Tuesday, 18 October 2016


"It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth--penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told."

Here, Joseph Campbell has beautifully carved the meaning of almost an indefinable entity of 'mythology'. Indeed, the above lines capture the difficulties a writer carries with while writing a piece associated with myths and legends. Interesting enough, Olivier Lafont seems to marvel this difficulty in his novel entitled "Warrior". He not only deals with the narrative seamlessly but also gives a much keener edge to it. 

The narrative captures many intertwining themes of modern popular fictions in one go , such as theme of alienation, loneliness, love, existential crisis and familial strife. Dealing with such universal themes has always make for great oeuvre and after reading the novel there is no surprise for its being shortlisted for the 'Tibor Jones South Asia Prize'. There are descriptions, elaborations, digressions; there are endless discussions and philosophical excursions; there are invocations, exhortations, admonitions, and whole manual of conduct working under the mythological frame that makes the novel worth-reading.

The most captivating side of the novel is Lafont's dealing with plethora of complex and wayward characters. He forms two extremely opposite worlds at the same time that go parallel in the story; the one is the real word of Mumbai metropolis with its natural and mortal human beings while the other is drastically mysterious and mischievous world of gods, demigods, demons, peerlesses, rakshasas, half-rakshasas and supernatural creatures. 

Saam, the eponymous warrior of the story, is a demigod who is spending a life as common as any normal Mumbaikar. A watch mender by profession , he rides a bicycle, carries a cell phone, loves the mortal society and above all loves a girl of his heart, 'Maya'. This man with such sheer personality ablazes the mind of the readers when he is identified to be the last earthly son of the destroyer, lord Shiva. It is quite inviting to know how Saam, with the support of other immortals, comes forward to engage himself in an epic quest for saving the world from its devastation.

A miasmic atmosphere prevails at the beginning when an unprecedented blizzard hovers over the entire Mumbai city, thus anticipating the 'End of the days'. Supernatural things start following immediately after the blizzard. In the temple,

  "The lingam opened its eye."
A stranger prophecies future to Saam. He says,
  "The End of Time is at hand! The Master has set the Great Clock in motion, and the Inevitable Infinite is upon us!"

Amidst the realistic ambiance of Mumbai city, Lafont's readers slowly and gradually dive deep into a strange and magical labyrinth. This imparts the element of 'magic realism' to the story that Lafont carries further with much conviction, intensity and certitude. 

After the havoc induced by the blizzard, Saam paddles hurriedly from Marine Drive to posh Bandra via his home at Old Mahim. The time he enters Rajkumar's Mansion at Bandra, the story jumbs into the unknown powerful world of Peerless; the community of immortals living on earth identified as children of lesser-gods. Hereby the realistic setting is invaded by something strange to believe. Rajkumar, the head of the Peerless, senses the utterly strange development in the world around and informs others in a terrified tone:

 "Live lizards, frogs and snakes have been raining down on kolkata since this afternoon. At dusk, the Ganga reversed its flow and, as I speak, is disappearing into its source."

The continuous entry of the inhuman personages one by one creates thrilling sensations. Laalbaal is introduced as the 'Son of Vayu'. Ara's visit to Rajkumar's mansion is quite sudden. Ara is the son of a local divinity who pretends to know much about what is happening, what could happen next and how Saam could be proved the most eligible warrior to stop the 'Enemy'. Ara becomes the first to reveal Saam's association with Lord Shiva. However, it would be interesting to know the reason that keeps Saam away from using his inborn powers against the Enemy. Why does Saam seem so fickle instead of being the last earthly son of the destroyer Shiva? What is the significance of the bond of Covenant for all the immortals dwelling on earth? The narrative peels off all the layers.

Hereafter the plot becomes more engaging. Lafont emerges as a great storyteller who is effortless to impose that 'willing suspension of disbelief', without which the novel would fail in its prime purpose. Realities are being superseded under heavenly facade and the fuss is visible in other parts of the country such as Punjab and Bihar. 

Olivier Lafont is unsurmountable in giving the plunge to natural and pure humane emotions in immortals. The human emotions of love and friendship find its passages into Saam and others giving a surge of happy relief. Saam feels,

 "Whatever was happening, he had Maya, which was a good reality to be in."

Laalbaal's friendship comes forth as a great rescue to Saam, who remains a shadow of Saam throughout( but would he be the same till the end?) Later, the revelation of Ara's being Saam's half-brother provides another pace to the narrative.

The magnitude of war with the Enemy is first felt by the prophesies and suggestions made by Stone Man. Rajkumar too declares to Saam:

 "The Enemy is more powerful than you, Saam. You can't fight him. He was able to compel me, and you know even you couldn't do that yourself. He's brought about the End of Days! The end of universe, Saam. What can you do against that kind of strength?"

Saam's first deadly but shadowy encounter with the Enemy in an abandoned factory is nerve-wrecking.

Lafont's enigmatic characters would surely make readers fall for his par excellent art of character-portrayal that remains to be one of the central focal points. Fazal, faculty at IIT Mumbai and specialised in "Hindu religion, philosophy and mythology" is a surprise gift for the readership. Fazal, instead of being a mortal, remains an extremely important character and companion to Saam till the end.  

