Friday, 23 December 2016

Six Minutes of Terror by Nazia Sayed and Sharmeen Hakim: a review

11th of July 2006 was one day that shook everyone and even though back then, all I knew of the incident was faint stuff my mother had told me. Over the years, I went on read more and more about that incident and the many others that happened as such. 10 years and a few months from that date, it is 2016 when I get to see that there’s this book on the same terror attacks that has come up. When I laid my first glance at it, I knew that I had to read it no matter what and I knew this nonfiction title, Six Minutes of Terror by Nazia Sayed and Sharmeen Hakim would be one informative ride. For the ones who are reading this right now, here’s for you the blurb of the book.

According to the blurb- 7/11: the day Mumbai came to a standstill. The Mumbai train bombings on 11 July 2006 were one of the deadliest attacks the city had seen after the 1993 blasts. The terror strike aimed to cripple the city by disrupting its lifeline- the local train network. A series of seven explosions in a span of only sex minutes at seven railway stations rocked the financial capital of India, killing 189 and injuring over 800. Six minutes of terror is the first investigative book that presents a blow by blow account of the events that led to the onslaught. It profiles the people involved in the blasts and describes how the plot was unearthed by the police. Superbly researched with painstaking detail, the book tries to delve into the minds of the home grown terrorists- who wreaked unprecedented havoc and claimed innocent lives- ten years after the horrifying attacks.

I would start my take on the book by taking a note of the authors of the book. While Nazia Sayed had been a crime reporter, Sharmeen is a legal correspondent. When you get to read something written by them about an event that shook the nation, you are sure to find it interesting and worth the time that you spend on the book. Saying that, the authors have chosen a suiting title for the book, six minutes of terror. The title catches the attention along with the eye grabbing front cover. I mention ‘eye grabbing’ because it is seen that a majority of nonfiction titles don’t have such catchy covers.

The book starts with a sketch. Of the trains and the bombings along with the time that the blasts happened. Now this is a very interesting thing because it helps sketch out what the whole idea is and what had actually happened. What I loved about the sketch is that it is perfectly labelled. Then follows a timeline of events that happened from 2001 to 2015 which makes it easier and more interesting to read. For a person (there are very few of them, though) who doesn’t know about the incident, this serves as the perfect book for a complete knowledge on the topic.

Now, the story. Do I have to say about it? I will refrain. What I would rather speak of is the presentation. The way event by event and point of view by point of view the whole book is presented to the readers, they can’t help but be interested about it and they would feel like knowing more about it. The questions, each one of them that might have arisen are answered through the book. The language that it is written is very easy to read and even the layman would be able to read it. Detail is the key and this book proves that to its readers. Somewhere down the book, there are pictures of a few people. Terrorists, blasts, survivors and I would say that this is one thing that would make this book all the more worthwhile. If I have to speak of the cons of the book then I couldn’t find any. For me, this must read is 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

You are my reason to smile by Arpit Vageria: a review

I remember the first time I had seen the cover of Arpit Vageria's latest, You are my reason to smile and I will not lie if I say that I smiled at the cover. Done in one of my favorite shades of green, the title caught my attention at first glimpse. Having read and liked his last, I couldn't help but get my hands on an early copy of the book.

According to the blurb- Ranbir is a dreamer, he has a well-paying job, but his aspirations are higher. He is a good lover, he adores Adah and can forego any comfort of the world for her sake. But even then, he is not happy. Because his true calling is not in the corporate, it’s in writing. After much deliberation, he takes the plunge and leaves his job to write full-time. While he struggles for balance, Adah also starts keeping herself away. Was she really in love with him and was it just a facade? 
Amidst all this confusion, Pihu Sharma enters his life – his first ever fan, who seems to be head over heels in love with him. While Ranbir’s equation with Adah deteriorates, Pihu leaves behind her luxurious life to shift in with him. Is this the true love Ranbir had been waiting for? Join Ranbir as he makes his way through a world that kills for money and dies for love.

The blurb, written in a typical Arpit Vageria style tells everything about the book but then again, do not judge the book. The book is much more than what the blurb says. And the book is interesting, I guarantee. I would start off by saying that the introduction or rather, the first chapter grips the reader to the T and it is from there that we, as a reader get to be engrossed with Ranbir, the character.

Having said that, coming to the story. The story, as the blurb might seemingly give an idea, sounds something that you might've read but once you are done with the book, this feeling goes away. Slowly and steadily taking place and majorly written from Ranbir's point of view, this book speaks of love. Not only love, of the things that come and go with it. It might seem predictable, probably to an extent it is but the twists are not.

Talking about the characters, even though Ranbir is the major character in the book, I loved his best friend, Lakshya the most. They might just set friendship goals through the book. Adah and Pihu were characters who I'll leave to you as readers, to judge. Given the fact that the protagonist in the book wants to become a full time writer (which I am) this book has a special connect for me.

