Noel, Nidhi and Appu are the lead characters of Alka Dimri Saklani’s novel Beyond Secrets. Noel is a counsellor. He joins the orphanage Ashiyana located in Vadodara. His father though wants him to join the family business. Nidhi is volunteering in the same orphanage. Her parents are not aware of the same. She has misinformed them stating that she is undergoing an industrial training. Appu is a bubbly, lively orphan. Noel feels strange connections with the orphanage. Why has Nidhi lied to her parents? Every character has skeletons of their past and the secrets are revealed at a slow leisurely pace. It is this snail pace that droves the novel on the verge of becoming a boring read. But thanks to the twists that you don’t end up feeling cheated.
Saturday, 11 November 2017
Hell! No Saints in Paradise is an urban fantasy fiction set in 2050. Ismael is a Pakistani-American student. After a tiring spirtual quest he enters into an alliance with otherworldly beings who send him on a precarious journey of self discovery. Ismael still remains a non-believer, in sharp contrast with his father who is a prominent extremist in Pakistan. Now Ismael has to return to Pakistan. To gain the trust of his father, who stays in a fundamentalist Pakistan, he has to pose as a true believer. Will he complete his mission. This is the story of Hell! No Saints in Paradise.
The book chronicles life of a non-believer. It is not easy at all if you are living in a country like Pakistan. I liked the way character of Ismael is developed. With this book the author has tried to step into a new territory. His writing is clean and error-free. Yet the story appears non-linear and difficult to comprehend. What is the use of germinating a great idea when you are unable to communicate it to the masses in unequivocal words. The novel certainly falters when it comes to comprehension. This book may have been a great book, if it was a bit simplified for the lay readers.
Wednesday, 8 November 2017
The blurb, the initial pages of Mani Padma's debut book Unlikely Tails announce that it is a collection of seventeen stories. However there are eighteen stories in this book. Two stories are numbered as five in the index and in the interior and that makes the eighteen stories seventeen. This blunder for sure makes a bad first impression.
Feeling of rejection, loneliness and death permeates most of the stories. The opening story Prince Charming is about the fluttering of heart of a young woman when she meets the man of her dreams. I really liked the second story in the book Eight Days with Sushil. In this story a depressed girl meets an old friend who lightens up her dead life. I liked the format which the author chooses for narrating this story. Its end though is quite shocking.
The story Harmony demonstrates how music can bring two unhappy souls together. Pammi's Escort Service is about how we all have the money but lack company. Broken heart is an interesting tale where an old woman tells how she broke a broken heart's heart again. Date with future is all about the games that girls play.
Man, Woman and capitulates the dynamics of a seasoned marriage. The story Sabjiwallah falls into the horror genre. The story Breakfast opens at a breakfast table. It is about a woman locked in a loveless marriage, who is drawn towards an out of marriage relationship. In Pursuit of Fame is a multilayered story about parental pressure on children who are forced into reality shows. I liked this story for the manner in which it welds reality with fiction.
Bhaavya delves into the mind of a mentally unsound woman. The Perfect Plan revolves around infidelity and a perfectly planned murder. Mamma's house shows how attachment to places changes with time. Dulliance deals with bride seeing ceremonies, customary for arranged marriages in India. Keep the Change again deals with issues of marriage and money. The last story in this collection titled The End tries to underline that in any given choice you have the power to chose your reaction. Again the author uses a unique format to weave her story.
What I liked about this book is that the writing is clean. These stories are projected as stories about as to what goes into the minds of women. While some stories indeed relate to this theme, some like Sabjiwallah are out of sync with the theme. Most of the stories are prosaic, too abstract. But yet if you want to read something really different, you may go for this book.
Friday, 3 November 2017
No Mud No Lotus, the art of transforming suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh indeed offers a very different yet pragmatic take on overcoming life's problems.