In between the story there prevails many myths; the myth of Padmini the dancer, the myth associated with the Kaal Veda and Pure Glass and the myth of the Sleeper under the mountain. Saam is in pursuit of the Kaal Veda where the existence of Pure Glass is referenced; Pure Glass that may give some clue about the further course of action for Saam. Meanwhile, the long existed strife between the two half-brothers, Ara and Saam, seems to be mitigated.

Saam, in his anxious and urgent attempt to save the world, forms a company of seven soldiers including two mortals; Maya and Fazal and Ara the spider too, whom he trusts reluctantly. I wonder as to how long the two mortal riders would be able to keep themselves enthusiastic and alive in such a war journey where they could be crushed in no time. The vulnerability of the mortals is well expressed by Lafont:

  "Maya was clinging tightly to the neck of her horse, eyes wide open with terror. Fazal had made himself as small as possible..."

It would be unreal to imagine a warrior without his sword. The 'Warrior' of this story also possesses his specific 'ukku sword'; a sword with antiquity. Saam, describing the strength of his incredible possession, says to Maya:

  "There is something living in the sword. Something inhuman and extraordinary, butit is trapped. Caged in ukku steel. I don't what it is, if it belongs to India or to Egypt or to Greece, but it is powerful and it hungers to be free."

Saam and the riders run on an extremely uneven journey; a journey full of thorns. On their way to Varanasi, while searching the ways to get Pure Glass, there happens an encounter with an idiotic group of the "Daughters of Durga". A venomous world of reptiles awaits. It is from Ketan, the king of raptiles that we come to know the importance of Fazal who, according to Ketan, one among the two mortals who read and understand Kaal Veda.

Olivier has many surprising punches in the narrative. The 'Ship of Worlds' is the most hyperreal place yet the best relief from the continuous chaos and tension. The captain informs;

  "You may be on board for what seems like years, but when you step off, only an instant will have passed by"

Mahabharata epic is modified interestingly. Olivier grabs the attention of the entire readership here.

The catastrophe arises when Maya is captured by the Enemy(now a well identified traitor among the riders). The prime purpose of Saam to save the world turns to save a woman. Ultimately like ancient Indian epic , a woman becomes the focal point. Saam is totally transfixed by the transformation of the situation. One companion turns to be Enemy and another two enemy's soldiers. Saam regrets;

  "Two of them betrayed us and kidnapped the third. We must hunt now".
However, should I be relieved that there is no more traitors in Saam's group? Beware readers!
Saam is met with many thunderbolts; first with ninety-nine appointed soldiers of the enemy, next with a traitor who seeks to avenge some past mischief on Saam. 

The narrative reaches its zenith when Saam confronts his father(the lord Shiva) with lot of angst for killing his mother Padmini. Will Saam get to know of all the answers related to his family's past? Would lord Shiva Himself stop the Enemy or would guide his son to do the job? Would Saam ever be able to meet Maya or Maya is to be killed by the Enemy? The last few chapters answer it all.

No reader of this novel can fail to feel the chill which blows around Saam's nauseated mind due to these constant struggles, pains, chaos, destruction, deception and an immortal desire for ordinary life and companionship. Would Saam's desire to spend his life peacefully with Maya ever come true? Is Saam destined to wander till eternity? This quest for mortal happiness, in a time when other mortals engage themselves in greedy quest for materialistic pleasure, makes this novel worth-reading.

Reviewed by Prity Barnwal

A Master's Degree holder in English Literature, 
Prity is an avid reader and reviewer hailing from Dhanbad, Jharkhand.

Monday, 17 October 2016

I Want to Put Something Else between Death and Me: A Review of Arunabha Sengupta’s "I Won’t Give You a Leg Up, Mr. Death" | Vitastaa

If we live for the destination, we miss out on every joy-filled and fervent termini of the journey. Living and loving the journey involves making a habit of enjoying here, loving ourselves now, being happy with where we’re at present, even if it is not where we ultimately want to be. We can make every day beautiful by being aware that each moment is a gift—full of worthiness and love. But often struggles of life associated with mad race for fame and riches; or sudden onslaught of disease and sickness knock us out.

Knowing that you are in a life-threatening condition inexorably leaves you living with uncertainty. Lance Armstrong’s open sesame code for respite in such dire straits is: “We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up or fight like hell.” However, the whole ordeal seems easier said than done.

Akin to the above theme is the novel, I Won’t Give You a Leg Up, Mr. Death, by the author, Arunabha Sengupta - a sensitive cancer surgeon who has closely witnessed and contemplated the lives of his patients and their families as well. The book is a painstaking and discerning account of their thoughts, fears, angst, and of course their faith and credence amidst all odds. As he candidly shares in the author’s note: “It is also wrong to assume that the patients think of their diseases only. They think of many other things…. Many of them remain alive to their aspirations and dreams, respond to tenderness, fall in love; few resolve not to allow the disease to dominate their lives.”

The main protagonist of this novelistic venture, Kanu is an Indian born, settled in Amsterdam, media expert, who is over and beyond a zealous and die hard enthusiast for photography. So much so that every visual scene he sees, makes him imagine how the same would have looked when captured by his lens, and what all he could timelessly preserve through the oculus of his camera. With his immense grit and fervor, he strives to capture the unseen beauty of places near his hometown; of people and how they remain happy and sparkle with hope under harsh circumstances too.

