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Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Secret Diary of Kasturba - Book Review

Neelima Dalmia Adhar’s the secret diary of Kasturba is not about Mahatma Gandhi, it is about the man called Gandhi. This book tells story of Gandhi’s family life from the perspective of his wife Kasturba. Gandhi, his ideology, his political struggle also forms a part of the book. But that is just a backdrop. At one place Kasturba says, ‘How paradoxical was the situation! The entire nation revered Bapu, as the chosen one, the greatest liberator of the oppressed classes, but the injustice that his own family faced at the hands of their messiah, needed to be exposed.’ These lines carry the gist of the book.

The secret diary of Kasturba starts with the birth of Kastur and Monhandas. It takes us on a journey to Gujarat, Africa, Maharashtra and many other places. Needless to say this journey is not just about places, it is also about people and more importantly it is a journey within. Surprisingly her diary continues even after her death, until Mohandas dies. The book articulates the insecurities of a young bride very well. Harilal, the eldest son of the couple is the tragic hero of the book. The author brings to life his vagaries through her way with words. Your heart goes out for him and you feel that Gandhi did injustice to his family.

The book tells us everything about Gandhi in a nutshell. It tells us that Gandhi was against intercaste and interfaith marriages. It speaks of Gandhiji’s relationship with Sarala Devi. It says, ‘Mohandas treated Sarala Devi as his spiritual wife, after an intellectual wedding, and he openly claimed that he bathed in her deep affection as she showered her love on him in every possible way.

To call the book as the Secret Diary of Kasturba would be inappropriate. She writes about incidents, people who she was obviously not aware of on that given date in her diary. Also as stated earlier her diary continues even after her death. At the most it can be called a story told through Kasturba’s eyes but certainly not her diary. Also at places the writing is scattered. Some links are missing. I was unable to understand how a young Kastur who is driven out of her marital home on charges of infidelity returns to her husband.

Yet on some points the book scores very well. Gandhi-Harilal conflict is the high point of this book. It is heart-wrenching, poignant and even entertaining. That is the sole reason why I recommend this book.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Aspire before you expire - book review

I did not find the title Aspire before you expire interesting. I even found its cover unattractive, repelling. I did not expect much from the book. But this book pleasantly surprised me.

The book begins with an internal scan. The author asks the readers to write about their aspirations, strengths and achievements. In the second chapter he discusses why these aspirations were killed. He says that achievers decide to go ahead, come what may, never give up, face mishaps and take life as it comes. The book contains some of the techniques like writing an obituary, a ten year ahead introduction. The author also discusses the characteristics which keep away people from success.

I really liked the chapter in which the author cites six revolutionary habits for success. In this chapter he tells us about one goal one day, 1 hour highway thinking for every 15 days and one decision day every month. Success is accompanied by stress. The book also offers techniques to manage stress. I liked the art of ignoring suggested by the author. I liked the quote of M F Hussain Youth and enthusiasm are matters of heart mentioned at the opening of one of the chapters. The author also teaches us how to handle mood swings. To control anger, the author says be more logical for logic kills anger.

I liked this book because it covers almost every aspect of our personality and life. Success in terms of the author is success in all walks of life. Some of the techniques discussed in the book are new. They will help us to review our life before it is too late. This is indeed a book not to be missed.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

One Indian Girl- book review

Chetan Bhagat’s much anticipated One Indian Girl is a love triangle. The protagonist Radhika isn’t fair. She doesn’t have an hour glass figure either. She is a nerd. But as an associate with the Goldman Sachs New York office, she earns 2,70,000 dollars a year. When converted to Indian currency it is 1 crore and 50 lakh rupees. Her mother is worried about her marriage. After all who would marry a girl who isn’t fair, beautiful and homely, and more particularly earns a lot more than the boy.

Oblivious to her mother, Radhika has a live-in boyfriend Debashish Sen aka Debu. But he earns much less than her. He feels insecure and an Abhimaan made into a book unfolds. Debu tells Radhika that a career oriented girl like her wouldn’t make a good mother. He walks out of the relationship. A hurt Radhika decides to resign from the job. Her superiors advise her against it and offer to transfer her to Hong Kong Office. She takes up the offer as that gives her an opportunity to go away from New York where every nook and corner reminds her of Deb.

Neel Gupta is a partner at the Special Situations Group in the Hong Kong office. He is twenty years older to Radhika, married and a father of two. Radhika and Neel get attracted to each other. They have an affair. Soon Radhika realizes that this relationship holds no future. She tells Neel that she too wants a marriage and kids. Neel says that these futile things are not meant for a career oriented girl like Radhika and she should better concentrate on her career. Even this relation doesn’t work. Again Radhika resigns and again she is offered a transfer instead of resignation. She accepts it and lands in London.

