Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Half Pants Full Pants - Book Review


With half pants full pants, Anand Supi transports us into the world of 1980s. He makes us revisit our childhood in small towns, when there were no gazettes and where time stretched endlessly like today’s TV serials. This isn’t a novel. But it is a collection of childhood memories. Slightly distorted, slightly incoherent, yet immensely enjoyable.

Today’s generation, which is born into abundance and where new things pour into the house at the click of the mouse, would never understand what a joy it was to buy a new mixer or TV set in the 1980s. It was a sort of celebration, for which the entire lane and all the family and friends gate crashed and the hosts happily absorbed them into their festivities like a sponge. Half pants full pants may help them imagine that world, which if not a global village, was a village family for sure.

The ten paise coins battered under the trains, the pee breaks, the rubber lizards, the early crude versions of reward points, Anand Supi gets everything right and gives the book some verisimilitude. If you are a child who grew in this time period read the book for it is nostalgic, if you are a child born in today’s digital world, read the book to know how was the childhood of your parents.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

My Hanuman Chalisa

There is not an Indian who hasn’t heard of Hanuman Chalisa, some may have recited them, but many are unaware of its deep underlying meaning which is obscured behind its Awadhi quatrains. Devdutt Pattanaik’s My Hanuman Chalisa is undoubtedly the most interesting take on it.

With stories drawn from the puranas, the tantras and the folklore Devdutt provides us a sumptuous read. The book is overflowing with interesting nuggets like in the Telgu Ramayana, despite knowing that Ravana’s life resided in his navel, Ram shot only at the head of Ravana as he was too proud a warrior to shoot below the neck and it was Hanuman who sucked air into his lungs and caused the wind to shift direction making Ram’s arrow turn and strike Ravana’s novel.

Connecting Hanuman with Shiva, the author says as the centuries passed the overtly masculine nature of Hanuman was toned down. Just as Shiva was domesticated by Shakti Hanuman’s gentle side is evoked by Sita. Since there can be no Shiva without Shakti may say that Shakti took the form of Hanuman’s tail and always accompanied him. According to the author at one time women were not allowed to worship Hanuman. But now that Shakti resides in his tail, they worship him.

According to the author by repeating the story or Ram again and again, Hanuman understands Ram, and discovers the Ram within him, the ability to be dependable for those who are dependent , even those who are unworthy, like the stream of hungry and frightened devotes who venerate him in his temples.

Beautiful drawings by the author adorn the pages of this book and makes the reading an enjoyable experience. At places the connections appear too far stretched, but that does not take away the tenuous research which the author has put in shaping this book. If you are a Devdutt Pattanaik fan, you must have lapped the book by now, and if you aren’t you will not repent reading this book.

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Return of Damayanti


Nisha Singh’s The Return of Damayanti is second book in the series featuring detective Bhrigu Mahesh and his friends Sutte.

Bhrigu Mahesh was once a police man. Now he is a private detective. Nataraj Bhakti is a retired clerk. He is haunted by the spirit of his dead wife. He seeks Bhrigu’s help. As Bhrigu investigates, the mystery deepens and takes a sinister turn. A woman is brutally murdered. Bhrigu has to find the killer or he will continue with his killing spree. 


So Bhrigu and Sutte storm into Bhakti’s house where there are numerous other colourful characters. Bhakti brother Chiranjeev, sister-in-law Premkala too pack away amongst the suspects. Then there is Savita, Bhakti’s younder sister. His eldest sister has breathed her last and her teenager son resides in the same house, in the village with a heavy name Krishna Dwar. Bhakti has announced a prize for hunting his wife’s killers. The police inspector is more interested in the prize and hence passes the information which he has gathered to Bhrigu, of course on the condition that the booty would be shared between the two. So who is the killer or is it really the ghost of his wife.

Though The Return of Damayanti is a part of the Bhrigu Mahesh Phd series, one can easily read this book without reading the first installment. It is a standalone novel. Also the author has paved for a sequel. She has tried to build a brand Bhrigu and Sutte. The Return of Damayanti falls into three parts. The first part wastes lot of ink in building the characters and the plot. Action steams in the second part, where thinks begin to move forward albeit they crawl and not run. The third part slowly unravels the culprit and his motives. There are enough twists and turns in this part, but by the time you reach there you are utterly enervated.