Despondency and disconsolateness are inescapable in the life of a human who is battling cancer but not so is the case with our protagonist. He wishes to relive his love for his hometown as a final destination. Besides that he yearns to travel roads forsaken, discover the smiles on the faces of unsung people and snapshot them in their happy moments.

The novel reconnoiters the journey of Kanu while he unabashedly and audaciously plans to submit himself to his envisioned death. His philosophy is best summed up in an excerpt from the novel: “All he wanted was not to cower before Mr. Death and beg to persist even if his life would not be worth living anymore.” The title of the book comes from a slight alteration of a line from the poem Conscientious Objector by Edna St Vincent Millay.

The novel opens with a very positive depiction of a scene narrating energy, life and liveliness:

“The vision he saw was that of a turbulent river whooshing through, foaming and rustling around large rocks and boulders, along a deep chasm between two ledges of a hill. Much above the water, slanting sunrays were passing through the slim tendrils of a cement and concrete lattice work that bridged the land on both sides of the arroyo.”

But gradually as the plot paces up, the lead star of the novel, tries to accept and progress through his thoughts of suffering from cancer and battling against it. The story-line continues with Kanu’s trips down the memory lane when his wife had struggled for nearly a month in an Intensive Care Unit in a pitiable, non-lively state of life .The persuasion of reading gets fulfilled when the reader sees Kanu not being in despair even after witnessing several subsequent deaths around him of people with whom he got closely acquainted during his stay in India. As Kanu has an unending fear of Intensive Care Units (ICU’s), he frequently envisions himself being in his own hamlet near Calcutta, craves for the aroma of its environs, its tall and slender coconut and palm trees and icy winters. Altogether, Sengupta’s I won’t give you a leg up Mr. Death appertains to the two fold agenda: a courageous acceptance of the present and undeterredly living in a wholesome, high-spirited and bountiful manner. An excerpt from the novel aptly describes Kanu’s and author’s stand on the above issue: “I want to put something else between now and that time, between death and me”

The book with its thirty chapters certainly doesn’t hold up an average reader uninterruptedly, as one is bound to get a little crestfallen after cognizing the loss of lives to diseases in hospitals. Though, the detailed narrative style of the author interests and peps up the readers. During a regular and mundane hospital visit, Kanu begins to romanticise the beauty and rawness of Monabari through a character’s (Dr.Ved) description, making Kanu more inclined and assertive to visit the loveliest rustic village and place in the world:

“Just a minute dot on the map of India, Monabari is up in the north, near the Himalayas, six hundred miles from the seacoast. It has jungles, rivers, and a primal tribal setting…. I presume it has still more of nature, the way God created it, and less of man-made masonries. And certainly not crowded bazaars or smoking chimneys. For a person like you, it could still be a kind of time travel, a journey to a different world that you’ve not known before.”

By the same token, the novel takes an interesting turn as the stay of Kanu at Monabari becomes ravishing, full of explorations laced with a surreal and unearthly feel of small town, but natural India. A sanctuary where he longs to belong and to immortalize it with the click of his camera:

“So here it will all begin!’ Kanu said to himself. As if to make that thought true, he took out his camera and stepped a few steps back to view through his lens the amazing relic….”

At Monabari, Kanu strikes a chord with the pristine and rustic folks, developing relationships beyond those of kinship and consanguinity. Furthermore, Kanu decides to unravel the folklore and folktales like that of Chand Saudagar, a devotee of lord Shiva. Towards the end of the novel, we are led to a photographic journey of pictures clicked by Kanu during his stay in Monabari, chiefly freezing happy moments of common village folks:

“An old woman smiled at him from one of those photographs, which showed only her toothless face, with creases as deep as furrows and she had two long earrings. In another photograph, an old man lazed on his side on the porch of a mud hut with his back pressed against the wall…. An elderly woman was evidently caught unawares surfacing from a dip into the water of a pond. She sported a broad coy smile but had squeezed her eyes shut in order to hide her embarrassment.”

The novel is a true narration of the harsh realities of life every patient of life-limiting diseases and his near and dear ones experience. The book serves as a referential text for those who love travelling to unexplored destinations, and seek solace in nature. Pertinent here is a quote from the novel:

“Do you think pilgrimage is more about knowing life than renouncing it? Come then, as you said, and let us travel-travel as roaming hermits do, without a care, making all notions of time and space irrelevant- and your lifetime ambition to flee from it all can find fulfillment.”

The novel acts as an enriching contribution to the society by revitalizing those afflicted with life- threatening diseases, with its anthem of not to cower down before death but lead serene and gratified lives, come whatever may be. Reading it brings to mind movies and books on similar issue like the Hollywood, romantic movie, The Fault in Our Stars (2014) and Rajesh Khanna starrer Hindi movie Anand, (1971). It echoes and inspires one with the same message:

My dear friend!! Life need not be long, it should be big. (Babumoshai!! zindagi lambi nahi badi honi chahiye….) 

Reviewed by Tejaswita Kaushal 

The writer, a budding architect has a versatile persona, she loves reading literature and her book reviews have been published in many leading dailies and magazines. 

A trained dancer and a member of Dramatics Club and Debating Society at School of Planning and Architecture, Chitkara University, Punjab, Tejaswita Kaushal has achieved many an accolades in diverse fields. 

Her grad thesis on Film and Television Institute reflects her taste for amalgamation of art and architecture.  