Now the flaws of the book. Well, with the interesting story line, strong characters and all the elements that the author had, I expected the book to be more tight and yet paced. There were errors in the book which can be forgiven and it doesn't stare at your face. The expectations are superbly high from the author and so even though I'm not disappointed, I won't say that I'm satisfied. The author, in the meanwhile could work on his narration skills a bit more. For me, this book is 3.25 out of 5 expecting so much more from the author from his next.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Dawn at Dusk by Gaurav Sharma: a review

I remember the first time I had seen the cover of the book. It excluded one word from me - "interesting" ! And more than the cover, the title brought forth the exclamation. Soon, Gaurav Sharma's 3rd book Dawn at Dusk was in my hands and I turned to the blurb.

According to the blurb- Yet to go through an ordeal, the millionaire scion Aradhaya is much cossetted only son of Talukdars. Suddenly, his life gets upended when he loses his parents and is deceived by the girl he married. In his attempt to overcome, he falls for Sambhavi, who is a renowned writer and professor, because he sees her as the shadow of his mother. Sambhavi lays her condition. Aradhaya gives up too soon. Distraught, he leaves his house in search of peace and starts a life of a recluse among the people with little means and ambitions until his love for Sambhavi guides and inspired him to do something extraordinary. What does he do? What course does his life take? Does Sambhavi accept him? Let's hear Aradhaya's story.

With such an interesting and calming cover, the blurb acts as a beautiful cherry on the cake. Seemingly a story with a difference and having read the author with his debut, I had a lot of expectations from the book. With the beautiful prologue, you know that you are in for a surprise. As I had always liked about the author, small snippets and couplets adding to the feel of the book makes this book a smooth read.

Coming to the characters, I liked the way the protagonist(s) have been growing with the book progressing. Page by page you see characters being there, establishing their own and making their way in your mind as a reader. That is a feat not many author achieves.

Coming to the story, this was a very unusually usual story line which has been beautifully portrayed. The author has done his best in writing the story. The narration has been done well and it touches the reader. My favorite character though was Meera even though she wasn't really a major character. I would leave it on to you to read the book and tell me which character did you like and which part of the story did you like the most. For me, I liked how the story focused on Aradhaya and progressed how he was throughout the book.

If I have to speak of the cons of the book then I would want to say that the language could've been more lucid which would then attract even laymen to read it at places. Even if I liked the story and the whole concept, there were a few things which for me were missing links and could have been polished. The book had grammatical errors but that is ignorable. I would have to give it to the author for following 2 of his beautifully written books with this one. For me, looking forward to more from the author, this is 3.5 out of 5. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Befikre: a review

To begin with, I would really like to say what made me think of writing about this movie. Well, to be true it wasn't that I thought of writing about the movie but it was when the National Anthem was played on the inox screen with a majorly full house at 9 AM on a Friday morning where cinegoers were mostly within the age group who love to party and have fun or couples, no one even flinched or batted an eyelid before standing up in respect. EACH AND EVERY ONE stood up. Almost humming Jana Gana Mana with a pin drop silence, I would be wrong if I say that I didn't have a lump in my throat at the respect. It was that moment after sitting down that I thought that this was such a capturable moment.

Then, breaking the trance Labon ka Karobar started playing showing off, in true YRF fashion, the beautiful scenario of the place the shooting has been done. In this case, my favorite place in the whole world- Paris. And how beautifully the camera pans from one place to the other following couples throughout. The loudest hoots I'm sure came from me as the song ended and we see Ranveer Singh (okay! I'm biased), scantily clad (or clad, at all?) and Vaani Kapoor. At that one scene I knew that I'm game for the movie. Around me, everything faded away. The film goes back and forth over a period of a year or so and fast forwards time at time as you are taken through the relationship between Delhi ka launda Dharam Gulati and Paris born, brought up punjabi "chudail" Shyra Gill.

Ranveer in his carefree mode after a series of serious performances delivers a power packed performance and being a blind fan, I missed this part of him. Vaani, in her second (is it?) film is so comfortable and camera friendly that by the end of the film, she had a fan in me. I would be frank here, no matter how blind a fan I am, I was very skeptical about the chemistry that they'll share but to me, they sizzled. Through the picturesque city of Paris, through dares they take their relationship forward.

Okay! I'll give in to this. The story was cliche and even predictable but to me if a story is predictable but still presented well enough, it works for me. It worked for me big time. If there's one thing that I have to mention that had me in the movie was the dance. Oh God the dance! Who knew they dance so well? I'm gonna watch all those videos again. And if I have to specially mention something then it has to be a 1 sec blink and miss of something that made my day. I'll leave it for the people who watch the movie to see and guess what it might be.

