Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Who I am

I wasn't happy with the header image of my blog, but the net didn't offer me one image that would sufficiently represent all my loves - books, art and fashion. So I decided to draw my own! :)

It is, like many other of my works, done on MS Paint using a regular mouse and some labour of love. Tell me how you like it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Love, Peace & Happiness: What more can you want? By Rituraj Verma: Impressions

I always accept the honour of being asked to review a debut book by an author with a pinch of salt; especially if it’s an Indian author. With the publishing industry suddenly exploding in our faces, every third person seems to be writing a book. Admittedly, writing a book is extremely hard work, but I’ve come across so many disappointing works by so-called Indian English authors, that I have now grown wary of them. So I accepted this book with a rather long, unwieldy title for a review with some reserve. It didn’t help that the book’s cover design was juvenile.

But ‘Love, Peace & Happiness: What more can you want?’ (LPH) by Rituraj Verma did not entirely disappoint. It is, at best, trippy. The book appears to be a collection of short stories at first glance, but as one reads on, it turns out to be a series of stories revolving around a fixed set of people, somehow amalgamating into a novella. All stories are about man-woman relationships in the modern society. All couples have relationship patterns common to urban conditions, and are easily identifiable in this day and age. The characters cross paths in the course of the stories, and change their destinies.

Through characters placed in varying life situations, the author tries to make the reader ask himself some fundamental questions about life. What is love? How one may find happiness? What comprises peace? I will not go as far as to say that these stories are fodder for introspection, but sometimes there are questions one catches asking oneself.  

One unique aspect of LPH  is that the writer offers alternate endings to every story. These alternate ends are available to read on his website, and should a reader not like or agree with the way a story ends, he/she can choose another. While the idea is most innovative, I felt throughout the book that the author was holding back. He did not commit to a story entirely because he had to keep his options open. One finds him building the plot, holding the pace and suddenly slacking towards the end. Other readers may, of course, disagree. Honestly, I read alternate ends of only one story, and found them too insignificant to bother with.

The writer goes on this way with fair, mostly believable stories right up to the end, but it all changes in the last chapter. He adopts a style that is hugely different from the rest of the book, and one is left wondering what the author was smoking when he wrote it. It is part introspective, part crazy and entirely out of place in the book. But then, one must allow an artist of words his eccentricities. The book, on the whole, is a job done well.

Should you read it? I should say yes.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Cusp

Because I am a Cancer-Leo cusp, a volatile mix of the fire-water signs, this collage really is a self-portrait.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Languorous Love

Let things linger, let things soak,
Let love permeate slowly into your bones.

Let it slide down the edges, of sides left untouched for years
Let it show what one has no claim over, let it show what one owns.

Let it burn, ever so little, singeing slowly by the minute
Let it steal from restful sleep, and push stealthily every limit.

Let it extinguish fires of doubt, let even clarity cloud,
Let it prevail over reason, let it subdue logic, wit.

Let it walk in nonchalance, let it your patience try,
Let it act like there is forever, let it sometimes make you cry.

Let it make breathing scarce, let it melt every living cell,
Let it erase every fact, farce, let it listen, let it tell.

Let its fragrance madden you, let its burden sadden you,
Sometimes fire, sometimes ice, let it become your virtue, your vice.

Let it bind in chains of glory, let it give heights to your story,
At times bright, then dark, let it be your victim and your jury.

(Co-written with @shakwrites)

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Saturday, September 08, 2012

It probably isn't love

If it hasn't made you leap up wildly to embrace one morning or try to sink into the wretched bowels of one night, it probably isn't Love.

Yes, if it hasn't made you a model of unreasonable behaviour, it probably isn't love.

If it hasn't made you an amalgam of opposites; a fiery iceberg, a bleeding bouquet, it probably isn't Love.

 If it hasn't made you want to wander streets in search of your lover or death, it probably isn't love.

If it hasn't made you more tolerant than you've ever been yet more petty than you've ever dreaded, it probably isn't Love.

If it hasn't made you want to own the person, the whole and every part, then it probably isn't love.

And in return, give yourself to them; more than they ask for, more than they can handle, and say '' Keep me,'' it probably isn't Love.

If there are whys and wherefores, it probably isn't love.

(Co-written with @talli_redux)

The Valmiki Syndrome by Ashok Banker: Impressions

I have to begin with my admission of having a hate-love (more hate than love) relationship with this author. Despite my ordeal with his Ramayana series, which is also something I’m currently reading, I chose to read The Valmiki Syndrome. Why? Partly, because I was ensnared by the title, and partly, because Random House asked me to review it. And at the end of the book, my perception of the author remains the same. However, the book wasn’t as bad as some other ‘preachy’ ones I’ve read; mostly because it uses mini stories to prove the point. Ashok Banker extols the value, and demonstrates the ancient technique of, katha (storytelling) as a way of gaining insight, knowledge and subsequently, wisdom in this book.

