Sunday, 29 November 2015

Tiger Heart - Book Review


The cover of Tiger Heart describes it as “My unexpected adventures to make a difference in Darjeeling and what I learned about fate, fortitude and finding family half a world away.” This is the real life story of Katrell Christie. It is co-authored by Shannon McCaffrey.

Many westerners have written about India. Their writings have been confined to the ghats of Varanasi, sages from the Himalayas, Taj Mahal, Yoga, poverty and congested roads of India. Yes, Tiger Heart has Varanasi and its ghats, it has an orphanage too. But it is not anything like those memoirs of expatriates which inundate the book shops.

Katrell lives in Atlanta in the United States. She owns a tea shop there. She never hankered to visit India. But destiny brings her to India on a short trip. She visits Darjeeling, the place from where her tea comes. There is a girls orphanage in Darjeeling which doesn’t house girls once they become seventeen. Katrell visits this orphanage. She meets three girls who would turn seventeen soon and will be thrown on the streets. She realizes that many such girls, who are from the poor communities, go missing. Many are thrown into prostitution.

Katrell’s heart tells her that she simply cannot go like that.She should do something for these girls. But she has to go. She goes but with a promise to return. Back in Atlanta, she places a note about these girls in her tea shop and asks her customers to drop change in the bowl, which would be used for the betterment of these girls.

In another six months she is back in India. Thanks to the civil unrest in Darjeeling, those three girls who have turned seventeen are still in the orphanage. She rents a house for them. She makes their lodging and boarding arrangements. She pays their school fees and takes care of all their needs. This is how the project Learning Tea is born. She again goes back to Atlanta, with a resolve to return again for her girls.

Her mother is diagnosed with a brain cancer. The doctor tells her that she will die soon. Still she returns to India to be with her girls. No wonders the girls nickname her Tiger Heart.

The book articulates the life of Katrell very well. She was born into a poor family. At one of the parties she was wearing a second hand jeans. It turns out that the jeans was given away by one of her rich classmates. You can imagine her embarrassment. But this poor girl is empathetic towards poor girls in another country. It is so heartening to see that an American lady is doing so much for these girls in India. Her life, her journey shows that where there is a will there is a way.

Now her project is funded through monthly Indian dinners at her shop, the sale of packages of Darjeeling tea, small donations from individual, a community musical and yoga festival. The book begins with the following epigraph by Rabindranath Tagore.
I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.

The aforesaid lines aptly describe the life of Katrell. The book is written in a simple language. Katrell’s life and her work make the book an interesting read. This book will inspire you to do something for the humanity. This is a book not to be missed. I salute the Tiger Heart. Hope the book gives birth to many more Tiger Hearts.

Keep your baby's skin safe

 
Soft skin like a baby has become a metaphor to refer any soft skin. But what makes a baby’s skin so soft is a question to ponder over. Let us enumerate a few things which make a baby’s skin so soft
1. Mother’s diet.
Yes mother’s diet, when the child is in womb, affects everything including the skin of the baby. A mother should have a healthy, nutritious diet to make the baby’s skin soft. You should drink milk, eat fruits when you are pregnant. My mother-in-law swears by panchamrut to make the baby’s skin soft. Panchamrut is made of five elements – sugar, ghee, honey, milk and curd mixed together. So mix it up and your baby will have a soft skin.
2. Oil massage
Oil massage is a must for every child. You don’t require any special oil for the same. Ordinary coconut oil will do. Just warm it up and give your baby massage daily, without fail. Your baby’s skin will become soft like feather. Oil massage will not only make the skin of the baby soft but also increase the immunity power of the baby.
3. Mother’s milk
Mother’s milk is the divine nectar sent by the god. It is important to feed the baby frequently and for at least a year for baby’s all round development. Needless to say that mother’s milk is a magic tonic for the baby’s skin too.
4. Soft cotton clothes
Baby’s skin is delicate. So use only cotton clothes for the baby. Your grannies will tell you that you should never wear new clothes to a baby, even if they are made of cotton. Use used clothes. Borrow it from your friends and relatives, who had a baby few months before you. I know this advice would be hard to follow for few people. There is a way out. Wash the new clothes with good detergent and dry it. Repeat the procedure thrice and you can use it for your baby. I am sure such seasoned clothes will help your baby to have a beautiful cream.
5. Sun light.
Sun light is a boon for all the humans, baby included. So daily early in the morning expose your baby to the tender sunlight. Let the baby sunlight kiss your baby’s entire body every morning. The sunlight is a gift from the God for the humanity. It will enrich the baby with vitamin E and it will reflect in the baby’s skin.