Friday, 23 September 2016

Movie Review | Pink

What can you write about Pink that has not been written already? 

I must confess that me, like many others had not thought of going to the theatre after seeing the trailer, even when it looked good. The most important thing, which makes this movie great, is its connectivity to the audience. It does connect at many levels. Having Bachchan in the movie makes things easier.  I must say at times I get disinterested with a movie just because of him, there is nothing new that I expected from him and in Piku too, he was the third best actor even though he got the national award for it. But he surprised me and perhaps many others.  

A question which comes to many minds is that why we had to have a male lawyer and not a female one? The reason is quite apparent, a Shabana Azmi or a Ratna Pathak Shah could have been a great choice, but the message spreads a lot more when someone like Mr. Bachchan says those lines. We cannot ignore the fact that his stature in the industry is probably the hugest. May be in the next one we will see an all women cast defending the case.  

The sad part about this thing was that, what if the girls didn’t get a big lawyer like him? That is something to ponder about. One of the major reasons why I liked the movie was that, it was perhaps the first mainstream film which totally destroyed the middle class morality and the 'piousness' connected to a woman in movies, which had become so essential a part of a Hindi movie. Many films like Cocktail (which appeared to be a liberal movie in the beginning) have been guilty of confirming to the whole 'sati-savitri' thing. 

This movie was quite clear about how molestation or rape must be defined, which is 'consent'. We are living in a democratic society but there are certain things which have to be non-negotiable. One of which is consent. No, means - No. It is not a beginning of a sentence but a whole sentence, with an exclamation mark. It is a good beginning, but there are certain simplifications as well, like the judge who was level headed and who made his opinion on facts. This is not always true in the real world, where judges too have passed misogynistic rulings. Sometimes they have accused the victims because they do not confirm to the ‘good girl’ criteria, and hence it becomes alright for a man to molest or rape her. Another time they have asked the victim to marry their rapists.( http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/cuddalore-minor-rape-victim-married-to-the-accused-family-anxious-about-her-safety/).  The judiciary system on the whole needs to be questioned in a strong way and hope that is done in the next one. 

The drama in the court room was great, and the multi camera setting enhanced the breathlessness of the moments. There were long 15 minute shots which created a theatre like environment, which is quite different from a shot where the actor is not having a co-actor in her front. Do not expect a “Court” though, which was probably the only movie which presented courts in the most realist manner.  

All the actors did well, especially Tapsi and Kirti. Tapsi surprised me, because I had never seen her perform so well. Kirti was great in Shaitan, but was overshadowed by other actors, this is her great chance. Through Andrea, we also came to one of the most important issue of the country, which is of racism against the north-east Indians, especially the trouble that the women go through. We need an entire movie to showcase that.  

Other actors in smaller roles, like Vinod Nagpal who was the girls’ house owner, and Rajvir’s friend who challenged the girls did a great job as well. The only one who looked a little out of place was Piyush Mishra, probably because he thought it is a commercial film, but later he came to his own and finished it well. 

The song Kari Kari sung by Quratulain Baloch is haunting and can be heard all the time. 

Director Anirudh Roy Chadhury, creative producer, Shoojit Sircar (who was more like a co-director) and writer Ritesh Shah are three men who created something great, they must have taken a lot of insight from the women who suffered. 

Watch this movie with your family, especially your young boy or boys. It is in the end a vision of Shoojit Sircar which has created such a gem. Do watch it. It’s only a beginning and hopefully Hindi cinema will dare to go even more radical in the future.

       Reviewed by Prabhat Jha

Prabhat Jha is a Research Scholar in Patna University. He often writes poetry, plays and short stories. Apart from English he also writes and translates from Maithili and Hindi. Email: prabhat.jha087@gmail.com

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Tabish Khair's Jihadi Jane | Book Review

Review - Varsha Singh

A Jane is not born, but rather becomes/is made, a Jane; a Jihadi Jane

How do you describe a story which makes you peel off your skin while reading ? It has been quite difficult to write about Tabish Khair's latest novel Jihadi Jane, which seems more to be a biography of a Jihadi, rather than a work of fiction. It is Khair's intense research work done beforehand which keeps one pensive while turning on each and every page of the book. 

Khair's astounding tale of Jamilla and Ameena begins like a mystery which later on, seem to be advancing like the story of two common girls, one of whom is seen caught in the nuances of tradition while the other discards any kind of restriction on herself, celebrating her liberated self. But moving further, the tale spins and takes another pace; a deadly pace infact. The story rips open the tightly knit system of brainwashing young talents who may become the strengths of any great civilisation/society, but who rather end up becoming nothing more than the terror weapons.

This substantial novel of Khair grips within the dismay conflicted upon young minds in name of religion. It would be fitting to state that this was a much needed tale of time when most are living the life of scepticism and insularity.        

Book Blurb: 
High-school best friends Ameena and Jamilla couldn’t be more different: while one smokes cigarettes in their school playground, the other is a member of her mosque’s discussion group in suburban Yorkshire. When heartbreak and doubt leave Ameena bereft and alone, she turns to Jamilla’s beloved Allah for solace and purpose. 

It is then that both girls find themselves entranced by a powerful Internet preacher—Hejjiye, a woman running an orphanage home in support of the men fighting in the name of jihad. Leaving their families and country behind, they run to join the Islamic State in Syria to serve a cause they unquestioningly believe in. 