Vaani, in her emotional parts could have done better but Singh nails it. One look and his eyes do wonders. I can't still get over a few looks that he gave. The pain, I felt too watching him. Their clothes and look suited them so well. The songs, I am listening to even now. Entertainment to the brim, a paisa vasool movie.

The take back from the movie? Be carefree, love carefree, kiss carefree. Be befikre!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Amir Khusrau The man in riddles by Ankit Chadha: a review

Amir Khusrau. To begin with, who hasn't heard about him? What if I tell you that you can now know about the life and ideologies of Amir Khusrau from Ankit Chadha's book, Amir Khusrau the man in riddles. The book is short, crisp and yes, no less than magic to hold. It has a book jacket, royal blue in color that perfectly matches the royalty of the person written about. Illustrated and matte to hold. This is another book that I am sure to cherish in my library.

According to the blurb- A riddle is a mystery concealed in words, each a clue you must unravel. In this book, it is also a piece of verse, part of the puzzle that is the fascinating life of Amir Khusrau. Gloriously illustrated, crafted with care and sprinkled with delightful snippets of history, Amir Khusrau’s Book of Riddles is guaranteed to bewilder, inform and entertain children and adults alike. Work your way through the riddles on your own or challenge a friend, or just read on for the answer and a peek into the thoughts of one of this enigmatic poet, mystic and musician.

As you can already guess from the blurb, this book makes the riddles by Amir Khusrau. Through the riddles, the author has beautifully shown the intricacies of the mind of the the legendary poet. You get to see, accompanied by various illustrations what the mystic thought when he went about the serving at the courts.

These riddles are so interesting that they touch the heart of every reader and you will surely want to know what the answer to the riddles are. Go by the riddle and lose yourself among them as you delve deep inside the mind of the great Amir Khusrau. With every riddle is an accompanying illustration and answer along with how it affected the mystic's life which adds more value to your read.

If I have to speak of the cons of the book then the one thing that comes in my mind is the fact that the book is only 20 riddles. I would so want to read more of it and more of what it has to offer in the mind of the mystic. Apart from that, this book might not be for the people who is looking for a proper read. This is more of an experience, must and one time read. A must read for people of all ages. For me, this book is 4.5 out of 5.

PS- This book was given to me as a part of the Flipkart Book Reviews Programme.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Exile by Taslima Nasrin: a review

I remember the moment I received the book. I was sick, lying on my bed the whole day and I couldn’t move an inch. I was home bound and the walls of the room were eating me up. I wanted some breath of fresh air but I had strict instructions to not move from the bed. It was then the bell had rung and Maa received the book. Handing it over to me, she asked me specifically to not start reading it. You think I listened? As I had the book in my hands, my eyes lit up. A picture clicked for Instagram upload and there I was, sniffing, struggling to even keep my eyes open but reading Taslima Nasrin’s memoir- ‘Exile’ translated in English by Maharghya Chakraborty.

According to the blurb- On 22 November 2007, the city of Kolkata came to a rude, screeching halt as a virulent mob of religious fanatics took to the streets. Armed with a fatwa from their ideologies, the mob demanded that Taslima Nasrin leave the city immediately. While the police stood watching, mere dumb witnesses to such hooliganism, a morally, intellectually and politically bankrupt Left Front Government, tottering under the strain of their thirty-year-old backward-looking rule, decided to ban her book and drive her out of the city she has always considered her second home. The inextricable nexus of petty political conspiracies, vote bank politics and minority appeasement saw Taslima being hurriedly shifted, first to Jaipur and then to Delhi, confined to an obscure safe house, and face incessant pressure from senior officials and politicians to leave India. Set against a rising tide of fundamentalism and intolerance, Exile is a moving and shocking chronicle of Taslima Nasrin’s struggled in India over a period of seven months. Dark, provocative and at times surreal, this memoir will resonate powerfully with readers in the present socio-political scenario. 

Thus, I started my journey with Taslima Nasrin’s memoir. A journey that I have had earlier through the books she had written, through the conversations with my mother, friends, family, and newspapers. Through the time when Maa used to read out passages from her books to me in Bengali. A journey that being a Bengali and living a safe life in Kolkata, I could only know through what people told me. As I was a few pages down the book, I fell for the way she writes. Simple, out spoken, up front with whatever she feels, Taslima Nasrin might just be one narrator that touches your heart. The one thing that this book teaches you as a person, as a reader is Patience.

Trust me when I say that there are parts in the book where you would feel like judging the authoress, because those are the parts where the person inside you rises above the reader inside you. But then on the other hand, you would also have places where you would feel like not leaving the book because of the captivating narration being done. Being a Bengali, I know (if not personally) all those people mentioned in this memoir. So it didn’t take much time for me to get acquainted with them and also this very fact made me so much more engrossed in the book. When I say that this book needs patience, what I mean is that this book is a perfect example of learning how to judge, yet not judge; how to understand, yet not understand; how to read.

