Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Crossed & Knotted - India's First Composite Novel

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Disclaimer: This review has not been commissioned by the Author even though I wish it was :D But Amazon! You have killed my profession.

India's first composite novel
Sounds very cool yet at the same time I had a slight doubt when I first got this from the publisher Readomania for reviewing. Cool, due to the fact that we are notching up the genres that we present out to the world. On one side if we have embraced the nocturnal creatures and on the other hand, we have Titles to showcase along with The Arabian Nights and The Canterbury Tales. So presenting to the world of 'composite novel' we too have a book on that shelf - Crossed & Knotted. 

And this is exactly where my doubts came in. Are our writers equipped to spin tales which are connected to each other and yet autonomous in their own rights? And that too not one but 14 authors together. That must have been some herculean task. Moreover I was very eager to find out what was the thread that bound the 14 authors together. What made them declare this new venture as a "composite novel"?

The Story:

All the 14 short stories are bound together by their characters. I found that very interesting. As a writer, we often suppress the secondary characters in our stories, limiting ourselves to the POV of our protag. Imagine here. All your secondary character take a life of their own. In short, a small world by itself. 

The Characters:

Keeping in with the true essence of a composite novel, one can truly say that every protag of the short stories has stood out on their own yet merged subtly in the other stories. The novel starts with A Curious Dalliance of Sutapa Basu where we are introduced to Sudip Roy. A simpleton, who wanted to lead a simple,middle class, married life. But when life teaches him about the survival of the fittest, he learns it fast. As an introduction, Sutapa Basu was impactful in drawing the attention of the readers into the novel. 

Sudip's daughter Shivi takes the story further in The Diary of Josheph Varughese by Ayan Pal and the theme of the seemingly perfect murder continues. A character, which a reader had caught the glimpse of comes in front of you in the consecutive chapters. Interesting. 

Reality Bites:

Another fact I noticed in all the stories are the reality bites. From the plane crash in Kotteswaran   (Web of Life by Sanchita Sen Das) to the German Bakery Blast in Mumbai  (For a Speck of a Moment by Amrit Sinha), all the incidents created the backdrop of the stories. Brought back many memories we want to erase yet kept me as reader submerged to the stories. 

Few Mentions:
Since it is an anthology, some are hits and some are misses. That does not reflect on the writers here since all the stories are very well written and equally well edited. ( In today's literary world, a rare phenomena) But here I have to mention one story. Deepti Menon's The Dragon Lady. While all the stories told tales of heart wrenching situations and equally  'crime parfaits', The Dragon Lady, aptly named Kamu, took away the tension that was building up till then. 

"Punishments had no effect on her and she would stride out of the classroom emitting fire through her nostrils."

A very pleasant break from the myriad of crime and punishments. Rightly placed midway of the composite novel as Chapter 9. Kudos to the compiler.Gives the reader the right kind of break to read the upcoming fascinating stories. 

Was it true to the genre?

To a large extent, I would say yes. But one character perplexed me. Binoy, the youngest son of Kamu , the Dragon Lady. He carries two stories on his shoulders, after making an appearance in The Dragon Lady. 'For a Speck Of A Moment' by Amrit Sinha and 'To Ma & Ma, Con Amore!' by Monika Nair. The thread broke for a moment. Binoy got married twice? And if Binita is his first love, why is there no residue of the grief in the second innings? A line or two mentioning his previous love in the story by Monika Nair would have been a great continuity. Especially after a tragedy of such a magnitude had touched his life. A memory will prevail and cannot be ignored.

A very same situation with Meena has been handled very well in the stories 'Look Beyond' by Amar Lakshya Pawar and 'Dawn at Dusk' by Bhuwaneshwari Shankar. That is what a reader would expect for Binoy too. 


The last chapter 'The Last Act' by Arpita Banerjee gave the novel a closure. The novel ended with the character it had started with. I liked the concept of the "full circle" but there were two things that did not work with me here. Firstly, monologue of the man on a 'deathbed; and the duplicity of the doctor. It felt too contrived. Specially with Pragya being a doctor. Moreover, it appeared unethical and did not gell well with the character of the doctor. 

Would I recommend the book ?