However, things begin to change for the worse once Ameena marries Hassan, a jihadi leader, and suddenly Jamilla begins to see the world that she left everything for differently. Getting out is almost impossible, but there is one way. Will the girls choose a path which might change their lives beyond recognition? 

Heart-wrenching, masterful and stunningly powerful, Jihadi Jane paints a vivid picture of militant-brides operating around the world and the terrifying cost of religious fanaticism.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

KASHMIR Scars of Pellet Gun by Mannan Bukhari | Partridge Publishing India

The book titled KASHMIR Scars of Pellet Gun authored and compiled by a prominent Kashmir-based human rights defender Mannan Bukhari is the first of its kind to be written on the subject, and contains the details of horror caused by the use of pellet Gun in Indian controlled Kashmir Valley. By dent of his hard work, the author is unique among the contemporary thinkers, whose incisive thought has a great deal of attention both here & abroad.

Reliving his experiences and endless dialogue with the people of his land, which one has not seen so far; one find his emotional attachment to it the way author has presented book with the starting of reminiscent of 1990 when the armed struggle against illegal brutal occupation of India was on surge and has also highlighted that 70,000 people have been killed, nearly 8,000 have been subjugated to enforced disappearance, and thousands have been raped. Mannan has also presented a fleeting look of 2010 civil unrest and the unjustified killings and arrests.

Pellet guns were introduced in Kashmir as non-lethal alternative to quell the pro freedom demonstrations after more than 130 demonstrates were killed by the police and paramilitary in firing during 2008, 2009 and  2010 unrest. Since its introduction in Kashmir in 2010, the 'deadly' Pump Action Shotgun or Pellet Gun is a preferred weapon used on civilians, including protesters and bystanders, alike.
The book is divided into eight chapters which includes information acquired through RTI, medical practitioner’s experiences and observations on pellet caused injuries and fatalities, stories of some of the survivors, accounts of family members, thereby unveiling the lethality of so-called non-lethal weapons. Highlighting “The Brutal Face of Suppression283-page book makes it clear that pellets have caused unprecedented horror to survivors; there are the cases of lost vision, crippling lung, chest, and facial injuries. The age group 13 -30 has been the worst hit of this deadly weapon.
The beauty of the book, published by Partridge India, A Penguin Random House Company, that is a leading publication house, has cover page photo of a real X-Ray of a human skull maimed with pellets, all deep in the eyes, bones and brains which clearly indicates the lethality of the weapon which government is claiming to be non-lethal.
According to the book, the medicos treating the pellet victims in Srinagar find pellets deadlier than bullets. The surgeons often say a bullet hits one or two organs but a pellet damages multiple organs that too with multiple perforations.
By taking the work seriously the fraction in book documents a study conducted by SK Institute of Medical Science, Soura Kashmir, which divulged that from June 2010 to September 2010 alone, pellet gun fire have caused death of at least six persons, severely injured 198 persons and five persons according to report have lost their eyesight following the pellet injuries. 
The book also highlights the continuous fear of State machinery especially intelligence agencies as a result of which many families prefer to treat their victims in private clinics as in Government Hospitals they fear being rounded up by intelligence agents and fear from police to register cases against pellet victims under section of sedition and waging war against state.

Although a large number of pellet injury victims have not even been part of protests as their narration reveals that how they were just hit in a targeted manner. As revealed in the book the families of the pellet affected youth face shortage of financial resources and as a result the treatment of victims has been stalled.
It is heart wrenching to read how youth left their homes but never came back, but with the pierced bodies busted with pellets by government forces. They promised to come back to their parents but came in coffins. 
The Judgment of the State Human Rights Commission obtained through RTI Act by the author, substantiates the author’s stand and says, “..From the report, it is clear that the deceased and the injured were completely innocent civilians but for the misadventure and unbridled powers exercised by CRPF personnel a precious life has been lost and the present subject has sustained permanent disability. The incident is an example which shows that many innocent civilians have unnecessarily lost their lives only because the Security forces had run amok and were not subjected to any command or control.”
The author presents the haunted baggage of the victims who were injured in this chaos and could not even receive proper medical attention. Their parents did not have a single penny than to fulfill the last wish of their dying children, of eating an ice-cream. How these scars can let their parents to live in peace?    

The author has also highlighted the worst condition of pellet sufferers who have been subjugated to complete vision disability, many are mentioned there who have faced excesses by forces, some of them have been blinded, some of them have disfigured.

The author supplies an in-depth analysis of various aspects of the problems faced by the victims and their families. The heart rending accounts shared by the victims, their families and the details provided by the doctors who have treated these pellet gun victims is bone chilling for a reader.

The two defining aspects of the book are that it has one focused on statistics and has also featured the prominent works by other writers. The book from page no 89 to 168 documented the articles from renowned journalists and they have severely criticized the use of pellet gun on innocent civilians. By documenting these articles which have appeared in different publications including New York Times, Mannan in other words claims that this act of suppression and brutality occurred before the eyes of the world and still nothing happened.
The author has presented R.T.I Reports from different hospitals of the valley and from this statistics we have come to know that from a minor public healthcare facility to a major hospital of the valley all have received scores of patients suffering from pellet injuries since its use from 2010 by government forces. It also offers medical research articles prepared by renowned doctors of the valley.
Gautam  Navalakha in his foreword of “ Kashmir Scars of Pellets Gun’’ has depicted it as a book which tells you records and documents, what befell people at the hands of Indian occupation forces, when the military forces turned “non-lethal”. And in so doing it further lends credence to the body of literature about the hideous aspect of ‘War to win Hearts’, where not just hearts but minds are target of attack.”

