Book Review: Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince

Mahabharata is a fascinating, mammoth work of fiction with millions of sub-plots. Personally I have found Mahabharata much more intriguing than Ramayana. The sheer amount of conflicts, latent themes and contradictions engage your mind in constant debate. (The only other book that has turned over my mind such is perhaps Wuthering Heights.) No wonder dozens of variants and narratives for the same story exist. Not only variants, the whole saga has been written from perspective of so many characters such as Draupadi (The Palace of Illusions), Duryodhana (Mahabharta ki ek saanjh), Karna (Karna ki atamkatha), Bhima (Randamoozham) and so on. Arjun is a similar attempt with the third Pandava prince, Arjuna in focus (notice I do not say Arjuna’s perspective). This means, story of five brothers will be told closely as well. Even with five different personalities, the five brothers presented a single entity as Pandavas. Panchali only solidified that unit.

The language of the book is simple and does not draw away from the story, and often it feels as if this book is a collection of parables. I treated this book as a refresher of all the stories I have read before in Mahabharata. Also, book doesn’t always attempt to present the events in chronology, however, the way it was presented, I assumed that it was expected that readers are familiar with Mahabharata. This, though I gather may have been intentional on author’s part, was a mild irritant to me. In terms of narrating history and choices of sub-plots with Arjuna as focus, the book has been successful. However, did it provide occasions to pause and debate or throw a light on a philosophical perspective, or bring out innermost conflicts of Arjuna (other than those well-known at battlefield)? In that, book is wanting. Other than few notions of Arjuna – his arrogance that humanizes him, his mild indignation at what he thinks is Bhima’s naivety, and lastly, his belated realisation of everlasting love for Draupadi – Arjuna remains same character that we knew him from our earlier reads. Book doesn’t conjure anything new in in our minds. For example, Mahabharat ki ek saanjh is compelling in presenting an argument from Duryodhan’s perspective. But then, as I clarified, it is not really a perspective book. It is a re-telling,Image where Arjuna lies at the crux of it. It is fast read and worth a trip down the memory lane of your favorite epic.

P.S: 1. I noted a disconcerting gender usage. When Arjuna hits Duryodhan in his nails in the battle, he ‘cries like a girl’. Oh, no.

2. It was a relief to once again read a mythology book where the characters did not say, ‘hell, yeah’. Touche! ;) Also, unlike last few review copies I read, the editing was decent and I didn’t not find any of those punctuation issues that are eye sores when reading a book.

Book Review: Amreekandesi – Masters of America

I have read many first books by very popular bloggers. They have mostly managed to disappoint me successfully, be it Sanchos, Dorks, Reluctant Detectives or Mighty Bongs. ;) I have donated the signed copies of these books to the unsuspecting. Reading some of these books also made me very angry, since I had bought them after reading, as it turns out, untruthful reviews full of undeserving praise. So, as a rule, I have learnt to keep away from books from blogger-writers. Until Amreekandesi wrote a book.

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Book Review(s): ‘A Bolt of Lightning’ and ‘Dating, Diapers & Denial’

Satyen Nabar at the launch of his book with Naseeruddin Shah

Satyen Nabar at the launch of his book with Naseeruddin Shah

A Bolt of Lightning is story of Shiva, who has so far been a successful corporate executive. Unsurprisingly, work stress is getting to him, his marriage is disintegrating. When it seems his wife has moved up on career ladder, he seems to have been stuck somewhere in his career, even after coming all this far. And there are his friends, Adi and Sid, who he is not seeing as much as he would like to.  After few unforeseen setbacks, Shiva moves to Goa to ruminate or recuperate. It is when story shifts from Metro city to Goa, Shiva undergoes a-life-changing-experience. After this event, he embarks on a journey of self-realisation,  and makes peace with ‘real life’.  I could not help but notice the author’s emphasis on keeping a restrained, realistic end.

All the elements of a racy book can be noted– a prophecy by a face reader in train, drugs and foreigners in Goa, doctor jokes, death and suicides, life-threatening situation, and strands of spirituality. As a story, his book is a breeze to read. Though I must confess, I was not the right reader for this book, I don’t much understand spirituality and journeys of self-realisation. Or, maybe I am a skeptic since I haven’t undergone a mammoth life-changing experience. Self-discovery and realisation for me have been painfully slow, one moment at a time.

Continue reading ‘Book Review(s): ‘A Bolt of Lightning’ and ‘Dating, Diapers & Denial’’

Book Review: My Life, My Rules – Story of 18 Unconventional Careers

My_lifeThis book is set on similar lines as those compiled by Rashmi Bansal, such as Stay Hungry Stay Foolish and Connect the Dots. The success of such books is not determined by a great writing skill (frankly all that is needed is that writing does not come in way of a story) but the selection of people and interestingness of their stories. It is the power of these stories alone that can make a book worthy.

Good news is that in the choice of people and their stories, the book has been very effective. Although inclusion of popular, well-known folks like Aditi Govitrikar, Nikhil Chinnapa, Harsha Bhogle, R Madhavan and Srikant initially miffed me, however, after reading Harsha Bhogle and R Madhavan’s stories I realised that I didn’t know it all, and was mollified. It was interesting to know about what Harsha did before cricket commentary happened to him and that R Madhavan conducted widely successful coaching classes before he became an actor.

