Saturday, 24 February 2018

Fate's Design by Subhashish Dey: a review

There are books that appeal to you because of the cover. There are books that appeal to you because of the blurb. Then, there are those rare books that appeal to you with a kindness after seeing the age of the author. When I was first approached with Fate's Design, I looked through the mail randomly and I reached the author's bio. What was so interesting in it that made me get the book and read it? Well, the author Subhashish Dey.

About the book- When a kidnapper redeems his lost conscience and finds himself unable to murder the girl he has kidnapped, what does he do? Fate is cruel to him, and good intentions are never enough. At the same time, a woman dissatisfied with her existence flees from her home, not knowing what lies ahead of her. But all things come at a price, and she has a hard path ahead through storms and fire. Watch how fate has entwined these lives together, into a song through struggles of conscience and identity, through the deepest lows and greatest highs, and through the flame of madness and the stings of survival.

You read about the book now. So I guess you can now guess what's special about the writer. No? C'mon. No, still? Okay. Let me tell you. This book is written by a 14 year old student. Yes! That's exactly what my reaction was after reading the author's bio that attracted me to the book. After receiving the book, I went through it's pages and there was one thing that struck me. There was an Epigraph. I agree there are many books that start with epigraphs but which author starts the Epigraph by writing, “Epigraph" on top of it? Majority of the readers go through the Epigraph without even knowing it is one.

That impressed me at first sight. Then, I went to reading it. And I must say, this young writer took me aback. I, for the longest time, couldn't believe that such a magic of a book can be written by a writer so young. I'm sure after reading the book many readers would want to compliment the writer on the same and why not? He deserves all the accolades.

Now, coming to the writing. Interesting part of the book is that the characters of the book are not from your day to day life. You have character names like Asterope, Natalia, Anastasaii who you do not encounter in your daily life readings of other books. Attempting such was an intelligent feat. The writing style was very lucid and not too colloquial which can be a risk for such a young writer. Dey’s debut was a dream it seems.

The way the story has gone forward, it never felt like falling into one compact genre: it had a mix of everything and that makes the book all the more worth it. Arriving to the cons of the book I would like to say that such a beautiful writing deserved another round of proofreading perhaps, which would've sharpened the potential of the story. The pace, also, needs to be worked on. Along with the fact that I expected a bit more work on the cover because it might get lost in the midst of the others. All in all, a heartwarming effect the book had on me and more so, when I see the future of Indian writing is in good hands. Looking forward to the best results from the writer in the future, the book is a 3.75 out of 5 for me. 

Thursday, 22 February 2018

United Holi: 2nd March: Orchid Banquets

Whenever you're talking about Holi and Kolkata, you cannot miss the United Holi Celebrations. This theme carnival has been the place to go to for every young person of today's time. Holi 2018 has a special surprise for the people of Kolkata as the top two DJs are going to play at the Orchid Banquets venue on 2nd of March: DJ Girish and DJ Harish.

One thing that remains a constant with every year's holi celebrations here has to be their lip smacking and delicious food. Goes without saying, this year too, the food is being provided by Pugalia Caterer.

A budding star who has made his name in the national and soon entering the global music scene will be playing as well - DJ Distort.(He's known to be Asia's First to Sign KSHMR'S Label Dharma Worldwide By Spinning Records - Warner Brother Group Of Music for His Upcoming Track)

Talking about the other attractions of this year then it has to be the foam pool, kids zone, bull rides, activity zone, chat counters, popsticle stall, liquor & shisha, herbal gulaal.

So if you're interested (and why not?) about this Holi carnival then don't forget to note that they are the only event issuing earlybirds this year because of the love & support they received last year and all these years making them being one of the few to enter the Limca & india books of record.
These exclusive passes are out for a limited period of time post which the prices will go up.

Interested ones contact- 8584838122 for details. And this year, let's all be United for Holi! Holi Hai!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Music Diaries: The Return of K.T.O. by Tsuyoshi Ozawa

Okakura Kakuzō, the Japanese scholar who contributed to the development of Arts in Japan has always been a very close person in the hearts of the people in Kolkata. His association with Rabindranath Tagore is still remembered in the form of the Rabindra Okakura Bhavan at Salt Lake. Tsuyoshi Ozawa took this association forward with bringing his paintings and installations through The Return of K.T.O.