According to Gautam Navalakha a prominent human rights activist, “the significance of this book, lies in collection and collating of data acquired through RTI as well as based on medical practitioners own experience and observations on pellet caused injuries and fatalities. It is stories of some of the survivors, accounts of family members and others that recalls real life happenings as they unfold and their aftermath. It is the everydayness of this happening, the real events and those involved. It is told simply and lucidly. But in the end it is much more than that.”

From this book ‘Kashmir Scars of Pellet Gun’ we came to know that author has worked with his full enthusiasm to get data via RTI and has visited continuously to the pellet gun victims across the valley. The author has also documented static’s and data to support the argument that the use of pellet gun is a crime against humanity. A detailed account of the havoc created by the deadly pellet gun in Kashmir Valley is shown in readable and entertaining style.

Overall, the book is effective, because of its sensational, horrific but unique subject matter. The author has done admirable job and the style of writing is brilliant and a stunning work by the author Mannan Bukhari that touches your heart to the core. The book is memorable and powerful, and as evidenced by its appealing title “Kashmir Scars of Pellet Gun” and wonderful Teaser/ Tagline “The brutal face of suppression, has successfully succeeded in bringing to the world a story previously largely unknown, denied, or ignored. This book would surely mark the beginning of a new chapter in the history of use of pellet gun on humans, Suppression and Kashmir. As such, it stands as a success. This book will challenge our way of thinking, bring tears to our eyes and screws us with the unexpected sufferings of the victims and their families.

Reviewed by Saba Shah
Saba Shah is a social activist and a freelancer. She can be emailed at: sabashah108@gmail.com 

Are You Right For Me? by Andrew G. Marshall | Bloomsbury

A common boast among the youth today regarding relationships is “I deserve better”. Actually this has become a college slang these days, but looking beyond the childish notions of relationship, there is a major section of couples who are facing the same kind of dilemma in there serious, long and well established relationships, the rescuer named Andrew G. Marshall, addresses such complicated questions and offers the solution, wrapped in the layer of a better and healthy relationship. 

The book “Are You Right For Me?” offers a seven step principle, in understanding and getting clarity and commitment in relationships. This book will surely help those who think that something is not correct between two of them and also those who are trying to find the perfect soulmates for them. Written in an interactive and lucid way, without getting trapped in technicalities, it describes various issues on relationships with real life examples, of true couples, who faced the same kind of situation and drives you towards a better choice. When the life is so fast now and we have scarcity of even time, then it is obvious to get directionless but Marshall with his brilliance as marital therapist can show the path, vividly.

This book is worth reading once for everyone, because at some or the other point in life all of us face exactly the same kind of questions as mentioned in this book. The tough and dilemma centric issues on relationship needs some expert treatment and no one can do this better than Marshall, the pages in this book surely deserves the sight of your eyes, almost unavoidably!

Reviewed by Partho Mishra
A wisdom sharer interested in creative thoughts and innovations, especially in areas of rich literature, applied physics and computers and technology. Also a freelancer in all these related areas.
Twitter handle- @UNIMANULLARDUKE
E-mail id - parthomishra016@gmail.com
Contact number- +917563808595

I Love You but I’m Not in Love with You by Andrew G. Marshall | Bloomsbury

In our world, when we have introduced a concept like “Virtual Reality”, our actual life also revolves in a world which doesn’t exist, so in order to erode away the dust of confusion and dilemma Andrew G. Marshall has taken the baton in his hand and that too with extraordinary zeal and enthusiasm. This book on relationships is really the path breaker in dealing with such complex problems with utmost ease. Marshall has pretty vividly portrayed the minute aspects, ups and downs and swirl of emotions rising and falling inside human brain and not only that, he has provided apt solutions for the same too. He through his pen sometimes gets into the robe of a perfect counsellor, sometimes a true friend and sometimes the healer of emotional wounds. The seven steps which have been described in that book will really bring passion of love back in anyone’s life whosoever is passing through a phase of emotional trauma. A series delve through a very wide lens has been offered to the readers, to extremely complex relationship problems, with the flair of Marshall’s understanding and expertise.

A must read for every couple who is going through a lot of doubts and confusions regarding their relationship. This book can bring a new perspective towards their relationship and may provide if not best, then surely a better outlook towards each other. Every relationship deserves a second chance and this treatise can help couples find the fourth dimension towards a better sustainable relationship, so that, they may not lament over their “relationship status “ as “single” on social media.

Reviewed by Partho Mishra
A wisdom sharer interested in creative thoughts and innovations, especially in areas of rich literature, applied physics and computers and technology. Also a freelancer in all these related areas.
Twitter handle- @UNIMANULLARDUKE
E-mail id - parthomishra016@gmail.com
Contact number- +917563808595

Lucy Saxon's The Almost King | Bloomsbury

The second milestone by Lucy Saxon in the “Take Back the Skies” series binds the readers in the realm of scientific fiction so tightly that for once we get transported completely to the imaginary world created by the extremely talented story teller. We tend to become a part of the wonderful novel. It immerses the reader into a dystopian cross old-London world through the heroic adventures of Aleks. The reader directly reaches in the midst of an adventurous surrounding, triggering with wonderful fantasies. Very cleverly with adventure and sci-fi galore, Lucy has added a pinch of romance to the plot.

