Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Valley of Masks by Tarun J. Tejpal

Title: The Valley Of Masks
Author: Tarun J Tejpal
Number of Pages: 488
Cover Price: 499
Rating: 5/5

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Tarun J Tejpal born in 1963 is journalist and a novelist  He has been editor with India Today. After 2000, he started Tehelka news organization which now has a very good global reputation.

About this Book:

First of all this is not at all an easy read. It took lots of seating for me to complete the book. Almost after every page, I had to pause for a bit to further understand depth of each line written.

There are some books that we would enjoy reading and some books are meant to convey some message. 'The Valley of Masks' is none of these categories.

Even though as compared to other books, I have read before, pace for this was almost half. But I always wanted that this book should never end.

The Valley of Masks is about indifference. The book is about an organization that teaches violent perfection to young children. 'Aum' is leader of this path - where equality is placed before everything else – so much so that they have the same face – a mask that is fitted to their face once they turn sixteen and hence the name 'Valley Of Masks'.

It is a dark book - the more one reads, the more one is scared. One may would have read hundreds of books but I am dead sure, no one would have read anything like this.

These are some initial lines from the book, itself telling the complexity of the story:
It is not a long story. Some men would tell it in the time it takes to drink a glass of bitter sweet Ferment. And then there are those who would tell it in such detail that barrels would be drained dry and they would not arrive at its end. I am in between – too confused to be too short or too long. I was not always so. Once I was a man of opinion and will and purpose. Men turned to me for fixity when their hearts and minds wavered. Once.
In the world out there, men are neither free nor equal nor moral. They are driven by shallow impulses which made them dangerously selfish and dishonest. The seed of this inferno is the need to possess. The seed of this inferno is the word 'my'.
Looks are the greatest curse of life. A decoy and distraction. They are the crucial test set by divinity that all men fail. In the garden of looks bloom envy, ego, anxiety, vanity, covetousness, bitterness, lust and despair. In the garden of looks bloom the seed that first destroy the brotherhood. 
Even though its a hard read, everyone should read this book to know exactly that the extant of literature is far more beyond IIT Campus love stories and other such stuffs...

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Monk, the Moor and Moses Ben Jalloun by Saeed Akhtar Mirza

Title: The Monk, the Moor & Moses Ben Jalloun
Author: Saeed Akhtar Mirza
Number of Pages: 256
Cover Price: Rs. 450
Rating: 5/5

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Saeed Akhtar Mirza born in 1943 is writer and director of hindi films and television serials. He has directed movies such as Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan (1978), Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai? (1980), Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho (1984), Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989) and Naseem (1995). Also, he is director of TV serials Nukkad (1986) and Intezaar (1988). He lives in Mumbai.
His first novel was Ammi: Letter to a Democratic Mother. The Monk, the Moor and Moses Ben Jalloun is his second novel.

About this Book:

The book is about the history we hardly knows. The history about people from middle-east region and islamic civilization, their contribution in the fields of philosophy, medicine, maths, astronomy, chemistry, literature. We give credit to the people from west about all these subjects. But Mirza has has uncovered the history describing its roots in ancient Islamic civilization. There are three main stories in the book:

1) First story is about four students in an American university of English Literature - an Indian, an African, an American and an Arab. They start discovering the thurth on their own: not just because they need to know they see how the past affects their own lives in very real ways.

2) Second is the story about conversations between a Christian monk, an Arab, and the Jewish scholar Moses ben Jalloun as they translate Arabic texts into European languages in 12th century.

3) Third story a girl who is a student of the scholar Al Beruni.

The author narrates these three parallel stories from different period of times and conveys the message that people from islamic civilization have achieved much more than just shooting each other or just being oil sheikhs and actually were way ahead of other civilisations, particularly the West, which destroyed and covered up their contribution.

He has described the contribution of scholars such as Abu Rehan al-Biruni, Mohammad bin Musa al-Khwarizmi, Ibn Sina, Ibn al-Hytham and many more.

Below are some lines from the book:
"The duty of a man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads and, applying his mind to the core and margins of its contents, attack it from all sides. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency." 
"'O pious one', said the laconic iconoclast, Let me sit and drink wine in the mosque. Or could you show me a place where God doesn't exits ?"

