Colorful Notions: The Roadtrippers 1.0


booking-page-1Blurb: Would you give up your high-paying job and comfortable personal life to drive ten thousand kilometres across India? Just for fun!

Three twenty-something’s dare to do just that! While the two boys take turns to drive, the girl gives voice-over as they record their entire journey on a handy cam. Ab, Sasha and Unnati are ordinary youngsters, rendered special by the feat they accomplish. As they recount their adventures, I crave to live their journey. They look at each other with a glint in their eyes, as if refurbishing those memories while narrating their spooky time at Bhangarh Fort, strange escapades at Wagah Border and Sundarbans, car breakdowns, wild animals, near-death experiences and highway robbers! It’s nothing less than crazy.

I doubted if I’d ever have the gumption to create such experiences. So I did the next best thing – I penned a book about them and their road trip.

Colorful Notions is a journey of three young hearts on the Indian terrain and into the inner recesses of their souls, giving a new perspective to relationships, love and life.

The very first line from the blur of this book had me typing out a quick acceptance to review this book! And why not?? I have dreamed of something like this for most of my life and continue to do so! In my dreams I  explore the temples around India and their secrets or live in the Tuscan countryside, doing organic farming, creating recipes, reading and writing. Then the bubble pops (or the phone rings) and I am bang in the midst of the challenges that my mediocre life offers!  And I have never been happier while typing out a review for a book than I am now. The book met my expectations of going on an amazing journey across the length and breadth of India from the comfort of my own couch!

Three friends, Abhay (Ab), Sashank (Sasha) and Unnati (Unns) embark on a soul-searching road trip to about 25 places scattered over the wonder that is India. Each have their own reason (or not) to set on this arduous journey that would test their physical and emotional states of mind. Abhay wants to move away from his troubled past and a strained relationship with his parents. Having nothing to hold him back, he conceptualizes the trip and the idea to make a movie about the trip. His bestie and loyal sidekick Sasha, cannot help but join his buddy while escaping an over protective family and the pressures of having to conform to societal norms, in order to live it up without being judged. They convince Sasha’s girl friend, an assistant RJ who is a bit clueless about where her life is headed, to join them on their journey while also being the voice over of their movie. Friendship and love is challenged as they spend time in close quarters. True feelings make their appearances as jealousies are revealed, while emotional baggages threaten to destroy what could be beautiful and love is lost and found. What happens at the end of the journey? Do they find what they set out to discover? How does this trip change them?

From this point on it is a fun-filled emotional roller coaster as they try to spot tigers at the Corbett National park, take a dip in the Ganges at Haridwar, battle altitude sickness at Ladakh /Leh, cause a security threat at the Wagah border, chase and be chased by ghosts at Bhangarh fort at Alwar, get caught in the marshlands and quick-sands at Runn of Kutch and finally encounter a man-eater at the Sunderbans while setting foot on Bangladeshi borders and even obtain enlightenment at Gaya! If this is not enough, you will get to read about the culinary delight that is India, as your senses take in the description of delicacies like the momos at Ladakh, Hyderbadi biryanis, Lucknowi Kebabs, Punjabi chicken, Goan seafood, Udupi cuisine and of course Idli, sambar and chutney and other rice delicacies from my very own Tamil Nadu!

The language is wonderfully simple and immediately draws you in as the fourth member of this motley group! The chapter  where the group spends a night at a haunted fort will have you sitting at the end of your reading chair and at some point even send a shock down your spine! The book manages to impart some simple lessons while not being preachy. Some of the chapters will have you thinking about the life we live, our expectations from it and our perspectives on happiness… For example the following lines about how one feels on a road trip and why we can’t try living our lives the same way left me in a contemplative mood for sometime.

…there comes a point in your life when you leave your past behind too far and the future seems too distant. You start breathing the air that is around you at the moment,you think about the place you are currently at, and the meal you will have next. That is when you will truly start living in the present.

There are more gems scattered about the pages of this book. Words that will touch our heart and if we are lucky even sow seeds for personal growth.  I personally loved reading about the Lama’s speech and the events that followed after, which kind of re-establishes the fact that when you want something and go all out to do it, the universe will make it happen.

The cover of the book with its water painting effect is quite appealing and the title that has a version attached to it, makes me wonder if there will be a sequel.

Let me finish my saying this: If you want to hear stories about a jungle Goddess called “Banobibi” and learn all about listening to your inner voice (which seems to be the core concept of his book ) from a Lama, no matter what age you are this book is for you, it is for the adventurer in you and more essentially the dreamer in you.

Now, if only I could give up my day job….. 🙂

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities.

The Speaking Ghosts of Rajpur


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Image Courtesy: Internet

Book Blurb: It is India of early 1990s – the ‘picturesque’ small-town of Rajpur is in ‘full summer bloom’ and there is a definite sense of mystery in the air. Amidst its scenic setting each year a group of boys band together to spend their summer vacations – going cycling to far-off forests, sharing books, discussing everything under the sky and ogling at girls…

But as youth would have it, their curious minds are more inclined to seek adventure and (hopefully!) uncover some mysterious affair. However, unlike their previous vain attempts, this time certain unusual events and the sudden appearance of a curious case of a ghost in their midst seem to hold the promise of some real adventure.