My favourite stories were about Nalin Khanduri who started Great Indian Outdoors Private Limited, it definitely takes courage to quit a corporate job and start an outdoors company in a country like India, Manohar Parrikar, a middle-class boy, a IIT graduate who went on to become the Chief Minister of Goa, Ashish Rajpal, his story was especially inspiring for me, he worked all over the world but came back to India to enrich K-12 education, Rajeev Suresh Samant, who through his brand Sula wines put India on wine-making map, Praveen Tyagi, another K-12 educator who started PACE education and despite being from impoverished background, Praveen made it to IIT and decided to devote his time to teaching to help other folks make it to IIT.

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Book Review: My Lawfully Wedded Husband

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I must first begin with disclaimers. I was very intrigued when I picked up Madhulika Liddle’s first book ‘The Englishman’s Cameo’ – the author bio said she was an instructional designer. Well, so am I and in India I find a little known profession. And then I recalled, my friend had mentioned of her works reviewed by Liddle. Madhulika Liddle used to work for same organisation as me, though I have never met her or spoken to her. I have read her first two books, part of Muzaffar Jang series, a mystery set during Shah Jehan’s era. I was very impressed not just with story, but the research put in reflects in the chosen words and creating imagery in the story– the dresses, the utensils, customs, hierarchy, professions and so on. It was delight.

When I saw the cover this short story collection on Facebook, I loved the cover and wanted to possess the book. So, I am glad, I got this opportunity thanks to Blogadda.

Liddle’s this book is in different than her Muzaffar Jang series. It is book of collection of 12 short stories set in different parts of India – Delhi, Bombay, Moradabad, Goa, Tranquebar and so on.

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Book Review: The Green Room

I volunteered to review Wendell Rodricks’ The Green Room. I had heard only briefly heard of Wendell (courtesy one of his controversial shoots), I only knew he is a fashion designer. Since I did not know a thing about fashion, I thought it would be new knowledge. But when I saw the hard bound 355-page thick book, my spirits plummeted. I thought who wants to read soliloquies of a designer who is obviously too self-obsessed to write such a thick autobiography/memoir.

Half-hearted I dug into book, to my surprise the writing was good, it was in simple storytelling voice. I easily dug in the story. And story began right where he, a Goan guy, was born in a Bombay chawl and his journey to become the man he is today. In between, there are interesting vignettes such as about 1965 war, tales from Marinagar, and his Grandma Rita’s mystifying Konkan ritual to get rid of ‘disht’, an evil eye. And I thought, why did I never ask my parents how was it for them during the war, how, they were affected by several historical on goings. That is the stuff history is made of, that is how books like Art Spiegalman’s Maus come along and take their place in recording history.

But I digress, Wendell’s book though enshrines the ongoing historic pieces, it is in face a memoir of his personal journey. It is story of a Goan boy from middle-class Bombay chawl who goes on to make his name in International fashion.  It is achieved through variety of experiences starting from Oman where he worked in a hotel and then his dream to save and go to US to study fashion. Passing out with summa cum laude, he returns India to teach in SNDT college in Juhu and he finds he loves teaching. This is my favourite part too, to know few of India’s talented fashion designers such as Hemant Trivedi and Wendell love to teach. Wendell, eager to learn more, goes to Paris to study again – something that would stay with him all his life. He would years later go again for an internship in a Portuguese museum to learn about costume etc.

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Book Review: Between the Headlines

Between the headlines is everything the book blurb and the publisher claim to be – it is the journey of a TV reporter – her life and times. Unlike recent genre of books by Indian women – this is not a chick lit with juicy, eye-grabbing story about love life. Love figures, but it is not the focal point of the book. Focus always remains on the work life of a TV reporter.

Satyabhama Menon has just moved from Delhi to Bangalore as a TV reporter for new, upcoming N.E.W.S India channel. Like all journalism students, she has dreams to make a difference – and make it big while doing so. (I know because I was one myself longtime ago.) However, she realizes in a competitive business like TV journalism, talent is not the only factor that takes you places. There are small, asinine things as pesky bosses or input teams, office politics, jealous colleagues and of course TRPs that always govern the priorities. TV reporter, especially a budding one, remains a small cog in the network.

Saddled with mundane, mindless and menial (from a TV journalist’s POV) assignments such as vox populi (that too fake), small-time weather reports (involves a trip all the way to Coorg just to cover rains!), Satya struggles to carve her niche. It does not help Ram Kedhia, a high-ranking channel boss insists on sabotaging her career –keeps her on low-priority stories, or breaking news duty (which means though she is at work waiting for ‘breaking news’ she is not getting to work on stories) and worst while world is praising her story, he accuses her of inefficiency and unprofessionalism.

Yet Satya’s opportunities to shine come up from unexpected assignments. Even as a novice, she soon learns to use her resources well – gets her young cousin to find suitable college folks for vox pops, builds up rapport with her camera guys – who time and again will prove to be valuable allies. She finds herself increasingly disillusioned in the world of TV journalism – suddenly channel diktat arrive that since TRPs indicate crime beat is most popular and all useful stories from other genre are forgotten. Truth, even if an exclusive bite, is snipped and lies are both forgiven and forgotten without much ado by ‘honest’ idols.

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