Yes. Most definitely. Don't expect it to be a one time read or a light read. You will be drawn into the stories and will often find yourself going back and forth, to find out who appeared in which story. Sort of like an actor in a  special appearance in a movie and you will soon find yourself cheering when one of the characters in a previous story, who had left a mark on you, reappearing again. Powerful. 

Line that Stayed with me ...

Her soul gave up a silent prayer: May all the victims of the Kotteswaran air tragedy, at least, find loving families and happy peaceful lives in this this birth.
The Web of Life by Sanchita Sen Das
Amen to that! Lets wish the same for the  victims of Nepal Earthquake Tragedy.  


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

24 League Under The -err--- Pool?

Sigh! Could have been me :(
Google Image 

If anyone dares to laugh at me, you will be sued. And with that banderole firmly placed in my heart, I decided to learn how to swim.

Not a big deal I know but then, you all don't know me. I have a vivid imagination. *Snicker. Well, my imagination stems from Jaws I.II. and III. Ah yes- also Moby Dick. Capish?

It does not matter how deep the water is. The gurgling, bubbling sounds triggers all sorts of motion pictures in my mind. Believe me, none of them, is good for my heart.

And to that my swimming instructor was a Dutch lady. My tryst with a language is yet another tale to tell. But for now, let me tell you, I can speak fluently in Dutch, especially with those who have no understanding of the language.Capish?

So with my very limited knowledge of the language and absolutely no knowledge regarding the mysteries lurking under the water, I plunged in.

Wrong move. 

I felt the frenzy world under the water closing upon me. Claiming me. Restricting me.


I thrashed. I grabbed a piece of a golden rope floating in front of me and felt the heavy weight of doom taking me down.

A very thrashing, threatening and vocal doom.

My swimming instructor's tresses the clutched in my hands and she was a no happy Rapunzel.

Strong arms grabbed me from behind and even in my worst nightmare, I knew I was the damsel in distress who was just about to meet another Prince Charming. Sigh! What more could the lady who was just on the verge of  buying  her first 'Menopause for Dummies' really want?


"Mevrouw! Je bent stom?" The angry, gruff voices sounded above me.


Strong, masculine palms had started pumping heavily on my chest. This makes me wonder – has anyone ever asked the victim receiving CPR how they actually feel? Sorry PJ. But since I am dying, I am allowed one  PJ. 

"Mevrouw? Can you hear me?"

A tune started gathering momentum in my head. Let me share that with you. 

I fluttered my eyelids. Kajol would have been green with envy if she had seen me there. Anyways, to carry the story further, I gripped his hands. Warm. Strong. Fluttered my eyelids again and shyly opened my eyes to meet a set of thick lashed, grey with tinges of silver, very beautiful feminine eyes. 

The song changed. 

Another dream came crashing down. Clutching the remnants of my dignity, I got up and then decided to - err.. faint. Don't judge me. I  literally had no choice. My instructor was glaring at me from across the pool, her one palm massaging the scalp. Every kid, who had come to learn swimming in that pool along with their parents were openly giggling. Now you tell me what would be better? Walking past them or using the health insurance and calling the ambulance. 

Keeping my eyes tightly shut I let the paramedics escort me out of the swimming area. *smirking. 

3 Years Later...

"Hi, My name is Ina. Do you have a slot for adult swim lesson?" 


Disclaimer : All your best wishes under this post will act as my float. And also keep my instructor in your prayers. Fingers crossed. She will have strong. long hair.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lemon Girl by Jyoti Arora

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Disclaimer: This review has not been commissioned by the Author even though I wish it was :D But Amazon! You have killed my profession.

I had completed Lemon Girl a week ago but was putting off from writing a review as I was not able to decide whether I associated with the character of Nirvi or not. I am a feminist and every female protagonist should stand up for herself, fight her battles and come out as a stronger person. Nirvi is not a black-and-white character where I can say that yes I like this about her and this is how I relate to her. She in fact reminded me a lot of Moll Flanders by Daphne du Maurier and then it striked  me- is this the reaon why I found Nirvi so different. Like Moll, Nirvi is a survivor too. The methods used by her cannot be understood and liked by many of us but that does not mean she's not a survivor. So when I could connect with her, this story opened up for me.