“Pampers brings you the softest ever Pampers Premium Care Pants. Its cotton-like softness is #SoftestForBabySkin and allows it to breathe, thus keeping baby’s skin soft and healthy, and your baby happy. ”

For soft skin of your baby



There are many tips which are handed over in India from one generation to another to ensure that the baby’s skin remains soft. Though no any scientific research was ever conducted with regard to these tips, even allopathic doctors tell from their own experience that these tips indeed work. Let us enumerate a few tips to keep the skin of the baby soft. .
1. Nuts
The mother should have nuts while she is pregnant. She should continue to eat it even after the child birth. Even the child should be given the protein rich nuts. But wait, before thusting that cashew nut into your baby’s mouth listen how to administer it. Take a nut on a clean platform or chopping board. Put a spoon water on it. Rub the nut on this water for five times and feed the water to the baby. Your baby will get all the goodness of the nuts and have a glowing skin.
2. Use mosquito nets
The skin of the baby is tender. Even a small mosquito bite can cause rashes on the baby’s skin. So protect your baby from mosquito and other insects. Install mosquito nets, use mosquito repellents .Though mosquito repellent creams claim to be safe for the skin of the baby, I would suggest you not to use the same and rely on mosquito nets.
3. Besan
Besan is excellent cleanser. It is gentle too. Bathing your baby with besan will make its skin soft. But be careful. Don’t rub it on your baby’s skin too much. Also ensure that the besan residues do not remember on the baby’s skin. They usually remain under arms and on the rear side of the knees and also at the thigh joints. That may cause allergies and infections. Ensure that the besan is washed off completely. Tip of the day mix besan in milk and your baby’s skin will be soft like a petal.
4. Aloe vera
Aloevera is a magic remedy for the skin of the baby. Cut any aloevera leaf. Cut it again so that the yellow liquid will be discarded. The yellow liquid which comes out when aloevera is cut is dangerous for the skin. But the white gel inside the leaves is a magic remedy for the beautiful skin. Apply the gel to the skin of your baby and it will have a glowing skin.
5. Haldi
Haldi has antiseptic properties. So after bath apply haldi to the skin of your baby just like talcum powder. Your baby will have a healthy, blemish free skin.

“Pampers brings you the softest ever Pampers Premium Care Pants. Its cotton-like softness is #SoftestForBabySkin and allows it to breathe, thus keeping baby’s skin soft and healthy, and your baby happy. ”

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Adultery - Book Review


Paulo Coelho’s Adultery is a novel about a married woman. She has been happily married for many years now. She has a rich husband, a great career as a journalist and two cute children. Yet, there is something missing in her life. The spark in her relationship with her husband is long lost. Amidst all the luxuries, she feeling gloomy and depressed. Visits to psychiatrist, shamans and drug peddlers yield no results. That’s when she goes to interview a young politician. He too, like her, is married. He was the boy who she had kissed as a teenage girl. The sparks fly again and they end up in a relationship which now is only sexual. She feels alive again. She wants to do it again and again. She begins to fantasize about him. She finally confesses her state of mind to her husband, who understands her. Their relationship heals and she feels liberated.

The premise of the novel is easy to relate. We find people who are depressed even when outwardly everything is going fine in their lives everywhere. Paulo Cohelo brilliantly articulates the mental set up of a married woman who is unhappy in her life. Her suppressed sexuality comes to the fore when she meets her old boyfriend. Here neither she made guilty about the adulterous act nor is she portrayed as a slut. She comes across as a natural person.

The book neither claims to be a sequel of the classic The Alchemist nor it says that it will advise you to pick the pieces in your broken matrimonial life. So I feel that comparisons with The Alchemist are unfair. If you keep aside the image of Paulo Coelho which you have in your head (I agree keeping it aside is difficult), you will enjoy this book. I liked the book. It is a riveting read for sure.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

I inspire - Book Review


I inspire is the story of Neerja Malik, double cancer survivor. The story is unique for though it is a true story about a living person, it is written in third person. This makes the voice of the narrative fresh and innovative. Secondly each chapter oscillates between Neerja’s adulthood, particularly the phase when she is diagnosed with cancer and her growing up years. Her grandmother has a unique role to play in her growing up years. She mentions her that there are ten treasures for a meaningful live, without telling what are those. Neerja discovers these treasures during her happy and difficult times.

Neerja’s story is moving. But it is not a sob story. It is a celebration of life. It underlines the spiritual bent of mind of Neerja. The book is full of pilgrimages made by Neerja which are more of spiritual adventures. The incidents from her life make you believe that miracles happen even today. After many miscarriages Neerja finally gives birth to a set of twins. While everything seems to be happy, she is diagnosed with cancer. Her attempts to conceal her disease from her young children and their anger, especially that of her son, when they realize that their mother had kept them in the dark, will make you cry.