The book is must read for everyone not just because it has been narrated very beautifully but also to understand the actual history and to pass it on to other people so that the knowledge of this history continues......

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Pentacles by Sabarna Roy

Title: Pentacles
Author: Sabarna Roy
Number of Pages: 84
Cover Price: Rs. 100
Rating: 2.5/5

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Sabarna Roy was born in 1968, is a qualified Civil Engineer from Jadavpur University, Calcutta. He works in a senior management position in a manufacturing and engineering construction company. He started writing during his university days, mostly English and Bengali poems. He stopped writing after he left university and took up employment. After a gap of 19 years, he started writing once again mostly to reconnect with himself.

About this Book:

The book consists of one long story and 4 short poems. 

New Life: It is a long story about a successful man who is deeply disturbed by the loss of his mother. The mother had left the family for another man. It tells how that man goes through different phases like abandonment, love and companionship. The story starts from these lines:

“Loneliness is like smoke. It starts from a definite point and ends up elsewhere, indefinitely. It eats up the soul, actually chews it to miniscule shreds, from inside and out.”

The different elements and characters of the story are beautifully interwoven to produce an intense and compelling story of an adult haunted by the trauma of being deserted by his mother. The work is interspersed with thought-provoking views on issues like love and socio-economic conditions in India.

The other remaining short poems are: 'The Tower', 'Chasing', '2001-2002' & 'Tara'. These are related to love, loss and longing. I think these should have been more longer and taken to a greater depth.

The book can be a quick read at night even after work or while moving.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Faces In The Water by Ranjit Lal

Title: Faces In The Water
Author: Ranjit Lal
Number of Pages: 202
Cover Price: Rs. 199
Rating: 3.5/5

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Ranjit Lal was born in Kolkata (1955), educated in Mumbai and graduated in Economics and Sociology. He is an independent writer and columnist for over last two decades. He has thousands of articles and lots of books on natural history and child psychology. According to him, his all books are for everyone from age 10 to 100.

About this Book:

It is a fictional story based on female infanticide - preference of male child.

The story is about Diwanchand family who is proud of two things - 1) having only sons in their family and 2) no one in the family ever fell sick. They give all the credit of this to a magical water from the well which is near their ancestral house.

Once, a son of this family gets to spend a few days in that house and wants to explore the area (especially the well) and what he discovers there changes his life and that of others for ever. There he finds the exact reason why there are only sons in the family. He sees the faces of his sisters who were drowned in that well because they were girls. The interesting part is that the ghosts of those girls start interacting with the boy and almost created a virtual world.

Although it is an adult topic, it is written in such a manner which makes it appropriate for children as well. The author has put lots of funny incidents related to magic, cyber world and lots of charm. I skipped some of such incidents because these were hardly moving the story. There is a bit of twist in the end of this story.

The description of the girls, their innocence, their expressions are narrated very beautifully and it made me laughed at sometimes as well as bought some tears in my eyes many times.

"What do you do when you discover an unspeakable truth about your parents?"
The book conveys a very powerful message and author has shown the injustice being done to girls very nicely, still there are lots of parts where I felt the story is loosing focus from its main subject. This is for all young and adults but I would like to recommend this book to readers of young adult fiction.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

If I Pretend I Am Sorry! : Will You Pretend And Forgive Me by Prashant Sharma

Title: If I Pretend I Am Sorry! Will You Pretend and Forgive Me?

Author: Prashant Sharma
Number of Pages: 221
Cover Price: Rs. 100
Rating: 3/5

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Prashant Sharma is working in strategy and marketing for a multinational bank. He passed out of IIM Lucknow in 2009 and Delhi College of Engineering in 2007. Apart from this, he is author of another book - Love, Life & A Beer Can.

About this Book:

The book is written in very simple language and can easily be finished in couple of days. The story mainly introduces us to the bad world of Mumbai.

It is a fictional story about three men (who all are related to each other) playing game with underworld.

Rannvijay Singh (DOB: Apr 30, 1950)
Viraj Singh (DOB: Jul 25, 1960)
Rajvir Singh (DOB: Oct 20, 1931)
Book is divided into 3 parts in which stories of these men are narrated separately.