Lemon Girl by Jyoti Arora has all the complexities of love. Desire, want, lust, wanting the forbidden fruit and heartbreak. It's a story about a girl, Nirvi who started out as a simple girl, living with her parents in a protected environment. And then Jyoti hits us with a very poignant question, "how safe are we behind the closed doors of our home?" That unnerved me. That relationship is too close, too pious. But that does not mean we can live as ostriches burying our head in the sand. Jyoti has not overplayed on what had changed in Nirvi's life. But with a subtlety, she has drawn the gory picture of how relationships can change in the blink of an eye. It was very scary moment for me.

From that point of time, Nirvi is looking  for closures. Did she find it in the series of men she stayed with? The most prominent question would be why did she choose this path? Victim's guilt? Survival? At this point of time when Arsh enters her life she is no more the Lemon Girl he had met in the market a few years back. This not only intrigues Arsh but also me as a reader. What had happened in Nirvi's life that changed her so much? As I travel along with Arsh to understand the situation many things come in front of me which makes me question Nirvi's character. The feminist in me revolted and the woman in me understood. Conflicting emotions.

Another character which I particularly liked was that of Tiya. Strong, fighter and standing up for friendship. Her relationship with Arsh would have blossomed into something exquisite had not Arsh obsessed after another woman. I understood Arsh's conflicts but I could not understand why Nirvi would latch up to men when she had so much talent of her own? Why did she not believe in herself? Did her past shape up her character? Should she not  have hated men instead of going after them? These are the various questions that went on playing in my mind as I turned the last page of the book.

Complexities in the Characters:

I found the complexities of the characters very interesting. This is not a linear storytelling where you are rooting for the main character. She is very complex.Till the end I did not know whether I should sympathise with  Nirvi or not. Thankfully she had one saving grace which came out well at the end of the story.

A message to all the parents.

I want to use my this review as a platform to ask all parents to listen to the child. Do not play the blame game. Would Nirvi had a different life if her mother had listened to her? Would a life not been lost, if there was parental guidance? Why are we are quick to criticise, to judge and forget that in between black and white there exists a shade of grey.


Nirvi could have been stronger. She always seems to create a bad situation for herself and then run away. I found Sam snooty but his character was not bad enough for me to accept the fact how Nirvi treated him. What is stopping Nirvi from walking out at any point of time? Sam dispassionate enough not to fight for his love. To portray Nirvi as the victim, the other characters around her should have been villainous enough. This diluted the conflict in the story by small margin.

"She leaned towards Sam, crossed her arms around his neck, ending her words with an emphatic kiss. As her lips touched his, her eyes turned to look at me."
There are moments when I just was about to sympathise with Nirvi, she was introduced to us as-

"And then my mother found me a nice guy. Nice guy for a girl she herself had blamed for wanting in all that was nice and decent. Nice guy for a girl who aimed at dating every guy of her acquaintance. Nice guy for a girl whose favourite challenge had been to steal the love of her own best friend.Well, he indeed was a nice guy. Your lemon girl might have found him a dream. But Nirvi didn't."

Would you recommend this book?

This is not a  one time read. It has many shades which might make you love or hate a character at different points of time. Questions will arise which makes you ponder about the story. But a must read for those who love drama. 

Line that stayed with me:

"When it's time for you to fall in love, even a lemon can become the cause of it. In my case, there where a full dozen of them."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Women In Leadership : Crossing The Threshold

We, the woman of India, talk a lot about women empowerment. Fighting for our rights, feminism, protest against rape and above all equality. But there is another facet which we have to look into. What will happen if all the above are taken away?

WE are intelligent, educated and equally ambitious as men. The women I have chosen were once upon a time a village belle and a housewife till.....

#EveryWomanIsALeader in their own right. This has to be accepted by one and all. We don't want the seat in a public bus - we want the executive chair too. Don't give us provision- just give us our rights.  When rights and dignity are taken away, a simple housewife can protest too. 

My article is not dedicated to any woman in power, for they have many voices behind them. My article is a dedication to that woman who had to rise above her simple existence. She too would get up early in the morning when the sun has just peeped out from behind its cloudy veil. The melodious voice of M. S. Subbulakshmi, echoing in her household, has her humming as she prepares the coffee. Her daily routine starts with pleasing others. The coffee, which she made for the whole family, she has no time to relish while leafing through the morning news. She is the Lakshmi, the Sarasvati of the house. The quiet one – who touches every soul living in that house and one day, when God loves her more she goes away, silently.