Neerja’s love for life is palpable from every word in the book. Neerja has enjoyed every phase of her life, whether it was as a child with great love for food or that of a woman diagnosed with cancer for the second time. Her experience as a mother of raising two kids has been articulated very well. The way she continues to enjoy watching movies and partying even on the day when she is diagnosed with cancer for the second time, shows her great courage.

Her work as a counsellor in the hospitals deserves a special mention. Indeed she has spread fragrance in many wilted lives by telling them that if she could conquer the disease, not once but twice, even they could. Her immense faith in God helps her in overcoming all that comes her way.

The treasures given by her grandmother play very subtle role in the story. Its subtlety works very well, for it doesn’t mar the narrative. It doesn’t make the book preachy with hollow lessons in spirituality. The way she narrates her encounter with the God of death Yama on page 87 is simply hilarious.

On page 79 in the following line I felt that the word he was wrongly written as she. “Her son was trying to comfort her so that the shivering would subside , but wasn’t able to. Her operation was fixed for seven the next morning, so she requested Neerja to somehow meet her before that, so that she could instill some courage into her.”

I inspire is a true tale told honestly, without any glorification. It is full of happiness and love for life which is contagious. Isn’t that a good reason to buy the book?

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Beating Depression

How many of you feel gloomy and depressed. Let me make a confession that I have felt depressed many times. Yes, the environment and physiology do play a role in depression, but one of the main causes of depression is things not going the way you expected. It takes some time for acceptance. This period causes stress and depression. Your own will can take you out of depression. You are required to work hard to overcome negative moods. Let me enlist few of things which can lift your spirits. 
 
Meet friends
I am sure all of you have people in your life who unconditionally accept you and love you no matter what you do. Meet such friends often. Laugh with them. Thank God for making them part of your life. If you can’t meet them, call them up. Even writing emails articulating your emotions towards them will make you feel better. I prefer writing emails. For it doesn’t disturb the other person, who may be busy in his office or family life. When I tell meet your friends, let me tell you a word of caution. Do not be overdependent on them. Yes, they are always there for you. They will hear you, advise you. But at the same time remember that they have a life of their own. You can’t expect them to be at your beck and call. Their presence is like a medicine, which should be taken in prescribed doses. Overdose is injurious to you as well as your relationship.

Exercise
There are many studies which show that exercise increases good hormones in the body. Now every time you don’t have to hit the gym. You can go for a walk. Doing household chores like washing the clothes, doing the dishes, sweeping, cleaning also involves lot of physical activity. Even doing these apparently mundane jobs can help you feel better.

Books
Books are the friends which are available all twenty-four hours for you. Biographies, books of saints and seekers help me fight depression. First of all they give you a feeling that you are not alone. Secondly they inculcate a hope that if they overcame it, you can do it too. 
 
Be strong
Be strong. Don’t be too touchy. Don’t take every comment, every situation, every person to your heart. There are people and situations which come in life. Remember the basic rule of life, whatever has to come has to go as well. The same applies to unpleasant people, situations and places. This phase too will be over. Have hope. Don’t take life too seriously. List all the good things in your life and be grateful for the same. Gratitude works like magic to change the moods.

Write your emotions
Writing your thoughts relives a huge burden from your head. Suddenly you feel light. You need not show what you have written to any other person. You can keep it to yourself, confidential like a top secret file. But pouring your heart out in your diary certainly helps.

Music
By music I don’t mean just listening to songs over your phone. I want you to sing aloud. A bhajan, a film song anything would do. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing well. Sing aloud for at least ten minutes. Its therapeutic. Try it out and you will agree with me.

Sun light
Lot of research papers say that exposure to sun light, especially in the morning, helps to beat the gloomy mood. Now this is easy. No need to specially take out time for the same. Just take your cup of tea and head to the balcony or terrace. Enjoy the sip with the sun. Sun light is blessing of God to humanity. Soak it inside and you will feel better.

Meditation
Meditation is the ultimate remedy for a peaceful mind. But the irony is that it is difficult to meditate when you are disturbed. So what should be done. First indulge in some physical activity. After you have worked for more than half an hour, sit for meditation. That will help you to concentrate better. Unwanted thoughts will creep lesser. Again remember negative thoughts will not be eliminated altogether. Thinking is the job of the mind. Not being attached to the same is the duty of the reason. Even if a negative thought comes up, don’t feel it. By feeling I mean do not attach any emotion, positive or negative towards the same. Your mind will be calmed.

I am sure you must be feeling better after reading this write up. If you are feeling better share it with your friends and family who matter the most to you as a mark of your gratitude.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Stream of happiness

Neela hardly read any books. She never heard any sermons. Yet she knew the recipe to perfect happiness. It was not the case that all was well in her life.