In the pages of The Speaking Ghost of Rajpur rest assured you will soon be whisked off and plunged into a headlong journey of adventure and romance of your own – on a path of discovery of friendship and brotherhood, of life and love – and, who knows, you might even get to encounter the Speaking Ghost itself!

A bunch of friends, a summer when days are longer than nights,lazy afternoons spent doing nothing, reading comics or in siesta, first crushes and all the little tales that fill young adolescent live…Now, add an abduction, terrible tales of human sacrifice, a conman and a self-declared Swamiji and you have “The Speaking Ghosts of Rajpur”

An extremely detailed account of an unforgettable summer in the life of Shoumo, who along with his brother Shaumik joins his cousin Joy to spend their summer holidays in the sleepy town of Rajpur. I started reading the book waiting for ghosts to appear and start their ruckus anytime but then got drawn into the lives of the main characters and their plans for the hot summer days. Reading a book like this will definitely make a reader pause and reflect on their own childhoods and adventures that came with it. The author has done a wonderful job in recreating the small town like Rajpur and has given it a lot of color making it pulse with life. It reminded me of another popular sleepy town from Indian literature – Malgudi! Every character that appeared in the book seemed to have a story to share and the local scene and scenery of Rajpur has been detailed very well.

This being said I should be honest and admit that the book was a little too detailed, almost to the point of exhausting in some places! I was once given a piece of advice from a fellow writer about how a successful author should avoid over the top details and leave something to the imagination of his / her readers. This book definitely suffers from this issue wherein the reader a subject to loads of details about the friends, their friends and almost everything they did that summer before actually getting to the core plot.

Speaking of the plot, it is definitely a very good one especially something that would appeal to the inner detective within us! If only the plot did not suffer from its sudden appearance and disappearance throughout the book, it would have been a more thrilling read.

The cover of the book deserves a special mention. Having created by the author himself, the cover is an ode to a carefree childhood and of course the author’s artistic streak –  A perfect face for this book. 

In spite of what I have mentioned the book was a pleasant read. Remember the first time you watched a horror movie with a friend and pretended not to be afraid? Or how about doing something utterly ridiculous and maybe even slightly dangerous so that you would be accepted into the “IT Circle” at school? This book is all that and more – a blast into the past, a time machine that takes you back to a time when there were no responsibilities or barriers, when everyday was filled with pure joy, where every little discovery  and first experiences mattered – A reading experience to cherish from first time author Priyonkar Dasgupta.

I would definitely recommend the book to those that can devote some quality reading time in their lives. I would like to sign off wishing you a happy journey to you childhood!

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities.

The Bride Who Would not Burn


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Image Courtesy: Internet

Young and smart Delhi girl Poonam Bajaj takes a chance at connubial bliss with Ravinder Arora, a small businessman from Delhi. The match is arranged by their families and the friendly neighborhood panditji, the marriage broker who is more interested in lining his own pockets rather than ensuring the compatibility of the individuals he sets up for a lifetime of togetherness.

An arranged marriage in India which celebrates the union of two families rather than individuals, is a potpourri of human expectations and this story is filled with the most ambitious ones, depending on which person you ask! The mound of expectations that make up this story are those of:

  1. Poonam, who dreams of a cozy future with her husband,
  2. Mrs. Bajaj, Poonam’s mother, who is in a hurry to get her daughter married and is also kind of broke but nevertheless promises a fat dowry to the family of a possible match for her daughter
  3. Mrs, Arora, who dreams of nothing but a big fat dowry, a daughter-in-law that would also act like a live in maid  and a never-ending sponsorship for her son that would help him meet his business goals
  4. Ravinder, the easily manipulative son who wants the excitement that comes with a pretty wife and a big fat dowry
  5. Papaji, the senior Mr.Arora, a truepenny and Ravinder’s father who genuinely wants his son and daughter-in-law to be happy
  6. Panditji, the marriage broker who pulls of the ultimate coup by bringing all the above parties who have nothing in common together

As a  result, we have a  wonderful book that takes a look at the compelling issue of dowry practices prevalent in modern India in the form of a plot that is filled with humor doused with a heavy dose of reality.

The chapters about Poonam pressing her mother-in-law’s feet while churning out of innumerable cups of tea and dusting most of  time reminds the reader of the umpteen saas-bahu serials that seem to run on cable all day. Then there is a dawn of realization that this is the kind of life that many woman face on a day-to-day basis in India.

The book is written in the format of a play, complete with notes on stage setups, props and costumes. The entire story is a conversation between a judge who would be presiding over the dowry case of Poonam Bajaj who thwarted an attempt to burn her alive by delivering karate kicks to her husband and mother-in-law, a public defender representing Poonam and a litigator representing the groom and his mother.