There is mourning and then there is moaning – and then she is replaced and the saga continues. This is the lifestyle of most of the middle-class women in India. I know, for my mother was one such woman. Respected in life, missed and replaced in death.

 But what happens when a woman deviates from the path and refuses to accept her daily, quiet existence? Will she become another Bandit Queen? Or will she be called another Kiranjit Ahluwalia? Will she be thrown as an outcast because she dared to raise her voice? Or will she be called a goddess who had challenged her perpetrators? I salute the women who have stood against the society and have shown an equal viciousness in answering the atrocities meted out to them.

My words are not at all a propaganda, that when life becomes tough, pick up the gun and shoot the concerned person. But every woman has a tolerance point in her life and when she can’t take it any more –she wants to fight back. She wants her word to be heard. Thank you for giving us that voice.

Bandit Queen of India
Google Image
For those who don’t know about our Bandit Queen, look up here. I am not judging a person’s actions. Right or wrong, I cannot judge for I was not there. But it makes you think, what made her do it, how did she feel when she pulled the trigger for the first time to shoot one of her rapist. And then- to do it again and again and again. She is a dacoit – a murderer for she has killed many times. But no one uttered a word when they raped  her - again and again and again. This story happened in the 80’s and in the year 2012, the same thing happened with Nirbhaya. How many bandit Queens does the society need today to stop the horrific act of rape? When are we going to progress?

Trailer of the movie The Bandit Queen. Please watch this video at your own discretion. It has foul language and sexual content. 

Kiranjit Ahluwalia
Kiranjit's story can be found here.

An Indian woman living a quiet life in the UK.  An NRI. The famous NRI joke applies to her too – "when in India, they even carry the Biselleri water to the loo." So what made this highly privileged woman pick up a can of kerosene, douse her husband with it; and strike the matchbox?

Again an extreme case of crossing the tolerance point. In the movie Provoke, we catch a glimpse of her life, portrayed by the beautiful Aishwarya Rai Bacchan. But, could anyone feel the pain of this simple, Punjabi girl from Chakkalal? What must have she felt when every night she was the victim of marital abuse? 

Why must a woman be pushed to that extreme? Shouldn't her voice be heard before she loses her every sense of right and wrong? Why must death with a cause for acceleration of any law? After a tragedy strikes, the whole society wakes up to do a ‘peace march’ in front of the Parliament. Isn't it high time that when a woman complaints – it is looked into.

Under no circumstances can one say that this happens only in India. It is an international problem. It is a problem faced by every women, irrespective of their country, colour or status. We have already lost too many Jia Khans, Persis Khambattas and Jyoti Singhs.

Trailer of the Movie Provoked, which was based one Kiranjit's life.

Do not let women turn into Bandit Queens and Kiranjit Ahluwalia. Enough is Enough.

Do you think #EveryWomanIsALeader, if so then do take part in this inspiering competion Women In Leadership at How will women shape the future? Check out all the rules here. Share your ideas on how to empower, engage and elevate woman and you might win an all-paid trip to an exciting destination. Do join this movement. 

Click on the image to go to their website.

Friday, April 24, 2015

#ATOZCHALLENGE: Letter N : Nemesis: The Avenging Goddess

Nemesis depicted holding a scale of justice: 2 nd or 3rd CE
The story of Nemesis bears an uncanny resemblance to the Hindu Goddess Saraswati. While Saraswati accepted her fate, Nemesis wanted retribution. Another feature that I found very similar between the two is the presence of the Swan. Why this bird is present in both the stories is something I'm yet to understand.

With the last thunder, shooting across the sky, Zeus loomed over the curled up figure of a trembling woman and looked at her triumphantly. "It was worth the wait."

Her trembling stopped and every muscle of her body tensed up as she turned to face her perpetrator, clutching the silken linnen close to her naked heart. "You will pay for what you done to me," she spitted  out.

The mighty Zeus roared in laughter and throwing a mocking salute at her, he shimmered away.