Last night, Phoenix (The Astor, Kolkata) saw the collaborations, Mr. Tsuyoshi Ozawa and all the collaborators under one roof as they celebrated Okakura in another light.

The whole event was a culmination of Talks and the screening of the whole journey of Okakura in Kolkata along with the celebrated author Mr. Rustom Bharucha and Mr. Anirudh Chari, an art critic and curator. To give them support and as a part of the collaborations with them was Behind The Mirror, a band essentially from Kolkata that created the theme song and did a live performance on the same.

As the audience was in rapt attention, the event also made every person who didn't know about Okakura and his journey, keen on knowing it and discovering more about him. The theme song live performance by Behind the Mirror also ended with a special surprise: a song by the band itself.

Okakura would forever remain in our hearts and it is high time we celebrate his journey in and with Kolkata. 

©all pictures are credited to Antaheen Partha 

Cheaters by Novoneel Chakraborty: a review

I'll begin with quoting Novoneel Chakraborty from Marry me, stranger, “Cheating is not an action like kissing someone or sleeping with someone. Cheating is when you feel the pressure of being faithful to someone because of someone else. When you suddenly realize, there's an option. That realization is cheating!”

Chakraborty's 11th book had to be special. This book is something the author wanted to write for a very long time and is surely an example of writing for the world what the author wants and not what the world wants to read. Cheaters: Nine stories that explore the other side of love. We all love mushy lovey dovey romances and we all hate admitting to cheating. This book, after multiple romantic thrillers and a majorly love story series (the Forever Series) brings forth the author's choices as a writer and is surely much needed.

According to the back cover: Nine stories. Nine ways it can all go wrong. None people all their experiments. Cheaters, Novoneel Chakraborty's first collection of short stories, examines the theme of adultery today when the definition and dynamic of a romantic relationship are undergoing unprecedented changes. These nine short stories are experimental and complex, much like modern day relationships.

Period. “Experimental and complex, much like modern day relationships!” That's what I am gonna write now. Because, there's nothing more apt than this line. I'll start with admiring the cover. Till date, I could proudly say that the first cover of How About A Sin Tonight was the best of his covers. This cover, beats that. Done in red and black (the colors of love and cheating?) and that godforsaken dagger tugs at your heart at the very moment and you feel like getting the book. And then you have expectations.

These nine stories mentioned in the book are very unlike what everyone has read of Chakraborty. He has been known for writing characters that are universal. Everyone could relate to it. But in this book, each story has a different character and only the people of the backdrop the book is settled in would relate to the characters. It's not for the mass (or is it?) This is a serious and a subtle book, my dear readers. Trust me when I say that.

The Tickets are Done: The first story revolves around a young married woman and her blast from the past. Since this is a first story you get a feel of the usual Novoneel while reading this and then you reach the end of the story and you're jolted out of the blue with an expression: ‘ohkaay! What exactly was that?’ and this expression is for the good. The way real and surreal has been handled is commendable. God! Why can't I write more about this story? You'll have to read this and know the answer.

The vacation: By now, you've gotten used to a pattern the author follows throughout the book. Of seven parts of every story. The auspicious 7! This story is about Radhika Bose, a perfect housewife, a perfect mother and her life altering secret vacation with her internet lover. It's forbidden. Trust me. To even admit to the fact that something like this actually happens in real life. But it does. Trust me! I personally loved the sketch of the whole story and how the forbidden is also written to make it appealing.

Tomorrow is cloudy: The third story. Main characters being N and R. And people are sure to imagine who the N and R are. I imagined too. Just being honest! This story would be one of my close to the heart stories. This story delves deep into the What if’s of life. What if you meet your estranged lover after years at an airport? What if you find her pregnant? What if you want to talk but you don't want to be approached either. Oh, by the way, your spouse calls you RIGHT THEN!

Clicks: Eklavya (I know, the name brings in a lot of memories for every Chakraborty reader) is suffering from the monotony of life. He starts clicking his surroundings, a new found love. That's when he clicks his fiancée with someone. Can it not happen with you? Or me? What will we do if it does? The book asks that and much more. Answers too? Understanding the whole point of the story, I somehow felt still there was something that was missing. The end, could've been sharper?

