Wednesday 21 October 2020

Book Review of 'The White Tiger' by Aravind Adiga

Any book that's won a Man Booker Prize comes with expectations and a certain amount of wariness that stem from past experience of similar genres. Adiga's offering stays true to the expectations - disturbing, hard-hitting, unforgiving and enduring. 

Also, one wonders why most books that showcases India in the worst light end up garnering the maximum amount of worldwide attention. (Remember Slumdog Millionaire).

Balram Halwai's s perspective of the terrible world he comes from and the life he lives as a driver-servant in the city, opens up new avenues to comprehend the metaphoric 'darkness' in the lives of the underprivileged populace.

Steeped in irony at every turn off the page, the gruesome imagery ensures that certain scenes stay in the readers' mind for years to come.

Some parts are too grisly to be realistic. The need to shock readers overrides the necessity in the narrative. Do drivers in the city apartment quarters really sleep with scores of roaches crawling over them? One is tempted to check the gross realities for oneself. The scenes where lizards are repeatedly and senselessly crushed to death for no reason leaves bitter scars on the mind. 

The novel also opens up the decadent lifestyles and corrupt ways of the filthy rich, devoid of conscience or morality. However, it does seem to justify the ruthless decline of morals of a criminal section of the poor. Balram's braggart tone while recounting some of the horrors is food for thought, indeed. The Chinese connections are interesting. 

I rate it 3.9 out of 5. My minus points for excessive and unnecessary gruesomeness in descriptions. 

Hope you found my review useful. 

Happy reading, readers. 


Book Review of 'Yakshini' by Neil D'Silva

This is a fairly different book in the sense that it couples magical realism and celestial mythology with current day modernism.

Meenu, or Meenakshi Patel's uniqueness holds our attention from the first page and continues to do so, even when it takes many grotesque turns for the worse. 

The story is an interesting combination of beauty and horror. It reminds us of the various 'possession' stories we have watched on TV. Some parts, especially in the fag end of the book are too grisly to be entirely convincing, but that's what magical realism is all about. All the knots of the mystery are tied up at the end. 

What I appreciated are the underlying social messages that cannot be missed. The futility in craving for a male child, the perils of excessive lust and the innate power of womanhood are articulated with fine clarity. 

I also completely loved the strong imagery and references to the mysticism of nature.

Hari's character doesn't ring true at all times, but is a redeeming factor that provides the crucial distinction between male love and mere desire. Meenu's sisters are convincing in their petty jealousies. 

Meenu's parents are rather inconsistent, severely craving for a male on one hand but shown to fight vigorously for the seventh female. However, the numerous lessons professed through their characters are profound.

The parts about celestial beings adds a touch of rare mythology juxtaposed with modern realism. 

I rate the book 4.1 out of 5. 

Hope you found my review useful. Do leave your thoughts in the comments. 

Happy reading, readers! 

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Alone In The Night: A Poem


Alone in the night

dark walls closing

words that echo

promises breaking


Mock of whispers

in the stitching

of his lies

betrayed cunning

Cornflower eyes brim

until the mourning

filled the morn

with her weeping

She, still awaiting


image: keep me stylish


When You Walk Away: A Poem


What befalls me

when you walk away

Thunder rams

to match

the hammering

of my barren heart

Clouds squeeze out

every last drop

weeping my tears

onto parched earth

Buried seeds sprout

their salvaged shells

My traitor mind

envisions fertile hope

And yet, you

have never returned.


image: beyonce

Thursday 15 October 2020

Book Review of 'The Palace Of Illusions' by Chitra Divakaruni

Indian mythology has always held a fascination for us. It has largely contributed to the willing suspension of disbelief that we are accustomed to, while watching movies or reading stories. 

'The Palace Of Illusions' is a heady bildungsroman of multiple themes juxtaposed with myth and feminism.

The author's introduction in The Palace of Illusions describes that the story is based on Magical Realism. Though most readers have found the same genre difficult to synthesize in Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children', they have no such challenges while reading The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni. This is partly because it is a familiar story, having been part of the Indian psyche since generations. 

And yet, it is different. For the first time, we perceive the key events of the epic through the eyes of a woman - a woman who causes the infamous Kurukshetra war, and yet, has been relegated to a mere wife of the Pandavas, in the male-centric epic. 


It is refreshing to read a narrative with top-notch language and delicious vocabulary. In a reading world where authors are increasingly wary of using 'difficult' words to win over the simpleton readers (meaning lazy readers, who do not use the dictionary), Chitra Divakaruni has no qualms in penning in English that is as rich as is warranted by the epic. An old story is rendered more beloved, by the modernised, yet profuse and pristine enrichment of vocabulary.