The author has come up with a flash file in the end of the book, where Bhrigu solves a nano case in a jiffy. Interesting way to hook the readers for sure.

Like most of the suspense novels The Return of Damayanti tracks on the hackneyed path. Even that would not have been a problem if it paced well. But it scrambles to reach the climax. The language is the biggest hindrance for the reader. Being too verbose it simply doesn’t click with the readers. It hurts because The Return of Damayanti has a soul, but it is crushed under too many descriptions and faces the pressure to fit into the format of other legendary sleuths. The authors tells a lot but shows very little.
 

The Return of Damayanti is like a bhel, which despite generous amounts of the right ingredients just doesn’t taste right. The writing is insipid and the story moves slow. But as they say pulp fiction is never out of fashion, even if ridden with cliches, not to forget the sidekick of the detective. So mystery fans may lap this book up. 


 
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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

A Song of Many Rivers


Writings of Ruskin Bond, the writer of the hills, are filled with love for the hills. Rivers flowing through the Himalayan glaciers are both intriguing and intimidating. No wonder Bond is not only in love with the hills but even the rivers that play on its laps. A Song of Many Rivers, is a compilation of the Bond’s river stories.

The sheer range of stories in this collection makes it damn interesting. Some of them fall under the category of travelogues. In the opening story A Song of Many Rivers introduces us to the Himalayan rivers. We know only of Ganga and Yamuna, but the writer also introduces us to their little known tributaries like Suswa. Sacred Shrines Along the Way takes us on the tour of the famous panch badris and panch kedars.

Wilson Bridge resurfaces in this collection. This was a bridge built by one British man called Wilson. He had married a local, who later committed suicide by jumping into the river from the very same bridge which Wilson had constructed. The stories surrounding this bridge have all the quintessential elements of Bond’s writings - setting amidst the nature and colonial period, eccentric Sahibs and guileless locales, a tinge of poignancy and traces of supernatural elements. Every piece in this book will be cherished by a Bond fan. The jewel of the crown is of course The Angry River. I have read this novella in another collection of Bond. But still it continues to enchant me. Combining tragedy and fantasy, thrill and helplessness amidst calamity, this story exhibits what a creative genius Bond is.

This collection is to be treasured by fans of Bond. I wish the typographical errors were avoided. Thought despite these errors Bond doesn’t disappoint.

The Empty House

Ruskin's Bond's stories are enchanting. They possess a unique combination of thrill, innocence, poignancy set in the picturesque Himalayan mountain towns and villages. His character sketches make you fall in love with them. Surprisingly supernatural occurrences too predominantly feature in his stories. So when he pick choses supernatural stories written by other authors it is treat for his readers, particularly for those who love supernaturals.

The Empty House is collection of such stories hand picked by the famous writer on the hills. In the title story The Empty House the writer's aunt calls him to explore the empty house which is said to be haunted. This story is the crest jewel of this collection. The way the writer creates thrill with every line with just two characters around is simply amazing. I haven't yet read any piece like this story before. Chuniya Ayah is the story of how the ghost of a young girl continues to haunt the Ayah responsible for her death.

The White Wolf of the Hartz Moutains is a long story with interesting twists and turns. It is a tragic tale of sorts, but will satisfy the loves of vampire genre. Mrs. Raeburn's Waxwork again is a nail biting thriller where the murderer enters the wax museum, were her own wax statue is kept. Did I mention that the murderer was executed to death for the gruesome act of hers, that too before her visit to the museum. Some Australian Ghosts contains nuggets of early ghosts in the Australia. Gone Fishing by Bond comes last in this collection. It has appeared in other collections of Bond and has all the quintessential elements of a Ruskin Bond story.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed these stories, the other stories are too verbose and difficult to understand.

All Ruskin Bond collections recently brought out by Rupa publications were ridden with typographical errors. Thankfully this time there aren't any. I am sure Bond fans would love to read the favourite stories of their favourite author.