Neela enjoying a cup of tea
She lost her father when she was still in high school. Her father was the only breadwinner of their family. She had three siblings – one sister and two brothers. She was the eldest. After the death of their father, their share in the ancestral field was their only source of income. Her uncles were too eager to usurp their share. But her mother, a strong woman, would not allow them to deny the rightful share of her children. She took all her children to their field. She and her children kept on uprooting the crops which had grown just a foot in height, until her brothers-in-law agreed to give her share.

Even the money which they got from the farm produce was insufficient to feed the family of five. Neela being the eldest daughter started taking tuitions to supplement her family income. This was when she was in tenth grade. She didn’t receive a huge amount. But even that little money did matter.

She did not top the SSC board results. But she got decent sixty percent, which was first class. She took admission in commerce stream. When she was in class twelve, she was operated for appendix. Doctor had told her mother that as a result of the surgery, she would never conceive. That day her mother cried entire night. She knew the marriage prospects of her daughter were very slim.

By now even her brothers had started to work in a factory. Together they built a small house comprising of just two rooms on the patch of the land which they owned. Now that she was living in the farm, she had to walk two kilometres to go to her college. All her siblings rode the moped which they had. But Neela never learnt to drive it. Occasionally her siblings would drop her up to the main road. But most of the times she merrily walked even when the sun was scorching fire or it rained like stones.

After completing her B Com Neela took up the job of primary teacher in a private English medium school. The salary was meagre, but she had a job in hand. She kept on trying for better opportunities. She got selected in a co-operative bank. But the place of posting was Mumbai. Her mother was unwilling to send her daughter to Mumbai. They knew no one in Mumbai.

Neela remained happy in spite of her mother’s refusal to send her to Mumbai. Her happiness was never dependent on external factors. She loved dressing up and wearing make up. She would go to her school all decked up. Laughter never left her. Wherever she went she carried joy with her. She loved good food. She loved cooking. She would cook mouthwatering dishes and eat in restaurants with her friends too. She never felt cooking for her family was a burden. She never felt guilty when she was eating in the hotels without her family.
Neela and her mother enjoying boat ride at Rishikesh

By now Neela had understood that she would never get married. She had accepted it as a part of her destiny. She never questioned God about it. She would go out for movies and plays. She had enrolled in few women’s clubs. She would take her mother along for the movies, plays and cultural events organized by the club. She brought happiness in the lives of her mother as well. Her mother was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. She took her mother to Kashi by flight. The old woman’s chest broadened with pride. Her daughter had done a task, which her sons had not even thought off.

Neela with her mother at Vishwanath temple Kashi
  
Neela’s siblings got married and had children. Her sister did not get along with her husband and returned with a seven month pregnant tummy. Her sister wanted to abort the child. Doctors had advised that aborting the foetus had such an advanced stage would prove fatal to the mother. Yet, her sister was adamant that she did not want the child. That was when she promised her sister that she would look after the child as her own.

Her sister gave birth to a healthy daughter. She was reluctant to raise the child and reminded Neela of her promise. Our heroine, with the heart of gold, told her sister that she had not forgotten her promise. Soon her sister left for Mumbai. She was going to live with a friend and find some work in Mumbai. Keeping a married daughter at home along with the daughters-in-law was risky. So her mother readily sent her to Mumbai.

Neela with her sister
 Now Neela was de facto mother of the child. She incurred all her expenditure and gave her all the love which even her mother could not have given to her.

Soon Neela’s brother sold a part of their field to a person who in turn sold it to another. A court case ensued. Neela was made a party to the proceeding. Yet, Neela was calm like cucumber. She remained happy savouring good food and wearing good clothes. Her love for food soon took a toll on her health. She was diagnosed with diabetes when she was just thirty-eight. At the age of forty-two she was operated for cataract. Yet, her joie de vivre was unaffected. Her love for life, her enthusiasm was unaffected. Never did she ask God why me? She accepted rather enjoyed whatever came her way. This streak was a part of her system. No one had taught it to her. She was just born with it.

Her mother was her constant companion. Her mother died a few months before her cataract operation. She accepted her mother’s death nonchalantly. Never did she utter a line saying that she missed her mother. Now she went for the movies and cultural events alone, that too, with all zeal and not a heavy heart. She continues to live life fully in spite of all that happened in her life. Her zest is not artificial, her love for life is like a perennial stream. Even buying a new cheap Chinese mobile phone gives her immense happiness. So does eating vada-pav at a roadside stall. 
I am much better placed than her. But at times I feel low and gloomy. That is when I think of Neela and try to draw some inspiration from her. Outwardly she may seem ordinary. But when you spend some time with her you will agree that she is #madeofgreat

Contest
Answer the following question by commenting on this post and win Amazon voucher worth Rs.750

Question; What do you think of Tata Motors' association with Lionel Messi?  
 Contest is closed. The winner is Bhuwan. Congratulations. 