The Almost King is a story about Aleks Vasin, who chooses the road less travelled and urges to become a noble soldier. He starts off with signing up to conscription, but soon realizes his idea is somehow not correct. He only has faint ideas about the fenced soldier camp. He faces the brutality of the camp, the torments of the higher officials. His hopes get shattered to debris. He decides to flee. Acquiring his stolen possessions and a horse, reaches a small town, there he meets an inventor and falls in love, there he begins a journey, that opens a new faucet of fantasies and adventures.

There are many unique elements in Lucy’s novel which makes it stand apart from the regular fantasy novels. It has an action packed cliff-hanger plot with a lot of twists, which makes it worth reading. The style of writing is simple and beautifully arranged, she has successfully avoided the trap of being too verbose or too laconic, which springs and retains the interest of the readers till the end. A remarkable thing about the novel is how the characters and surroundings are developed and unfolded. The depth and beauty of the protagonist’s character was naturally shaped in the course of the plot. There are a lot more interesting characters and incidents but to reveal them completely would be an injustice to Lucy’s grace and flawless expressions. There were some of the loopholes in the plot as the relationship between Aleks and Saria blossomed pretty quickly, then the death of Zohra.

The ending was very smartly plotted and hence left vacant spaces for a future plot. For fantasy and sci-fi enthusiasts, this novel is definitely a page turner and can take the level of imagination to different heights, this has many jaw dropping action sequences to offer on a platter of uniqueness and literary brilliance.

Reviewed by Partho Mishra
A wisdom sharer interested in creative thoughts and innovations, especially in areas of rich literature, applied physics and computers and technology. Also a freelancer in all these related areas.
Twitter handle- @UNIMANULLARDUKE
E-mail id - parthomishra016@gmail.com
Contact number- +917563808595

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Megan Miranda’s Soul Print | Bloomsbury

Megan Miranda’s Soul Print published by Bloomsbury jumps into the sea of literature as a sci-fi thriller. Although the novel encompasses scientific observation yet it floats into the world which seems to be fantastical. Megan Miranda here raises new possibilities where she connects people to their previous criminal souls. However, one can question: what is real in her writing?

Martin Luther king rightly says:
"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."

Similarly, in this novel science misguides a lot and this limitation of science becomes the reality and the essence of Miranda's "Soul Print".

The narrative begins with the story of a seventeen-years-old girl Alina Chase whose soul(supposed to be the soul of June Calahan) is contained in an Island with thirty-two guards. The psychological commotion going on in Alina's mind sets the ground for an immense suspense ahead in the story which compels readers to turn the pages without much effort. Contained Alina says:

"I didn't have a choice. I'm being contained because it's too dangerous for my soul to be free."

The entire novel envelops Alina's pursuit-story to discover how and why her soul is a "perceived threat". Indeed, the story essentially reflects the quest of Alina to find her own identity eclipsed under the cloud of June's soul. It manifests how a girl craves for becoming herself. Even a mere idea of escape from containment is immensely titillating for her. The major focus of the novel is: Will Alina be able to escape from the Island and be able to free herself from her past life?

Alina is born with lots of trouble. It becomes totally inhuman to insert a tracker inside the rib of a little girl so that her soul, the so-called criminal soul of June, would not be able to roam freely. June Calahan never appears physically in the story but haunts almost every character. However, readers grow curious to know what was the crime June committed; was that really a crime or was just made to like so.

The idea of freedom always enlightens a chained person; so Alina also sparkles with hope when the idea of freedom is triggered by Cameron, an unknown young lad. Cameron cuts the tracker out of her rib. The anticipation of enjoying freedom is ecstatic to the extent to overshadow the acute pain Alina was going through due to the cut that bleeds constantly for the want of stitches. She admits overwhelmingly :

"My heart races as I imagine the ocean-the calm blue that stretches straight to freedom."
Miranda pours in the philosophy of existentialism through Alina's constant questioning on her own existence. The time Alina gets that her physical freedom is not too far, new struggle starts for recognising her own individual identity. She contemplates:

"I feel as if I do not exist."

Indeed, the personage of Casey who accompanies Cameron (later recognised as Cameron's own sister) drags the attention of readers the most. It is Casey who is the first to make Alina realise the power of identity. Alina regrets on the fact how her containment has deprived her of the enjoyments of life Casey's enjoyed ; the art of swimming, the knowledge of computer programming and with these the confidence and courage. Casey rebukes Cameron when he tries to display his talent of stitching that he never practiced before. She says:

"I bet outrunning three guards and outswimming a motorized boat aren't on your list of talents."
Hearing this Alina wished  to be like her "more competent ,more capable". Thus Casey comes out as a foil to Alina.

The novel gathers momentum with the entrance of one of the sinister characters, Dominic Ellis. Firstly, he emerges as the main mind planning Alina's escape using Casey. However, the just-received freedom of Alina seems to be in danger as now she gets contained in Dom's clutches. She is Dom's slave now and cannot go against Dom's wish. It is unknown where Dom is carrying Alina. She loses the right to ask anything as she says:

" I am so far beyond asking."