The Whore and the Wife: This has to be one of the best stories of the book. A story of empowerment at its core, it traces one night of the life of a prostitute (whore! How I love the word) and her connection with the wife of her client for the night. The two women, without even knowing, alters each other's journey of a lifetime (and probably the man's too? *Wink*). It connects on a personal basis somewhere and the core of the story remains intact.

Weekends: Read this story. Please. The only story in the whole book that reeks of love making. Sex, I would rather say. And God, Novoneel aces the story. Regular readers might heave a sigh of relief. But then there is a twist in the tale. And you do a double take on the whole story of Devang and Kratika and I'm sure there will be a smirk on your face just the same as the author's when he wrote it. The story takes a social turn but with a point where it is so relatable.

The flight is on time: Siya Mishra and Ram Mishra. Siya writes an email to Ram after she's accused of her character. Somehow, in this pack of 8 strong stories, this falters a bit. But again, the email ends and the story doesn't. The twist in the tale brings you to think, again, what if? Only if it could've been more explosive. But then again, this happens. This story was needed to be told.

Children: My personal top favorite of the whole book. Shayan and Priyanjali. The way they connect with each other over the memories of their sons, now no more, in a Kolkata back drop somehow connected me too much to the story. One of the longest stories of the otherwise crisp and short book, this story has a much deeper connect than all the other stories the book has to offer. Agreeing with the author, it couldn't have been with any other background. They had to be Bengalis. Please, it's a request! This story has to be told to a much wider audience. In all forms possible. I cried and even smiled at the end of it.

On bed with strangers: The final story of the book is surely not for the mass. You would need to do a double or even a triple take on the story to know what exactly the story stands for. Having been an ardent reader of the author and having attended most of his sessions it was a bit predictable to me but to the people I know have read the book, this was the most unpredictable story.

Cheaters is a journey. And it all comes back to the quote I referred in the beginning of the review. It's all about the realization. This book breaks down the quote and represents it in a way where probably you would want to go back to one story at a time in various points of your life and experience them all new. I won't say it is one of Novoneel's best. No. It isn't. But what it stands for is something a novel would never have been able to represent. I would want to read more short stories from the writer, yes. This book is difficult to rate, also because each story has something different to say. I'll leave without a rating as this journey is something you should live and not rate. I've lived it. Would you?

Friday, 9 February 2018

The Assassinations A novel of 1984 by Vikram Kapur: a review

There are some books that jolt you from the time you have a look at the cover. Done in red and black (and well, my eyes see a lot more in it), Vikram Kapur’s The Assassinations: A novel of 1984 is surely one such book. A book-jacket (God my first book jacket of the year and one after ages) feels such a great thing to hold that you would fall in love with the book the moment you set eye on it. A turn of the book and the blurb says much much more about the book.

According to the blurb- To Deepa, Prem gave no hint of the churning inside him. In front of her he affected a cheery demeanour, indulging her in her plans for their honeymoon, which she kept revising. It was a welcome escape from the mayhem surrounding him. There were occasions where the pretence got to him and a voice rose inside, urging him to tell her everything. He silenced it. Deepa was a Hindu and would never understand. Until then, he had never thought of her as different.

Trust me, very much like Prem, even I, while reading the book, didn’t see Deepa as different. The book started cliched. Yes, it did and I was actually left thinking, what would the book give me? Will all those promises and expectations from the cover. And then I turned the pages and went on reading it. I was dumbstruck. My eyes moist. Yes, that was the effect the book had on me.

I am a reader. Voracious or not, I don't know. And frankly, I don't have a specific genre I like to read. Everything and anything that is provided to me is a read for me. Given this scenario, I have read a lot of books on the subject that the book addresses: terror attacks. Attacks that shook India, a part of it. Of lives that were altered by the attacks. Most were biographical in nature. Majority were non-fiction (barring the Kashmir situation which usually is fictional). This, being a fictional novel had my heart in it.

The way Kapur describes the situation: The divide. The emotions. The feelings. The aftermath. The way things were before. It is brilliant. Brilliant would be an understatement, for this book would be one which will be remembered by me for quite some time now. The intensity of the situation after Mrs. Gandhi was shot was very well described. I have a question for the writer, though: How could he write with so much feelings?

While I would leave it up to you, my readers, to decide how this book fared. I don't know what else to write. Because, I believe if I start writing about this book, I won't stop. Coming to the cons, I felt the book was a bit abruptly ended (open ended, though and completely not something that people might expect as an ending). The book was a perfect size but again, typical me. If someone is writing so good, why does it always have to come to an end and that too so fast?