The book talks about The Valmiki Syndrome – the common human conundrum of trying to find the work-life balance. I’m not sure if a concept like this existed, or has been conjured up by the author. I think it is the latter. While using Sage Valmiki’s story as an example was okay, calling the whole problem of work-life balance ‘The Valmiki Syndrome’ was stretching it. The book could easily have been called something like ‘The Work-Life Question’, ‘The Urban Dilemma’ or something else that sounds self-help-ey. But Banker’s love of Ramayana and a clever marketing ploy may have prompted this title. There is a resurgence of interest in Indian mythology in the current generation, and like it tricked me to pick up the book, it will many others.

As I’ve mentioned above, the book has three mini stories about three very different lives. There is an extremely ambitious Suhasini; there is Sara, who rebels to find success in a field not approved of by her family; and there is the dreaded dacoit Ratnakaran, who kills and steals to make a living. The consequences of their chosen paths are very different – Suhasini, on a career overdrive, loses her husband and children; Sara succeeds on her path despite the initial estrangement from her family and goes on to get the best of both worlds; and Ratnakaran realizes, with the help of Rishi Narada, that his family does not really support his means, and goes on to mend his ways by treading the spiritual path.

Through the stories, the author tries to encourage the reader to ask oneself three fundamental questions about identity and life. Who am I? Who do I wish to be? How do I become that person? Once a person mulls upon and is able to answer these questions, he is able to find his life path. He is able to prioritise, act upon, and change his life situation for the better. These are pertinent philosophical questions and I liked the book for them. The author is able to demonstrate simply and easily their importance. The packaging of this ancient wisdom is clever.

My only misgiving, as with all of Banker’s books, is his style of writing. I find it boring, especially in parts where it is Banker speaking. As long as he has his story voice on, where the characters talk, he is tolerable. But when his own opinions come across, he begins to sound ‘bleh’. It’s like ‘I’m not preaching, but do this…’, ‘I’m not being a guru, but do that…’. Yeah, okay, Mister Banker, you’re not trying to preach, but you are. Don’t.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The story peddler

A digital doodle I made for a friend, when he asked me to create a new display picture for him. The general idea was that of a write, which I then turned into that of a story peddler. So, here is my little stick man walking around with his bag full of stories about life, love and death.

You like?

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Red Jihad: Battle for South Asia by Sami Ahmad Khan: Impressions

Reviewing books has become a constant source of pleasure in my life, and it is now earning me some precious acquaintances too. I first found out about ‘Red Jihad’ via Twitter and immediately offered to review it. It is hard to ignore a book whose title has the words ‘Red’ AND ‘Jihad’ in it. The author, Sami Ahmad Khan, sent me a personal copy when the publishers delayed. Facebook friendship and a treasured camaraderie ensued, but that is a story for another day. The hero of this blog post is Sami’s debut novel, ‘Red Jihad: Battle for South Asia’.

‘Red Jihad’ revolves around an idea that is too eerily real to be thought of entirely as fiction. Set in the very near future (2014), the basic plot is about a coalition between Pakistani Jihadists and Indian Naxalites for a terror ploy, and an ensuing war between India and Pakistan. Yes, shudder! Indian Naxalite Agyaat ties up with Pakistani extremist Yasser Basheer to hijack the Indian experimental missile, Pralay and use it on India, thereby deflecting the government’s focus from the Red corridor. But when the missile intriguingly changes course and lands on Lahore instead of Delhi, the consequences change drastically. Pakistan wages war against her neighbor despite the Indians pleading innocence and the possibility of a nuclear war looms large. Other nations get involved and political conspiracies abound, deepening the quagmire…

‘Red Jihad’ is a powerful debut novel with an intriguing storyline, but it is not without its flaws. Throughout the book, I kept getting the feeling that the author is trying hard to write like someone else, to emulate a style. His voice does not quite sound his own. The writing is jerky in places, the humour, a little awkward and the metaphors, a tad forced. But then, these are all souvenirs from a first.

However, this first is also page-turner. ‘Red Jihad’ keeps you riveted throughout, with the ping ponging action between strategy rooms of the Indian and Pakistani military. Now the missile’s on its way to Delhi, now it’s on Lahore. Now a general is barking orders to start war, now a prime minister is saying no. It is an out and out guy novel (yeah, I’m sexist alright), and I can almost imagine the glee on Sami’s face as the plot took shape in his head and his pen gave it life. Guns & fighter planes, tanks & submarines, good guys & bad guys – the book has all that a creature of testosterone will want. The writer even goes to great lengths to describe the names and makes of the weapons, but it often seems unnecessary. The means of war sometimes take precedence over the ends. 

But that’s not to say that the book is lacking in its message of hope and humanity. More than once in the book, Sami makes the reader take a hit from a bomb or a bullet. Or he leads the reader by hand to an improbable though not impossible situation where a Pakistani soldier and an Indian army man are building a warm solidarity. Sami tries to give shape to the dream of friendship between the Indian and Pakistani nations – the kind of message this generation needs to grow up reading. Read it.


You can follow the book's FB page here.