Draupadi's life, chronicled from her birth, passing through every crucial stage of her life that changes the course of history, and finally her demise, and beyond, has been achieved with infinite finesse.  

Panchaali's voice, as the omniscient narrator, notices everything and leaves out nothing of importance. Her ironic narration is tinged with her own predominant feelings at any given point of time in the story.


One cannot touch upon all the themes of the retelling of greatest epic of the world. The novel however highlights a few key recurring motifs that the author has chosen to bring to focus in her recounting of the tale.

A perfunctory reading points out the chauvinism of the society in  general, and Paanchaali's father and husbands in particular. A careful reading, however, reveals the innumerable ironies that shape the life of women, till date. Be it a princess, queen or an ordinary woman, the female gender is invariably a toy in the hands of the men who surround her life. 

Draupadi's resentment at being sidelined by her father for her brother, is brought out right from the moment she steps out of the fire. Being named merely as Drupada's daughter, while her brother gets to be Dhrishtadhyumna sets the tone of the whole book. Yudhishtira's weakness and Kunti's manipulations of control over her sons are palpable. 

However, the story points out how even Kunti, Gandhari and all the other women are hapless victims of patriarchal maneuvers, irrespective of the social strata then are born in. 

One of the most interesting aspects of the point of view is Panchaali's attraction to Arjuna's enemy. It is as if some Karmic Justice is at play, wherein a woman, despite having five husbands finds this intriguing,  ill-fated, victimized man more attractive than the great Pandavas themselves.

The most endearing parts of the story are the episodes that involve Krishna. Panchaali's easy friendship with the divine manifestation of Lord Vishnu gives us an insight to the ancient folklore of the Vaishnavite Bhakti movement of India. 

Krishna's characterisation encapsulates the naughty, teasing buddy and the serious advisor; the omniscient companion and the absent presence; the protector-advisor and the guru, who preached the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna.

What does it mean to be a women in a patriarchal world? Does high birth and power ensure freedom from chauvinism? The story addresses these questions, and then some. Panchaali's comprehension of the world she lives in, and her enlightenment beyond the realms of perceived realities are highlighted in clear, contrasting narratives, before and after the Kurukshetra war.

Panchaali's envy of the other wives is cleverly juxtaposed with the power she still wields as the senior queen of the Pandavas.

The infamous court scene of Panchaali's shame and humiliation showcases the utter helplessness of a woman, despite being the wife of not one, but five most powerful men of the time. It brings out the irony of misplaced 'honour' and whitewashed priorities of the male psyche.

The scene where the exhausted Panchaali makes a conscious decision to use 'woman power' is high on irony. It is only when she stops to rest under a tree, with her feet stretched on the ground that the self-centred Arjuna realizes his duty as a new husband.

It brings home the truth that showing weakness at the right time and under the right circumstances is perhaps the greatest strength of a woman. Isn't this a great pointer for the woman of today who constantly strives to be a Superwoman, amidst endless commitments? 

Was Panchaali a good mother? Or a better wife? Was she a better wife because she accompanied her husbands to the forest instead of staying with her sons? The dilemma of having to choose between loved ones is not new to women.

But Panchaali's priorities are clear. Perhaps the helicopter mothers of the modern era have much to learn from the independence that Panchaali taught her sons. Then again, a healthy balancing of time does wonders to the parental relationship. The distinct foreboding that readers feel, when Panchaali decides to spend more time with her sons on the last night of the war is significant. Time, the great leveller, plays cruel games to highlight the loss that may come upon anyone, without warning or pity. There may never be second chances in life, especially not with motherhood. 

Death / Vengeance
No retelling of the greatest war of all time is possible without the shadow of death hanging over it at every turn of the page. The very circumstance of Panchaali's birth, along with her brother, reeks of vengeance, with sacrifice if required. Dhristadyumna is always aware of the destiny of revenge he was born to fulfill. 

The angst of death of loved ones like grandfather Bheeshma, Acharya Drona, Karna, and avengement with the perishing of enemies like Keechaka, Duryodhana, his brother Dushyasana and the other Kauravas is inevitably tinged with violence. Abhimanyu receives the due honour he deserves, with a poignant portrayal of his valiance. So do the deaths of Dhri, Panchaali's companion and brother. The untimely, ruthless loss of all her sons leaves a bitter taste in our psyche. 


The main storyline sticks to the events that brought about the Kurukshetra war. However, the intricate weaving of metafiction, where Vyasa Maharshi dictates to Ganesha, and offers inner vision of the war to Vidura and Panchaali, reminds us of other ancient storytelling epics such as the Panchatantra or The Arabian Nights. 