Friday, 13 November 2015

It doesn't hurt to be nice - book review


The first thought that came to my mind after reading Amisha Sethi’s It doesn’t hurt to be nice was that it doesn’t hurt to work a little hard on your manuscript. In the book the author gives us doses of philosophy, especially from the Upanishadas. The book also claims to be journey of the protagonist Kiara and the lessons which she learns.

The worst part is that the lessons of wisdom and Kiara’s life never blend together. They appear disconnected. Even Kiara’s life comes in episodes which are unrelated. As a result the book remains half cooked self-help book and half baked novel. Now half baked food is not what you will savour, right?

Having said that let me tell you what I liked about the book. I liked the conflict between Kiara and her husband. It sounds natural. Anyone can perfectly identify with the characters in this particular piece. I liked the lines like “Giving also means not just giving something to someone but also giving yourself freely – to be submerged in the flow of life without rationalizing every turn and path taken.” I also liked the motto of Kiara’s gang “live and laugh every second.” Age old adage like ‘If things are going your way, it is good. But if they are not relax because it’s going God’s way,” does indeed give some solace to the mind. The following advice is apt for all of us “Make this world a better place by starting with yourself and if at all you want to chase anything, chase the higher purpose of consciousness which is to give selflessly for the betterment of all.”

The incisive advice given in the following lines appealed to me though it sounded outrageous, “Just like your defecate in the morning and detach yourself from your own creation, don’t forget to detach yourself from all the negatives (read shit) in your mind before you hit your bed.”

I also liked the quote from Kamsutra “True love is like a cosmic alignment of one’s body, heart and mind, all dancing to the same eternal tune of happiness and contentment.” On page 39 of the book the author describes Kiara’s boyfriend as “as white as ash.” Now who would be impressed with a boy who is as white as ash? Again at another place she describes Kiara’s daughter as “ a little child” Aren’t all children small?

To conclude though it doesn’t hurt to be nice, this book is simply to be avoided.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Faith of nine - New book


~ Book Blast ~

About the Book:
The Third Yuga is slowly drawing to a close. Nam – the greatest Empire on Janani – is going to face some fierce winds of change. Seers foresee omens of death and destruction in the return of the Banished One – A God who will claim the ashes of this world as revenge. While out in the streets, rumours abound - of older forgotten powers stirring.

Caught in this maelstrom of a power struggle between Gods are three ordinary lives: General Fateh, the most celebrated soldier in Nam who starts to question his faith, Ishan – a gifted orphan who struggles to comprehend his destiny and Abhaya – a young monk in search of truths about this world. Their choices and actions will shape the destiny of this scarred world that becomes the playground for vindictive Gods.

In a world where Rakshasas arise out of left-over traces of Maaya and twilight forms the portal to countless worlds around us for Daityas and Yakshis to dance through, a God is only as powerful as those who believe.And when Gods rise, faith of men will be tested…And broken.

Buy Links:
eBook: Newshunt * Google Play




Fantasy for Adults

When you usually ask around for recommendations for Fantasy for adults, you end with Game of Thrones at the top of the list. Followed perhaps by scores of Shannara books. (Which by the way are still coming out! Terry Brooks is a phenomenal author!)

Because for most of us ( especially more so in a country like India) we are wary of being found reading a book whose cover looks like Chandrakanta the old Doordarshan series we used to watch as kids. So we still get by with the Harry Potter series and sometimes don’t think much beyond.
So I’ve been reading only fantasy (or broadly speculative fiction that counts Fantasy as one of the main streams – Sci-fi & Horror being the other mainstay besides countless sub-genres) for the last fifteen years now. Ever since I picked up LOTR & Dune ( by Frank Herbert. Masterpiece! ) in college. I’ve suffered looks of disdain by colleagues/ fellow travellers as I was nose-deep in some fantasy western (Namely – Dark Tower Series by Stephen King. Yes. He writes stuff outside of horror too!) But I cared less than the backside of a rodent for such. I was living in a different world and I was loving it.

So this, is an attempt to list down some fantastic gems I discovered during this journey of mine and to let the broader world be aware that Fantasy has come a long way from the tales of a young farm boy setting out to find his destiny (which involved throwing a beautiful ring into the volcanic fires of Mordor!) I will also try and slot them into different sub genres as I know them. Makes it easier for recommending, right?