In order to unfold the layers of suspense behind all these chasings Miranda uses flashback technique. Narration shifts backward to uncover the vital clues of Alina's past. It is quite interesting that Alina herself peels off the haziness and confusion attached to June. The story goes back to unravel the story of June and Liam. June and Liam once hacked a database (database recording the data of criminal souls) at the security of Alonzo-Carter Cybersecurity thereby crushing the arrogance of two founders ,Alonzo and Carter, that their database is secured to unhackable. The informations from the database became raw material for some scientists who started devising a strange correlation of present criminals of his time to the souls who were criminals in past lives. June and Liam thought to warn society of all criminal souls so that the future crime would be anticipated thus prevented. Unfortunately June pays for her too much faith in humanity and knowledge as she was blamed to misuse the information for blackmailing people. The excitement in experimenting over printing criminal souls ends in the murder of both June and Liam. Miranda rightly says:

"This is what a belief can do to you."

Till then the story progresses on fantastical ground of "soul printing", but Miranda intellectually wipes these fictional framing with connecting all the fiasco to the " lust for money". Dom is chasing Alina to access the money he thinks June must have hide somewhere and he strongly believes that Alina must know where the money is kept. Alina says to Dom when he tries to titilate her by the charm of money:

"No , I don't want June's money."
"Your money" (Dom corrects)
"June's money" (Alina re-corrects)

In due course Alina is convinced that the rumours about June's and Liam's crie were all rubbish and now she is determined to destroy the source (database) of all these mess. It is worth-noting how Alina starts sensing June's virtual presence directing her. Alina is able to expose a dark cavern. An element of horror pervades when Alina seems to see and listen June.

"I feel like a magic trick...I feel June whispering to me, pulling me awày."

Inside the cave one of the three boxes reveals papers with numbers written that showed groups of lives carrying their previous criminal soul. However numbers were written by Liam not by June.

Story takes another U-turn when Alina comes to know that Liam's soul is descended on Dom. Now Dom's intension is visiblely clear who wants to get inside the database to continue the game of "Power and Money". Dom becomes violent and put a gun at Alina when she denies not to aid him. However, Alina somehow manages to flee with Cameron and Casey. At this stage readers come to know why Casey and Cameron is here. They are here for finding some clues about their lost sister Ava London who disappeared on strange circumstances and Casey was suspicious of Ava's being blackmailed by June. However, the incident of auto-theft by Cameron creates humour and the love-making scenes between Cameron and Alina breakes the monotony amidst all these plotting and intrigues. Miranda is outstanding in verbalising love and romance. Alina says about Cameron:

" He doesn't grab my hand , but his passing body has the same effect , pulling me along."

The time Alina's emotional vacuum is filled by the tender accompaniment of Cameron and Casey, she gains courage unfelt before. The story reaches at its climax when she tries to unfold the meaning of "224081. Ivory Street" and finds the main connecting link between both June and Alina. Ivory Street, a trecherous and cunning old woman who was responsible for using and defaming June's name. June had come to Ivory when she found the study wrong and vulnerable but Ivory killed her. As Alina is demanding the answer in the same way June did , she is now at Ivory's gunpoint. It is remarkable to note the psychological transformation of Alina's mind when she smiles and says to Ivory;

"I'm not June."

Ultimately Alina's self-identification grabs the attention of the readers.

For the first time June's soul's sole purpose is revealed. What June left for Alina is not the database but the truth behind all these conspiracy;

"...the longest of the long games."

Once June was Alina's identity. Now Alina becomes one to clarify June's stained and criminal identity. She says;
"This was the end for June but it will not be for me."

The question of money and power was always with Ivory not with June. June was a mere scapegoat.
However, Ivory Street was only the controller of database not the maker whose identity was yet to be revealed. After capturing Ivory they search some clues that turn all the suspicions towards the villain at the head ; Mason Alonzo(one of the founders of Alonzo-Carter Cybersecurity) , currently the professor of computer science at Elson University.

The suspense is always there in the story. Again the narrative turns turtle when Dominic treacherously inserts a tracker in Cameron's body. However the way Alina moves the blade on Cameron's body in order to find tracker exemplifies her deep love for Cameron. Cameron cringes out of pain. Tracker is detected and Mason is found.

The climax is full of action when Alina acts triumphantly by destroying all the information at Mason's laboratory. She stripes all the wires out and pries all circuit boards from Mason's computer further leading to a blasting fire in the room. The greed for money, power and scientific knowledge leads Mason and Dominic to burn in the flame as they try to save the lab and enter into the burning lab.

The burning computers, wires, circuits symbolise the burning of malaise created on the name of scientific experimentation and technical development. Miranda has well exposed how humanity is at stake in this world of science and technology.

This book carries all the essential elements of interest; fusion of science and fiction, the realistic representation of human inclination towards covetousness and the constant chasing after power, glory and authority. However, Alina's metamorphosis into a courageous and confident girl and her confrontation and identification of her own self soothes the readers the most.

Reviewed by Prity Barnwal

A Master's Degree holder in English Literature, 
Prity is an avid reader and reviewer hailing from Dhanbad, Jharkhand.