Radhika’s mother pesters her to have a look at the proposals which she has shortlisted for her. After much persuasion she agrees to marry Brijesh Gulati who works for Facebook. They have a destination wedding at Goa.

Both Deb and Neel gate crash her marriage ceremony. While Deb has realized his mistake, Neel too has divorced his wife. Both of them want to marry Radhika. Radhika refuses to marry either of them. She even cancels her marriage with Brijesh. She meets Brijesh after a couple of months and realizes that he is the man who accepts her the way she is. The novel ends here.

This is for the first time that Chetan has written in the voice of a woman and he does a decent job. His Radhika isn’t that dress-me-up kind of baby doll. Yes, she tries to fit, albeit unsuccessfully, into that image. Lines like why aren’t white-skinned people called rice-ish and my feminism didn’t go anywhere, my masculinity did, make the novel an interesting read.

Radhika shouting at her mother and her mother telling her that she call whenever, end whenever and shout whenever for she is her mother depicts the dynamics of mother-child relationship very well. Chetan captures such moments very beautifully. In another scene when Radhika asks Deb to switch off the TV, he just mutes it. Also the scene where the air-hostess serves Radhika, she feels that this how wives serve their husbands and yearns to have a wife is crafted very well.

What I didn’t like about the book is the fat Punjabi wedding backdrop. We have seen it in numerous bollywood films and even a few books. Why can’t we have a wedding from any other State? Also at places the book abruptly enters into a different territory. The transition between the three stories should have been smoother.

But yes the book brings the dilemma of the Indian girl to the fore. Though it tactfully refrains from offering any solution. At one place the protagonist says that you go to see a much hyped Salman Khan or Shahrukh Khan movie. The movie isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. The same stands true about One Indian girl.

Monday, 3 October 2016

The patient patient

Sameer aka Sam is in his junior college. That’s when he is diagnosed of cancer. The patient patient is the story of how he fights the dreaded disease. At one place in the novel one of the characters says that in English the word patient has two meanings and cancer tests you on both of them. Hence the title the patient patient.

The author Tushar Rishi is himself a cancer survivor. This novel is based on his own experiences. But this book is not a sob story. Rather it is a story of courage, hope and a stroke of destiny. It is sparkling work of grace. Many people have written about their maladies. But this book is very much unlike them. It is the most positive book which I have read.

At the same time the author’s tryst with the disease adds credulity to the narration. The way he creates a private and a government hospital in front of us is simply brilliant. You can feel the interiors, the patients and even the pipes pierced through their bodies. His co-fighters too come across as real people, again with tremendous optimism. He lays bare the hospital culture. He states that private hospitals may have state of art facilities, but when it comes to expertise of the doctors, there is no match to government hospitals.

I liked the following lines from the book ‘When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.’ ‘You’ll have to learn to enjoy whatever comes your way! Life is always beautiful; you just have to look at it differently.’ ‘I would like to tell all my fellow patients, don’t fear a good peaceful death. Fear a bad chaotic life.’

The book is simply flawless. It is hard to believe that this is the first book of the writer. Sam and his relationship with his parents comes across as real. I always say nothing works like honesty. This honestly written book is a page turner. This poignant tale entertains you and at the same time teaches many things about life. This book is a must read. Don’t miss it.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Dil hai ke manta nahin

I am disappointed. Disappointments are painful. But when your spouse disappoints you, your whole life appears to be meaningless and futile. ‘You are not the only one. They are so many couples who are totally incompatible, who are simply not made for each other.’ One of my aunts told me. ‘Then?’ I asked her. ‘Then they have children and they live together thereafter.’ ‘Happily?’ I asked thinking that my aunt had skipped the word. ‘That I am not sure of.’ She said shrugging her shoulders.

When it comes to the world outside we don’t have many expectations. Even if we harbour some, the resultant disappointment is not that painful. But when it comes to a family member, the disappointment gives rise to a range of emotions – anger, grief, feeling of being cheated and over all meaninglessness of life.

But sooner or later we have to come to terms with it. Who doesn’t know this? But the mind plays all its games. It does not readily accept the fact.

Yes the relationship may not be working the way I want, but there are so many things to be happy about. My books give me so much of happiness. Reading about others lives, especially their sufferings, gives me immense pleasure, may be sadistic. But I feel better. My bent of mind is more towards sorrowful tales. I don’t enjoy comic writing much.

When life takes away something from you, it gives many things in return. Meditations, yoga are immensely calming. So are strolls in the cold weather of early morning and late nights. The sounds are minimal. Apart from one or two vehicles, there is not a soul to be heard. The cold air caresses my skin. It gives a feel good feeling. Yes feeling. Feeling good is after all a feeling and we should be able to create it for ourself. Why to depend upon others? May be external stimulus like books, yoga and walks should be the only things which should be resorted to for feeling good. But what to do yeh dil hai ke manta nahin.