Epic fantasy.  Magic that will leave you spell bound. Political manoeuvrings. Tricky backstabbing. Adventure. Kingdoms or worlds at stake. All this and more!
Mistborn Trilogy & the on-going Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson. The on-going series is a massive ten part magnum opus and it reflects all things great and fun about the genre. Cannot recommend enough of this guy. He is prolific when it comes to writing. Churning out at least 1-2 books every year. Year after year.
Promise of Blood ( Powder Mage trilogy # 1) by Brian McClellan. Sometimes called Flintlock fantasy This guy is setting the fire to the keg with this explosive debut novel in this series that deserves to be read more.
Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch – Chronicling the life and adventures of a thief and petty crook, Lock Lamora and his friends, this is also one stunning piece of work that any lover of mayhem and adventure should definitely be getting his hands on. Lies of Lock Lamora sets up the rollicking pace of this series and it’s on book-3 now – with the rest of the books eagerly awaited. You should jump onto this ship. 

Grim Dark Fantasy. This is modern fantasy with a lot of writers jumping into bandwagon. Brutal, gritty, splashed with blood and gore – and darker themes explored.
Malazan Book of the Fallen – 10 book series that is COMPLETE and mind blowing by Steven Eriksen.
Any book by Joe Abercrombie. This guy is truly the emperor of this sub-genre with his brilliant books setting out to explore darker spaces within a man’s mind.
Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence. Be warned, this books may be a bit too intense but are shining example of what a writer can do to twist the readers into his dark worlds. It features a 11-year old sociopath who sets out to conquer the world.
Prince of Nothing trilogy by R Scott Bakker. If you like your fantasy philosophical, dark and heavy this is your one stop. His second trilogy is incomplete and eagerly awaited.

Military fantasy.  Yes, there is something like this. And Myke Cole’s first trilogy starting off with Control Point is a wonderfully accessible entry point into such worlds. Combining the best of military fiction with fantasy worlds.

Silk Road Fantasy. Again a recent phenomenon of readers getting bored of medieval European settings for their fantasy tales. Notable books are Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu.

There are multiple other books that are genre-benders mashing up the good things in one genre with another. It’s a gold mine out there and I would urge all readers who ultimately like a good story to keep exploring beyond the walls and gates of Hogwarts. 

  
About the Author:
Sachin discovered Tolkien in his teens, alternative rock as a new adult and digital marketing in pretty much his late twenties. These still form a large wedge in his circle of life. Travel, radio and theatre have also figured in that ever-expanding and diminishing circle.

On perhaps a more prosaic note, he is an engineer from BITS Pilani and holds an MBA from Indian School of Business. Attribute the love for numbers and pie-charts to this. He is currently based in Bangalore and happily married to Harini. He spends an inordinately large amount of time chasing after his two dogs (who love the free life a bit too much) when he is not busy dreaming up fantasy worlds full of monsters. And beautiful Yakshis, of course.

He can usually be found ranting on twitter under the handle @xenosach, devouring books and talking about them on his blog. You can always stalk him online at his official website




Thursday, 5 November 2015

Soul Warrior - New book on the shelf


About the Book:
Twisted myths. Discretion advised. 

Fight fate, or succumb to destiny?

In the dark Age of Kali, the Soul Warrior alone stands guard over the Human Realm, protecting its denizens from evil-willed asuras or demons. When a trick of fate appoints him guru to a motley crew of godlings, he agrees to train them as demon hunters against his better judgment. Suddenly, Lord Karna is not only battling the usual asuras with sinister agendas, but also rebellious students and a fault-ridden past.

Spanning the cosmic realms of mythic India, here is a tale of a band of supernatural warriors who come together over a singular purpose: the salvation of Karna’s secret child.




Book Links:
Kobo * iBooks * Amazon US * Amazon UK * Amazon Canada

Read an Excerpt:

CHAPTER ZERO
DWANDA-YUDDHA: THE DUEL

The Himalayan Mountains.
Five thousand years ago.