The young girl, Nemesis cried her heart out – feeling betrayed by the man whom she should have trusted the most. From that day on, Nemesis knew only one pain and that was the pain of betrayal. She roamed the world as the goddess of retribution, punishing those who  seemed to have everything or whom she suspected had more than what they deserved. In her fury, she punished a few innocent souls too. One of them being Echo. Seeing Nemesis in such a state her mother, the goddess of Night, Nyx, paid her a visit.

"You have got to get a grip on your pain," said Nyx quietly. "I understand what you are going through and I'm not, under any circumstances, belittling your pain. But punishing the innocent is not going to reduce your torment."

"But he is my....," a sob chocked Nemesis from speaking further. Nyx quickly came forward and hugged her. 

"Shush baby shush! It's over. It's in the past."

Her words instead of pacifying the angry goddess made her move furious as she whirled around to face a mother, "is it over, mother? Is it? How will I explain to the world about the child that is going to come to this world soon?"

Nyx studied for some time and then smiled, "don't you understand. This was meant to be. Whatever has happened to you is because you have to bear this child. Your daughter will change the fate of human history for centuries to come."

Nemesis turned to face her mother, surprised.

"Yes dear. My granddaughter is going to born to bring down hundreds of men with her beauty. Even our mighty Zeus cannot achieve such a feat."

After many days a smile brightened Nemesis's face. Her eyes glittered in anticipation as the hands trained slowly till her navel. "And what shall we call the little one?" She asked in wonderment.

Nyx cupped her daughter's face gently between her palms and said, "Helen."

Note : 
In Greek and Roman mythology, nemesis was the goddess of retribution. She usually appears the Myths and the personification of Justice. She was pursued relentlessly by Zeus and she changed many forms trying to escape him. Ultimately, he transformed himself into a swan and seduces her.



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

#ATOZCHALLENGE: Letter M : Maenads- The Intoxicated Maidens

Dance of the Maenards. A Fresco by Pippi de' Giamuzzi, Italy
The flowers bloomed yellow, purple and every hue of pink and green like a fresco designed by mother nature herself. Tiny bluebirds and red Robins chirped amongst the beautiful maidens fluttering around the stretches of wildflowers. Sensual, free and bold the Maenads danced around, forgetting who they were and dancing with an abandonment that only the mistresses of Dionysus were capable of.

In the centre, sat the wine God Dionysus seemingly enthralled at the merrymaking that went around him. He was happy for he did not know any other way of life. He loved casting his spells on these wretched women who left their fathers, husbands, sons just to follow him – just to be happy. Intoxicated not only with the wine but also with a feeling of liberation these women who called themselves M followaenads would do anything that Dionysus commanded. And as was with all the gods, Dionysus took full advantage of it.

Today, in the garden of Thebes, many of the Theben women had joined his band of followers and this merriment was kept in their honour. Dionysus slyly watched the beautiful Agave watching him lustily from far. He had always wanted her but she had chosen another. Well…

"How dare you!" Shouted a young man walking towards him. "How dare you turned my haven into one of your pleasure houses?"

Dionysus laughed contemptuously, "do I need your permission now to go anywhere I want?"

The young man, the King of Thebes- Pentheus was the cousin of Dionysus and there was no love lost between the two.

"I don't want your sinful presence in my land."

"And how do you plan to throw me out?" Dionysus asked cheekily, enjoying the young lad's discomfort. 

"I want her back." Pentheus voice was steady. 

"Such bravado," said Dionysus. "But why? Your father is dead and I never interfered till he was alive. But now that he has...."

"Are you insane? You cannot turn her into one of your Maenads! These beautiful maidens who can shred a beast to pieces at your call." Pentheus was begging now. "She needs a proper life. You can't turn her into a somnambulist, who roams along with you, without knowing where their destination is."

Dionysus was surprised that anyone could question his way of life. His thoughts had reached his Maenads by now and they were swarming towards him, still dancing and laughing led by the beautiful Agave. 

Pentheus looked at Agave and pleaded with her, "let's go home. This life is not for you."

Agave laughed, her beautiful eyes blazing like fire. "What is there not to love about this kind of life? All my sorrow is gone and there is only happiness around me."