The author who is a renowned Zen Buddhist master says that the main affliction of our modern civilization is that we don't know how to handle the suffering inside us and we try to cover it up with all kinds of consumption. He states that we have the seeds, the potential in us for understanding, love, compassion, and insight as well as the seeds of anger, hate, and greed. While we can't avoid all the suffering in life, we can suffer much less by not watering the seeds of suffering inside us.
We are truly alive only when the mind is with the body. What a simple yet profound statement. The book is full of such gems. At another place the author says the Buddha said that nothing can survive without food. This is true, not just for the physical existence of living beings, but also for states of mind. Love needs to be nurtured and fed to survive and our suffering also survives because we enable and feed it. We ruminate on suffering, regret, and sorrow. We chew on them, swallow them, bring them back up, and eat them again and again. If we are feeding our suffering while we're walking, working, eating or talking, we are making ourselves victims of the ghosts of the past, of the future or our worries in the present. We are not living our lives.
Speaking of suffering he says part of the art of suffering well is learning not to magnify our pain by getting carried away in fear, anger and despair. We build and maintain our energy reserves to handle the big sufferings; the little sufferings we can let go.
The book offers eight meditation techniques for happiness. Indeed this book is to be treasured.
Let Him Not Sink First Steps to Mental Health is a manual for adults who work closely with children and adolescents. Unfortunately very little is known about mental health even to the educated people of our country. The poor illiterate masses are so busy in their struggle to make two ends meet that mental health becomes a neglected factor. But the truth is that mental health concerns everyone and mental ill-health doesn't look at if a person is rich or poor. It is for these reasons that this book assumes tremendous importance.
While I knew depression, bipolar disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders were psychological issues requiring expert intervention, I was totally unaware that even anxiety disorders, separation anxiety and selective mutism too form a part of the mental disorders spectrum. This book bursts many myths. A common reason cited these days for depression and many other mental diseases is lack of support system. Though this is one of the causes, the book tells us that mental disorders can be genetic as well as result of birth and delivery related conditions.
The book tries to simplify the mental disorders. It cites as to why early identification of mental problems is important. The book also enumerates essential skills for dealing with children and adolescents. Each disorder is discussed in separate chapters and in every chapter there are boxes containing red flags highlighting the factors which increase the risks. Self-harm among the youth is on a rise. There is a separate chapter devoted to it as well. It was startling to know that if there is history of self harm in the family, the probability of the child having suicidal tendencies rises many fold.
This book by no way can replace the therapist. That is not the intention of the book. It serves its purpose by enlisting symptoms which may fall under the category of mental disorder. If you see them in your children rush for help at the earliest. I welcome this book and wish many more flood the market for mental health is as important as physical health.
Thursday, 2 November 2017
You Never Know is the story of Dhruv and Anuradha. Dhruv is married to Shalini and has kids. Dhruv and Anuradha work in the same office. They end up having an extra-marital affair. Things take an ugly turn when an influential politician Hemant Tiwari threatens to wipe out Dhruv’s children if he doesn’t get the video which Anuradha has. Dhruv doesn’t know anything about the video. The video revolves around Anuradha, her deceased boyfriend Sid and of course Hemant Tiwari. Will Dhruv find the video? What does it contain? To know the answers to these questions you will have to read You Never Know by Akash Verma.
The book opens with Dhruv in search of Sid’s phone at the spot of Sid’s death. There are references to Talk-Tel a telephone service provider in the first chapter. But you can’t make much about it. The following chapters revolve around Dhruv and Anuradha’s affair and you almost forget all about Sid and his mobile. They resurface only towards the end. By that time you are huffing and puffing about the Dhruv and Anuradha’s extra-marital affair which drags for eternity. The problem with You Never Know is that it is disjointed. You feel like the beginning and end were simply inorganically connected to the middle of the novel, which consumes most of the space.
Speaking of good things, the writing is clean. The end though predictable is good one. Of course, this novel could have been much better if the aforesaid flaws were taken care of, You Never Know.
'I received a copy from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.'