Absolute darkness shrouded the Human Realm, and had for three days and three nights. Some believed the occurrence was prophetic, like the prolonged amavasya or new moon night that had heralded the Great Kuru War two thousand years ago. The war had given birth to the dark Age of Kali, the age of asura. In contrast, hope was ripe that this event would trigger the Age of Light. But the Bard wasn’t here to succumb to superstition. 
The first day without the sun’s light had spread confusion and chaos across the realm. The second day had brought desperation in the breasts of humans and fear in the belly of Celestials. The third day—today—was a feast for the asuras. Death lay everywhere. 
The human world burned without its sun. How soon before the Heavens went up in flames?
The Bard’s troubled eyes reread the last line. Then he deliberately scratched it off, lifting his long, pointed talon from the parchment made of dry palm leaf. With a sigh, he rested his aching hand on his trembling thigh. He would spare a moment to ease his body, and his mind from the strain of observation and due recordkeeping. If he didn’t, he’d forget his duty as Witness of the Cosmos, and begin to question fate. 
Despite the fire that crackled close to his right knee, and the feathered form of his upper body, he was cold. An icy wind had settled around the Pinnacle of Pinnacles, where he sat cross-legged on a seat made of rock and snow. He’d chosen this perch because it gave him an impartial view of the events happening in the world. He was the Bard, entrusted with keeping the Canons of the Age of Kali, just as the Soul Warrior was entrusted with keeping the Human Realm safe from asuras. Would they both fail in their duty today?
The Bard shook off the heavy despair the darkness had brought into the world. He mustn’t judge. He shouldn’t question. He would sharpen the talon on his forefinger, dip it into the vessel of ink kept warm by the fire, and write this tale. That was all he could do. Be the witness to history.
So he raised his feathered hand and began to write again while his eyes, sparked with power, knowledge and magic, saw clearly events unfolding from great distances. A thousand kilometers to his right, Indra, the God of War and Thunder, fought the Dragon. Indra did not fare well. But that didn’t concern the Bard as much as the clash between the Soul Warrior and the Stone Demon. Over and over, his eagle eyes were drawn to the duel taking place in the heart of the world, not only because it was a magnificent battle to behold, for it was, but because its outcome would decide mankind’s destiny.
The Soul Warrior was more than a great warrior. Karna was a great soul. Fair, honorable, brave and resilient, he was the perfect protector of the Human Realm. Of course, there were other reasons he’d been chosen to fill the office of Soul Warrior—there always were when Gods and demons were involved. But Karna’s existence was a testament to righteous action and if anyone could bring back the day, it would be him. 
But how did one vanquish stone, the Bard wondered?
Avarice and cruelty, two nefarious desires, had made Vrtra and Vala attack the Human Realm. Three days ago the Dragon had swallowed the Seven Rivers in the north, and the Stone Demon had imprisoned the Sun God, his daughter, and all the cattle of the region in his cave.
The Bard paused his writing as a thin vein of lightning winked across the skies, but without the accompanying roar. Indra’s strength waned. His thunderbolt hadn’t left Vrtra screaming in pain this time. The Bard spared a moment’s attention on the duel, just enough to note that the Maruts, the Celestial Storm-gods, waited in the clouds to rescue their god-king in case of a calamity. Indra would survive even in defeat. Of that, the Bard was sure.
But Karna had no one at his back. His might and god-powers had depleted without the sun’s healing warmth and light. His divine astras, weapons, had not slowed the Stone Demon down, at all. Only the conviction that he could not fail his godsire, his sister, and the innocents under his protection drove him now. His birth family had once abandoned him to his fate, but he would not abandon them to theirs—such was the greatness of Karna.
The Bard crossed out the last observation. No questions. No judgment. No praise, either. The canons would be free of all emotion. He wasn’t here to embellish history or glorify the history-makers, as some bards were wont to do. 
It wasn’t embellishment to write that the foothills of Cedi were drenched in the Soul Warrior’s blood. Or observe the gushing wounds on his body, despite his armor, that would make the hardiest of warriors bellow in agony, but not him. It wasn’t embellishment to write that the Heavens were empty for the Celestials had come to Earth to watch the battle, firelight cupped in their palms to light the warrior’s way. 
The Naga, the Serpent People, also looked on, hissing from the mouth of the portal that led to their underground realm beneath the hills. The Serpent King will not choose a side. Vrtra and Vala were half Naga, after all. All across the Human Realm, demons roamed free, taking advantage of the darkness and preying on human flesh and human souls. It was a terrible moment in history. The asuras had the upper hand in the eponymous age of Demon Kali.
Vala did not have arms and half a leg, but still he came at Karna. He had an ace up his sleeve. There were plenty of creatures about, an entire mountain close at hand. He began to chant the spell of soul transference. It was the darkest of all magic, the possession of another’s soul. Soon, he would be whole again and stronger than before.
Battered and bleeding, the Soul Warrior veered away from the Stone Demon. He leapt over boulders and charred vegetation. The onlookers called him a coward. Had he forfeit the duel? Has he forsaken mankind? 
Karna dove for Manav-astra, the spear of mankind, he’d thrown aside yesterday after his bow, Vijaya, had shattered under repeated use. In one smooth motion, he rolled, picked up the astra, coming up in the spear-thrower’s stretch. His tattered lower garment billowed about him as a gust of wind shot through the air. His muscled torso glistened with blood and sweat, tightened as he pulled the arm holding the spear back. 
He meant to throw Manav-astra at Vala. A futile attempt, to be sure? As long as Vala was made of stone, broken or not, his body was impregnable. Karna should have waited for Vala to transfer his soul to an onlooker. Then Karna should have vanquished the possessed creature. 
Taunting laughter reverberated through the foothills of Cedi. Vala had reached the same conclusion. The Celestials looked at each other in angry silence, unable to interfere. A dwanda-yuddha duel was fought between two opponents of equal size and strength alone. The humans hadn’t stopped screaming in three days, the din simply background noise now. 
The Bard scribbled the observations onto the parchment in no particular order. He wished he was a painter, for surely this was a picture worth a thousand words.
The demon hobbled toward the warrior, who stood still as stone with his arm drawn taught behind him. Then finally, with a roaring chant the Soul Warrior shifted his weight from his back leg to his front and let fly Manav-astra at the Stone Demon with all his remaining might. 
Karna didn’t wait to see the ramifications of his action. And there were plenty to come. He ran into the mountain cave to free Vala’s hostages. Within moments the rock face rent in half, and bright streams of light speared through the terrible darkness. A new day had dawned on the Human Realm after three days of perpetual night.
The sun’s power was too bright, too full of hope. Yet, the Bard looked on pensively, wondering if the Soul Warrior knew this wasn’t a victory. It was merely a reprieve.