"But this is a mirage!" shouted Pentheus. "Soon Dionysus will be tired of you and he'll destroy you as he has done to so many in the past."

"Enough!" Dionysus's voice boomed out and with his anger all the flowers withered around him. A stench of burning flesh replaced the soft floral scent and amidst that stood a quivering Pentheus. 

The beautiful maidens started gathering around him but now their beauty was cloaked with their savage intend. And in no time they shred Pentheus to pieces imagining him to be a beast.

Soon it was all over and as the carcass remain of Pentheus lay on the ground Agave kneeled before him and gently placed a kiss on his forehead and whispered, "Now you too will be happy, Son."

Note : In ancient Greece, Maenads were female worshippers of Dionysus, god of wine, whose behaviour was often regarded as an acceptable by conventional society. Maenads also played a role in myth, notably the murder of King Pentheus.



#ATOZCHALLENGE: Letter L : Loki : Under The Hood Of His Son

Loki Bound by M.E Winge shows Loki chained to rocks
beneath a poisonous snake. His wife, Sygyn, holds
the bowl for him. 
"That bloody transvestite! An abomination to us Gods, " thundered Odin, the Chief of the Gods. "He is the one responsible for the down fall of my son, Blader."

"But Sire, he was not here,"one of the lesser Gods, Hel ventured out bravely only to shrink back in fear at the rage in Odin's eye. "We followed all your instructions to bless every object that would harm your beloved son, Blader."

"All but one," Odin could not contain the pain in his voice. "Bring Loki  to me."

Soon Loki, the evil trickster was brought in front of everyone. No one had seen Loki before. Not because he was invisible but because he was the master in disguise. Sometimes he was a bird or an animal but mostly he loved dressing like  a woman. - he could come and go as he pleased, raising no suspicion, leaving only a trail of a tingling laughter.  Just when a secret was being buried by the Gods, Loki the trickster, would be there to snatch it away and expose it to the world.

But today he was in his own self - no disguise would save him from the wrath of Odin, so he did not bother to hide. Seeing his handsome original face, a gasp echoed amongst all the maidens in the assembly hall. One look from Odin and a hush settled down.

"Why?" Odin came straight to the point."Why did you kill my son, Balder?"

Loki looked shocked. "Balder is dead ? Oh woe befall us!"

"Stop the dramatics. Tell us why?"

"But I was not here at all." said Loki. "you can ask anyone if they had seen me."

"We all know you had dressed up as the giantess Thokk and urged the blind God Hodr to throw the mistletoe at Balder."

"Hehhheh." Loki's laughter echoed in the hall, stunning everyone with his boldness. "How can a mistletoe kill the  mighty Blader?"

"Because you knew it would be the only thing that would pass though his body since it was not blessed by the Gods." 

"How would I know that?" Loki asked calmly, sure that no one would know about his role in this great tragedy. But Odin knew everything for the great seer of the underworld had told him everything. From the death of his son to... 

Before he could say anything, Loki transformed into a bird and flew away. Odin ordered the winds to trace his flight and just when Odin was catching him, Loki turned into a salmon and hid in a waterfall. But Odin captured him with a fishing net and with one quick movement tied him up to Narfi, Loki's own son. Now one would ask what is so great about this .

Well, Narfi is one of the most dangerous serpents alive. No man or God could bear his dripping venom. Odin tied him to Narfi and fastened Narfi above Loki's head. its poison dripping down, tormenting the mischievous God. 

At this point, Sigyn, Loki's beloved wife, reached there and begs Odin to release Loki. Odin didn't want to but feeling pity for Sigyn, grants her the permission to try stopping the poison from reaching Loki. 

Sigyn tries her best to collect her son's poison in a bowl but in intervals she had to pour it in the waterfall and rush back again to collect the poison. Every time she removed that bowl, drops of the poison would fall on Loki's head and he would writher in pain. It's said that his every writher, would cause an Earthquake. 

How did Loki escape this? Well stay tuned :P

Note:  Loki is the most complex character in Norse mythology. He is an enigmatic figure, capable of trickery and deceit, who sometimes sided with the gods, at other times with the giants. Often Loki betrayed the gods, but, equally often, he helped them resolve their problems – many of which he had created in the first place. A perfect MIL :P