However, there are the two main reasons why this novel is different, although the story is a familiar one. 

Panchaali offers the woman's touch, as a daughter, princess, sister, wife, daughter-in-law, friend, and finally, a mother. 

Further, the most well-known events of the Mahabharata may be read as new ones altogether. This is not because they have changed, but because the woman's point of view is entirely fresh and enlightening. 

Another interesting aspect is how Panchaali keeps trying to consciously match, and come to terms with her prophesied destiny. Her innocence when she finds disparity in her life and her comprehension, bred of painful experiences is juxtaposed with acute finesse.

Risking a spoiler, I admit to have found Bheema and Karna to be real men of substance in the tale, despite the general consensus awarded to Arjuna or Yudhistira in various retellings of the epic. This is perhaps the author's conscious intention - to highlight the nuances of the generally undermined, but crucial characters (including Draupadi).


To conclude, Panchaali's narration of the epic is a must-read. I rate it 4.8 out of 5. 

Extra points are awarded for sheer initiative and drive to bring the sidelined woman into focus, in one of the greatest epics of Indian history.

Hope my review encourages you to pick up the book, if you haven't already.

Leave your comments in the section below. Happy reading and stay safe, readers. 


Book photo: Chethana Ramesh

Monday 12 October 2020

Don't Objectify Me : A Poem

I love what I wear
even my dull saree;
With scarlet hue I pair
my innate feminity

Why do you stare?
I'm just being me.
Do I have to bear
your eyes undressing me?

Each roving leer
objectifies me.
I pretend not to care
but I'm hurt, silently.


Wednesday 7 October 2020

Book Review of 'The Invisible Victim' by Tanvi Sinha.

This is one of the best books I have read so far, this year. Slick, concise and sizzling with delicious suspense in a breathless pace, it won't let readers put the book down until the last page is turned and the last line is read. It is different from her earlier book Dance to my Tunes in the genre.

The toughest part of reviewing a fabulous book is to war with the side that's bursting at the seams to 'discuss' every twist in the story, but is reluctant to disclose too much to readers beforehand. The latter part must win, to ensure maximum joy of unveiling the suspense while reading the book. Hence, I'll gloss over the story-line, but touch upon the intricacies. 

'Good girls always love bad boys'
'Good guys are boring'
'Bad guys are more interesting'

How many times have we heard these clichés? Tanvi's story takes them at face value, mulls over them, analyses them, churns them into relationships and pronounces results, with neither judgement nor remorse. Everyone who likes to flaunt these 'cool' lines must read this book. And no, this is not gender-specific or woman-centric at all. It's just a mirror to realities that both men and women want to cover up with idiotic clichés and senseless excuses. 

The suicide of a woman. The death of an innocent child. The 'thrill' of a veteran amidst the unexpected 'action' in a dull apartment with boring residents. This is a beginning that grips the reader and never lets go until it has taken a good, hard look at the motifs of friendship, family values, marriage, love, infatuation, heartbreak, betrayal, revenge, manipulation and the very foundations that relationships are based on. 

This is a saga of a murder-suicide with host of victims, who are unearthed in dismaying clarity with each turn of the page. At the end, one wonders if the title should actually be pluralised, because each death of a loved one leaves behind a multitude of victims. 

I absolutely loved the court-room drama scenes. I loved the off-courtroom arguments even more. Each twist in the tale comes at regular intervals and is more delicious than the last ones.

Kamini's journey to personal and professional clarity is electrifying. Her personal angst, juxtaposed with her professional expertise to uncover the truth, leaves us feeling sorry for a whole lot of characters, despite the inevitable smirks that surface in the process. 

It's about time that people of all generations shun the various social 'stigmas' that offer convenient foils for players to get away with their ruthless games. At the same time, senseless promiscuity in the garb of 'modernity' has serious repercussions too.  

And yes, the book takes a good satirical look at the WhatsApp generation of homemakers (or home-breakers) who make group chatting and endless messaging the main core of their existence. Knowing when and where to stop addictions, even something that seems trivial like a WhatsApp addiction, is crucial to peace and harmony in life. The gorgeous, accused Ravish, is not off the mark when he accuses his wife's 'supportive' friends of ruining his familial peace. But then, there are multiple layers in every relationship...

Irresponsible behaviour has distinct, numerous, long-lasting consequences, that may not always be visible even to the seasoned observer. And sometimes, justice is served from unexpected, albeit convincingly justified sources. This is the crux of the story. 

This book is a must-read, I rate it 4.8 out of 5. 

Hope you liked my review. Keep reading and stay safe, readers!