About the Author:

Falguni Kothari is a New York-based South Asian author and an amateur Latin and Ballroom dance silver medalist with a semi-professional background in Indian Classical dance. She’s published in India in contemporary romance with global e-book availability; Bootie and the Beast (Harlequin Mills and Boon) and It’s Your Move, Wordfreak! (Rupa & Co.), and launches a mythic fantasy series with Soul Warrior (The Age of Kali, #1)

I’m embarrassed to admit how many social media accounts I own :

Website * BlogTwitter * Facebook * Goodreads * Pinterest








Tuesday, 3 November 2015

What if I die now?


I am having fever for the past few days. Whenever I am ill, I feel I am going to die. What if I die now? The though invariably creeps in. When I ponder over this thought the following feelings emerge

Family
I want to spend more time with my family, especially my mother. Most of my family memories are weaved around my mother. For majority of the times it was just me and my mother together as a family. I want to spend more time with her.

Travel
If I am to die now, I will repent not visiting so many wonderful places in the world. I love travelling. My school hardly arranged any excursions. My parents disliked all the good things of life, including travelling. That made me hanker more for travelling. The travel bug bit me for good. I am a traveller and not a tourist. I plan my own itinerary and my travels are more than visiting those tourist spots which you just tick on the list so that you can boast of visiting them at social gatherings. I want to travel more.
 
Read
Now all of you know that I am a book worm, don’t you? But still my apetite for reading is not satiated. There are so many books to read, before I die. They take me to a different world all together. I thank my parents for never opposing me when I purchased books, even if they were expensive. Indeed as a loner books were and are my best friends.
Not taking life so seriously
If I were to die now I feel that I should not have taken life so seriously. I should not have taken those disappointments to my heart. I should not have had sleepless nights for those people, whose behaviour was not in control. I should not have worried about that pay cheque which was not deposited in my account for technical reasons. I should not have worried about my health. I should not have worried for my accommodation. For life itself is precious. All other things do not matter at all.

Now I am feeling better. I know that I am going to have a very long life. But these musings about if I were to die now will definitely add more meaning to my life. What say?

Hampi Vijaynagara - Book Review


There are many guide books, but when the book is written by two Phd scholars John M Fritz and George Michell you have great expectations. The good thing is that most of your expectations stand fulfilled in their Hampi Vijaynagara book.

The book is much more than the mere listing of famous tourist spots. It provides in detail information about Hampi. The book is divided into four sections. The first one is called introducing Hampi. In this section we have chapters on layout of the capital, protecting and provisioning the city, courtly life, architecture and art, religious cults, festivals, Muslims and Europeans at Vijaynagara. The last chapter in this section aptly titled Hampi under threat summarizes the plight of this historic city.

In the following section - Exploring Hampi - we are taken on a tour of Hampi and its famous spots. But wait, there are no fancy tales like the ones which your tour guide will tell you. The descriptions here are based on studies of writings of many travellers who visited the city when it was at its zenith. You will be disappointed to hear that the musical pillars at the Vitthala temple is merely a myth. This section also makes passing reference to Hospet and Anegodi.

The next section is computerized reconstructions of the monuments of Hampi. Due to vandalism most of the monuments in Hampi are nothing more than dilapidated walls, broken statues and temples without any idols. So these reconstructions help us to visualize the grandeur of what we call rubble today.

The last section is appendix comprising of reports of foreign visitors. This part of the book is to be treasured. The descriptions of the King, his kingdom, festivals and busy markets take you to a different time and world. You will never wish to come back to the present times. The pictures as well as the paintings in the book aptly capture the magnificent expanse of Hampi. Watching Alexander Greenlaw’s black and white photographs is a visual treat.

It is indeed unfortunate that I have to point out spelling and grammatical mistakes in almost every review, including those published by big names in the industry. Here too on page 66 shrine is misspelt as shine. But still I enjoyed reading this book.