Feelings, emotions, characters, narrative, flow, build up everything was spot on. A question here and there were unanswered. Some characters shed a shadow of 'why was it introduced, what happened to it, why not a bit more book space?’ in them. For me, this book was surely a 4.5 out of 5 and I'm expecting so much and so much more from the author. 

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Sudipto Das: an informal chat

On a winter afternoon, a coffee shop at Kolkata was buzzing with words. Why? The author of The Ekkos clan and recently, The Aryabhata Clan; Mr. Sudipto Das was present. A warm smile, a firm handshake and cold coffee after, he discussed books, music, politics, mythology and everything under the sun. I would be wrong if I say it was a formal interaction and so I don't have any proper list of questions and answers that I asked. What happened, rather, was a conversation.

Upon asking about the pattern in writing and genre similar to Dan Brown, he exclaimed “Dan Brown uses cryptology. I have not used Cryptology in the technical sense. I have used linguistic paleontology. While Dan Brown has used Symbology. Cryptology is used by RAW, CIA, and others. Cryptology is an encryption which needs to be decoded. Most intelligence agencies in the world use this method. This is a very generic term in this case. Palaeontology is the science of recreating the past through fossils.  At times, modern contemporary languages might also have some linguistic fossil. Sometimes, age-old words survive which have failed to evolve. Holding on to those words, linguistic paleontology tries to create the history/origin of that language.”

About being casted in a stereotypical frame of writer, he says “This actually happens whereas I don't want to be cast in that stereotypical frame. Before Aryabhata Clan came across, I had written a book which is essentially a love story at its core. But it didn't get published. My next, though, is a book very close to my heart which I'm co-authoring with a young woman and it centers around an intense and passionate story about lesbianism in the 60’s. Lesbianism is still seen as a taboo in the society and not spoken of as openly as being gay. I am looking forward to seeing how the book is taken by the audience once it is out.”

How are the reviews coming in for The Aryabhata Clan? “The book is a real big book, as you can see! Not many people have finished it as of yet since it was released a few weeks back. But all the people who have managed to read it (especially hard critics of my own family and my acquaintances) have called it very gripping and that is something what I managed to attain through the book. Let's see how this book makes the readers feel once the actual reader reviews are out.”

Talking about music and of himself being a violinist, he says, “Music has always been something that is close to my heart. I have a band back in the city I stay in and we perform at various places. I never take any money from the organizers where I perform. There is a reason for that! I don't wanna monetize out of my love for music. We rather ask the organizers to put the money set aside for us to good use. Such as, making a better sound system or enhancing what they already have. We sing out of our hearts and we sing what we want to. There are no set tracks that we sing and it is completely the willfullness of the other band members where we all decide what to perform.”

Would you really want to pursue writing full time? “Why not? I would love to do that but once I am actually settled enough. My startups are my brainchild and once they are set enough. Once I know I can actually afford to sit back. But that's many many years from now!”

What about Aryabhata Clan? Tell me something more about the book… “With Aryabhata Clan I went a little ahead than Ekkos Clan. It deals with Aryabhata and Kalidasa among many others. It is rich in Medieval Indian History during the 580 AD. When I was reading Aryan History, my interest grew in the Sanskrit Language. During this time, I also researched on Prakrit Languages. This book finds a reflection of the history of all the languages of that era.”

With the sun setting and the day coming to an end, Sudipto and I chat about what inspired him to write, “I thought that I should do something which would have my unique signature, which would be completely my creation. Then I thought that I can write a book; because it is tougher to be a music composer. Also, if you notice Bangla literature is so strong but nothing has been written specifically about Bangla partition. There has been work on Post Partition traumas but nothing specifically on the Partition as such. I used to hear stories of the Partition from my pishi (paternal aunt) and they were still fresh in my mind decades later. I did some authentication and background research on those stories. Thus, when I thought of writing I thought I would pen it down but not directly make it into a Partition story. It was coupled with linguistics, Aryan History, and many others.”

This ended our chat, our coffee being long done and we got up. Cards exchanged, pictures clicked. This was a great evening.

Please do read The Aryabhata Clan and The Ekkos Clan and if you have any questions for the author, leave a comment. Wishing the author loads of luck for his future endeavors.