Taslima Nasrin in this brutally honest memoir lists everything in vivid detail as it was since her exile. Her author biography says that she has been in exile since 1994. Rightfully so. We all have heard about people being in exile. But this book tells us what it actually feels being in an exile. People might not understand a few things or a few decisions taken by Nasrin but that is exactly what it is. The underlying conflict, the emotions and the turmoil that she goes through. Before I started reading the book, I was confined to bed for only one day being sick but as this book progressed, I couldn’t help but feel for the woman who has been living in such conditions in a safe house with captors she knows nothing about, forced to literally leave the country when all she wanted was fresh air.

There were many heart touching parts of the book but what caught me was her part in the safe house when she mentions that there were a bed of ants that made her bed a makeshift house, crawling in and out but none bit her even once. It was, she felt, that they had accepted her more than the world could ever have. I am biased. Yes. Probably, a person not from Kolkata would be the best person to talk about the book but being a girl from Kolkata, how could I not? Ever since I have been reading the book I have been having discussions with friends. Some, who support the banishment, while some, who don’t. Speaking of me, to the person who don’t, I have been supporting it and to the ones who support, I have been not supporting it. Why, if you ask? Because wherever she is, I want her to be safe and I support the rights of literature.

The poems that are there in the book touch you and so do the excerpts of the diary. You might not support things that happened and there are possibilities that you will not get the answers to your questions through the book but being a reader, or above all, being a person, this memoir is a detail into the mind and surroundings of a writer, who was exiled for an indefinite time because she wrote, you should read. As a reader, this book reads super fine in the first half but there’s a portion where there are mainly diary entries which read stretchy in a book to some extent. Having read quite a few memoirs, I expected a bit more material to it. Rating this book would be tough because there are many points that as a person I could not agree to but keeping me as a person aside, as a reader, this book is 4.25 out of 5.

PS- This book was given to me as a part of the Flipkart Book Reviews Programme.

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Conspiracy at Meru by Shatrujeet Nath: a review

The second book of the Vikramaditya Veergatha series, The conspiracy at Meru has been one of the most awaited books since the first book has been released. Left at a cliffhanger, everyone was keen on knowing what happens next and trust me on this, Shatrujeet Nath didn't dissapoint. As I see the cover for the first time and touch the book, the feeling is unexpressable. I quickly turn on to the blurb to see what it has to say about the book.

According to the blurb- Victory is temporary. The battle is eternal. Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine have fought valiantly to repel the rampaging hordes from Devaloka and Patala- but Avanti has been brought to its knees. Ujjayini lies battered; its citizens are scared, and morale is badly shaken. Meanwhile, the barbaric Hunas and Sakas are gathering on the horizon, and cracks are emerging between the allied kingdoms of Sindhuvarta. The only silver lining is that the deadly Halahala is safe. For now. Bent on vengeance, Indra is already scheming to destroy Vikramadirya, while Shukracharya has a plan that can spell the doom for the Guardians of the Halahala. How long can the human army hold out against the ferocity and cunning of the devas and asuras? And will Vikramaditya's love for his queen come in the way of his promise to Shiva?

First things first, even though it is highly suggested for every reader to read the first book of the series first before going to the second book, you would not be disappointed if you start with this one. The map, the index lists everything that you might need for the feel of the book. The excitement and the edge of the seat feeling that hooked you in book 1 is maintained in this book too and trust me when I say this, I read it in one go.

 The mixture of mythology and thriller is something that holds the reader from get one. The author has been known for writing gripping plots and rightfully so. The best part I liked about this book would be the development of the characters. The way things shaped from book 1 to book 2 traces the ever evolving side of the author. As always, the action and adventure packed ride makes this book so much more than we expected.

I won't give in much about the characters again but then I am looking forward to the conclusive part where I'm sure the only thing I'll talk about is the characters. There are very few books with which we connect, this book is one such. What I would love to talk about for now has to be the storyline. Mystery. What does this word stand for you? For me, this series is the ultimate answer to the question. The layering that the author has done is brilliant. You would root for people and would hate people but you are sure to love the book. The end was again, the trademark of the author which I'm sure might make anyone wait eagerly for the next.

Speaking of the cons of the book is tough. What didn't work for me in the book is something what a few new readers might also feel. Since there are multiple characters with names that we aren't used to listening to on a daily basis, it takes a bit time to get used to it. The index helps a lot and it is also suggested to read book 1 and 2 back to back to retain the feel. Apart from that, this series is a must read series and the expectations are higher for the next. This book for me is  4.5 out of 5, waiting for so much more from the author.