Rannvijay Singh - The book starts with a story of a  Rannvijay Singh who lives in the slums of Mumbai. His mother and him got shifted to Mumbai from Punjab. He doesn't know a bit about his father. He started working at early stage by opening a tea stall. Later he started stealing money and doing illegal things; putting all this illegal money to his legal business. Once he stole money from a don. The don in turn burned his mother alive within her house. So Rannvijay made up his mind to kill all of them.

Rajvir Singh - His family was murdered in the riots after the India-Pakistan partition. And he murdered a person who killed his family and ran away form there to Punjab where he started working as a farmer. And he gets engaged with a zamindar daughter. The reason behind getting engaged with zamindar daughter was for money. After few months, after killing his father-in-law and taking his all money; he ran away from their to Mumbai alone, leaving his pregnant wife alone.

Viraj Singh - He took a birth in a very rich family. So has never faced a money crisis like the other two characters. He enjoyed his life with a fair amount of money. He had all those things whichever he like cars, girls, etc.  He had fallen in love with a french girl. After spending around 10-12 months with her. They decided to get engaged. But Viraj wanted to convince his parents for that so he leaves for India after finishing his post-graduate. There he met an another girl. With her also he falls in love. And when the french girl got to know that he is getting married. She comes to India on the wedding day. Viraj feels guilty and gets confused. He decides to run away with her.

These are just overview of characters however the climax is nice in which you would get to know how all these men are related to each other :)

Below are some lines from book:
"I was sitting in a room with four of the most dangerous men in Mumbai. All four had a gun in their hands. I had a single malt in mine. And I was the one who was going to dictate the terms. - Rajvir Singh"
"I felt relieved, I felt scared, I felt guilty. I had finally made the deal.
I had paid for my first murder. - 
Viraj Singh"
As any underworld bollywood movie, the book is filled with incidents of murders, kidnappings, ransom, gang wars, smuggling, drug dealing, protection money, parties, the roads, the cars... etc.

Although the plot is good and interesting, don't buy this book with lots of expectations. Still Rs. 100 is not much in exchange of a fine story that you’ll not let putting it down till you finish it.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Difficulty of Being Good by Gurcharan Das

Title: The Difficulty Of Being Good, On The Subtle Art Of Dharma
Author: Gurcharan Das
Number of Pages: 488
Cover Price: Rs. 699
Rating: 5/5

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Gurcharan Das graduated from Harvard University and was the CEO and then VP for Procter & Gamble India between 1985 and 1992. We worked in various MNCs across different countries. Later he took retirement at around 50 to become a full time writer and started writing columns for various newspapers.

About this Book:

Before writing this book, Gurcharan Das spent around 6 years continuously with 'The Mahabharata'. He studied each character, the problems they faced and tried to map those issues to our present lives.

This book is not just restricted to the story of Mahabharata but also a very good analysis of its each character.

The book is divided into 10 chapters, each corresponding to a different character (Duryodhana, Draupadi, Yudhishtira, Arjuna, Bhishma, Krishna...). In each chapter, he took examples from present world and showed how the incidents happened thousands of years ago are being repeated even in this modern world. Below are some lines from the book:
"Assume, too, that life is a dice game, governed by rules known to be deceptive, in which the least experienced, least adequate player is nevertheless pushed to the point of staking everything he has including, in the end, himself, with the certainty of losing . . .Assume a world in which each of the players in this game must be seen to die in most cases violently and unfairly; in which, moreover, the poles of life and death are present in every move with the death pole always strangely privileged, cognitively and metaphysically, so that death is, in effect, the only possible outcome of the game. In such a world, one mostly fights for time." 
"To save the family, abandon an individual. To save the village,
abandon a family; to save the country, abandon a village. To save
the soul, abandon the earth."
Examples of Ambani brothers co-related with Duryodhana. And later how their mother (like Dhritarashtra) split the family as happened in Mahabharata.
Explanation of the scandal in 2009 by B. Ramalinga Raju is again provided through Mahabharata. How and why should a person of such talent, achievement, who lacked nothing in life, turn to crime?
You will find lots of such examples which helps in distinguishing between right and wrong.

I enjoyed this a lot and would strongly recommend this for everyone. After reading this you will come to know the hard work done behind this and investing Rs 600 would surely return much heavier knowledge... :)

A must read !!