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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.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: My Life, My Rules – Story of 18 Unconventional Careers’

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.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: My Lawfully Wedded Husband’

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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Book Review: The Devotion of Suspect ‘X’

This is one of those books where the meaning of the title sinks in with full force only when you have finished reading the book. But that is something I will leave you to find about yourself.

The Devotion of Suspect X is what I call one-sitting-novel, it is written by Keigo Higashimo. It is actually third book in his Inspector Galileo series, published in 2005 and widely translated and transformed into movies and TV shows.

Yet despite its suspenseful plot, this book is not a who-dunit as any decent review will tell you. A murder happens in first chapter. The murdered man is abusive, ex-husband of Yasuko who has been stalking her for years. Suspicion naturally falls over beautiful Yasuko who only wants to protect her daughter. Yasuko, once a night club hostess now works in a box lunch place. Unexpectedly, she finds an ally in her neighbour Ishigami, who is a mathematician.

In comes an observant, honest police detective Kusanagi – to his consternation even though everything on surface seems fine – Yasuko is too gentle to commit a pre-meditated murder and she also seems to have an alibi for the night of the murder – something doesn’t ‘feel’ right. There are no other leads either. Kusanagi has an intelligent physicist friend, Dr. Manabu Yukawa as a friend in Imperial college – this man often helps him close cases. Dr. Yukawa is also nicknamed as Inspector Galileo.

The next chapters unfold the plot layer by layer. Both, the police and the accused play an astute, graceful game of chess – with two characters that stand out clearly. The mathematician and the physicist, each responding other with a move . An equal and opposite reaction. As a reader, you are hooked, curious what comes next – and yet sometimes you root for few characters. Despite the fact you know that murder happened and who committed it, the details around it as much surprise you as they mystify you when they are unravelled.

The book is not intended to be a work of literature or a brilliant masterpiece in terms of plot, even though I must mention that plot has no loopholes, and all threads link together when you go back in the story. Yet I would say, that plot is commonplace, it is instead the crafty style of presenting the mystery is the disarming feature of the book. Another is its climax – it is one that I must admit I didn’t expect. It was not only a surprise but also proved rather disturbing to my ‘emotional’ sensitivities. And yet I abide by the end.

A very fast read where plot meanders and takes new course like a fast-flowing river. If you peek carefully, characters are bland and simple – Yasuko has some claim to righteousness but is meek enough to be boring, Kusanagi’s only redeeming feature is his observation, in particular observation of his genius friend (that solves cases perhaps), Ishigami is ‘Buddha’ – nothing as ‘ill-feeling’ ever emanates from him. It is just warring of wits and the way script throws surprises so often what maketh this book.

Lastly, a note must be added to acknowledge the translation by Alexander O. Smith. Though I’ve not read the original book in Japanese, but the way translated language kept up that sense of suspense and urgency – I believe translation has been a fruitful one.

Curl in bed with book, coffee on side – you should have one ‘thrilling’ ride

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Book Review: Delirious Delhi

I always love a book about Delhi – and the market is abuzz with them. I picked up Delirious Delhi solely because the author was co-blogger at a wonderful blog called Our Delhi Struggle. ‘Our Delhi Struggle’ was unique in the sense that it was collection of short, witty, first-hand experience of a couple who had moved from New York to Delhi. Their keenness to have ‘an authentic Dilli experience’ would often lead them to treasure troves and interesting revelations. For example, Dave and Jenny also found an old-style Hindi movie poster painter and had their own Bollywood poster painted that also adorns the book cover of Delirious Delhi. (The painter had his share of limelight in press thanks to Dave and Jenny.)

ImageDelirious Delhi can be easily called a tribute to Delhi, since it is obvious Dave and Jenny genuinely loved the city. The couple lived for two years in Delhi, after which they moved to Singapore.

And they did manage to have that ‘authentic’ experience. Dave, an advertising agency executive in Gurgaon lived in Hauz Khas. He did what millions of Delhites do everyday – travel to work. For more than a decade in Delhi, I too have travelled on an average 3-4 hours to and fro college or work. They zipped around the city in autos, learned various tricks/tips to bargain. Again, this is something I had to do every day (tough job at times) for 2 years when I worked in GK-2 – right in that square that has Nathu’s where Dave had his first meal in India.

The couple  went all round Delhi for the Indian food they would come to love – imagine my surprise when I read in the book ‘best South Indian food in Delhi can be eaten at Saravanna Bhawan’. I thought, how did he know! Since I keep finding people in north who are not so aware about it. Mystery soon unravelled – Dave and Jenny were part of Eating Out in Delhi group – and sample food from all over Delhi, including gastronomic delights of Old Delhi. I smiled when Dave was unimpressed with over-hyped Khan Market – I agreed.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Delirious Delhi’


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