for the London Review. The hero is her teenage heartthrob, Bollywood superstar Omar Khan, who is of Pakistani origin and lives all the time in London. The story ( I know no one is interested in knowing the story of a Mills & Boons novel as everyone knows it. Still I go ahead) is that Rani gets late for her interview with the Bollywood star, get her leg twisted and literally falls for her hero. 

On the very next day our hero asks for a night out and tells her that he is in search of a ghost writer for his autobiography, though doesn’t tell her that he has fixed her for the job. On the very next day he takes her to his Gregorian Villa for a brunch. She gives up her job and moves in with him albeit only for professional purposes viz. writing of his autobiography.

No wonders the professional goal turns into personal and they end up in bed. Only after having a good time there, does Rani discover that the thirty eight year old star is already married. So then come few misunderstandings, financial problems and parental opposition. Finally the father has a change of heart and they have a grand wedding. Now as regards the writing style is concerned in the initial few pages the complex sentences make the comprehension difficult. Much words are devoted to describe the tea lover heroine’s kitchen.  For example see how do the following sentences sound. “Just as Rani stretched their arms as far as they could go without actually letting go Omar tugged back towards him like a yo-yo, spinning her back into his arms.” and “It wasn’t what Rani had expected, but then she wasn’t sure what to expect; even in the short time she’d known him it was hard to second-guess what was going to happen next.” Fortunately as the novel progresses such complex sentences reduce in number. However there comes the contender for bad sex in novels category with “Omar was standing so close to her, his award-winning bottom just an inch away from her. She was overcome with a desire to grab it in both hands.” 

As regards the story is concerned the raw end of Omar’s mother remains raw till the end. We only know that she is dead. In commercial novels like these the readers should be told in unequivocal words as to whether she was an orphan or a prostitute. The change of heart of Rani’s doctor father is also illogical. Most importantly there are no sparks in Rani-Omar relationship. Where the novel scores is it lives to the expectation of catering to a teenage girl's fantasies. The novel can be termed as an average. Not bad at all for Indian Mills & Boons which gave us a nightmare called Secrets and Saris.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Back in time

What if I would be five years old again? My first thoughts were I don’t want to lose all my independence by becoming five years old again. I don’t want to cry for a toffee which costs not more than a rupee. I don’t want to go to bed, when I am not feeling sleepy. I don’t want instructions from adults telling me what to do and what not to do. I don’t want others to take all important decisions of my life. I don’t want to become five years old again. 

But on second thoughts I feel that being five years old again, would give me an opportunity to unlearn many things which I learnt as a part of growing up. I would again reprogram myself. I would tell myself that what others say is not that important, but what I feel is the most important. Yes, I would certainly dance to the tunes of latest bollywood numbers and recite poems taught to me, when my parents demand my performance in front of guests and relatives who come to our home. But I will do so for the joy of dancing and singing. I will not let my idea of success link with what others say. I will study sincerely but will not take my studies too seriously. There are many other things than studies which are important in life. 

I will watch the beautiful colours of butterflies and paint them in my drawing books. I will urge the fairy who meets me in stories to keep in touch with me even when I grow up and let me feel the magic in daily life. Being five years old again, I will notice any stray getting wet in the rains and finding shelter beneath the car. It appears beautiful to me. I will pester my parents to carry it home.  I pray that I carry this empathy, this intensity forever with me, no matter how much I grow up. I wish to learn early in my life that my differentness is my asset and not a weakness. I wish when I become five years old again, I get transported again to that era when I was indeed five years old. So there will be no obsession for selfies and facebook likes. I will be able to drop unannounced in any household and ask them to give me to eat whatever I can lay my eyes upon. I will see again the joy on my mother’s face and tears in her eyes when she opens the inland letter which she has received from her mother, my grandmother.  Most importantly why I want the entire world to go back along with me is that I want to spend some more time with my father, who has been snatched away from me by time. I wish going back again will give me an opportunity to sit again on his lap and kiss his stubbled cheek, just to tell him how much I love him. 

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.