The author brings the reader’s attention to the double standards in our society as it applies to women very cleverly through the arguments between the judge and the two lawyers. What starts as a conversation of the usage of Section 498 A of the India Penal Code moves on to sensitive issues about how women and men are judged differently based on the way they behave or the various traits that they exhibit as a person . For e.g. A man who is well versed in martial arts would be viewed as strong and brave whereas a woman would be deemed aggressive! A woman with an extraordinary sexual appetite is judged to have a low morals whereas a man with the same desires is supposed to be normal and virile.

The book goes on to depict how weddings these days are more like business deals, ritualistic and a cheap display of wealth and one-upmanship rather than the spiritualistic celebration of love and harmony that they should be. If weddings are about the display of wealth and power, the marriages resulting from such weddings seem to be all about expecting the world of the new bride and her family. Nobody is happy if a bride enters her new home with jewellery and gifts for her new family because when compared to another bride in the neighborhood who probably got more jewellery and bigger, better gifts for her new home.

What started as a practice of a bride’s family giving her a wedding gift based on the capacity of the family during the days when the Indian law only entitled sons to inherit family property has now morphed into an ugly practice that makes it mandatory for parents  to send their daughters to their marital homes with fat wads of cash, gold and diamonds, silks and expensive gifts for her new husband and her in-laws. It seems like an entire country missed or rather chose to ignore the memo that clearly states that daughters can inherit family property too and that there is no need to unnecessarily compensate them in the form of a fat dowry!

The author describes this beautifully through the words of one of the characters that states the following: “only when this age old practice o dowry combines with modern day consumerism that the resulting concoction makes for a deadly cocktail

So what does a family who is not happy with their new daughter-in-law’s dowry do? They turn abusive and in many cases they do away with her for good! In India, women are still burnt to death when they don’t satisfy the dowry demands of their new marital homes and most of their deaths are made to look like kitchen accidents.

What’s worse is the fact  that even the courts of law investigate such cases from the point of view of the abuser rather than the victim especially when the victim does not conform to societal norms of being a woman. And that is precisely what happens in the case of Poonam. The puritan judge that listens to the arguments of the two lawyers believes that on some level that Poonam probably instigated her husband and mother-in-law to set her on fire and that she is probably the one at fault rather than those setting her on fire.

All these issues and more are brought to the forefront by the simple words of the author, Rajesh Talwar. The play manages to keep the reader’s attention throughout and even manages to raise a lot of relevant questions in the reader’s mind. By doing this Mr.Talwar has managed to educate the readers about a very serious issue plaguing the country and has also initiated a thought process on what we could do rid away with this ugly practice still practiced in all echelons of the society.

Since I am someone who feels very strongly about such issues, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend this to anyone interested in reading about some of the cultural practices that plague India. At 223 pages it is a quick and easy read about a sensitive issueIn fact, it would be a great idea to have a student friendly edition of this play to made available at schools all over India to educate our young minds about the practice of dowry and its effects on the lives of the people involved.What better way could there be to nip this process other than making the next generation of young people to seriously think about such issues?

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities

Wise Enough To Be Foolish


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Image Courtesy: Internet

I would describe “Wise Enough To Be Foolish” as an Indian version of Eat, Pray and Love. However there wasn’t too much eating or praying, but this was compensated by some amount of drinking and our protagonist Gauri did not have to take a year long sabbatical to find herself. Nothing against one of my favorite authors Elizabeth Gilbert or her amazing book “Eat, Pray, Love” which I loved, but I found “Wise Enough To Be Foolish”, a more believable journey of  young girl who transforms into a woman of strength while being bold enough to make her own choices without compromising her individual beliefs or independence, while striving to make her place in the world, discover love and happiness, and finally make peace with herself.

 The book is a fictionalized account of the author’s life from being a difficult middle child and the quint-essential black sheep of the family, to a rebellious teenager, to a career woman who falls in love with who she thinks is the perfect guy only to have her fairy tale end in divorce. The book starts off where Gauri discovers that her husband has been cheating on her and from there it flashes back to her childhood and moves ahead in a pretty quick pace describing her life until she turns 40 packing in as much information as possible without being too preachy or boring.

It seems that the goal of the author has been to share her experiences with the world. The book seems to strive to give other women hope and help them believe  that everything works out in the end. And for that Gauri Jayaram needs to be appreciated. It takes a lot of courage to talk about the difficult process of finding love, one’s failures (especially in relationships) as confidently as she has and some humility to give credit where required for her successes. By the end of the book it is heartening to see a woman accept the things that she cannot change and charge ahead to achieve the goals she believes are possible. She places emphasis on the fact that you attract what you want in the universe and it is up to an individual to think right thoughts and pursue their passions in the face of all adversity. And the mother of all lessons, the fact that is perfectly normal for an individual to live life by his/her rules. That, it is perfectly acceptable for women to be non-conformists and protect what they consider their own identity and independence.  What seems like a foolish choice to the rest of the world would actually be the best choice for YOU!

What I did find strange about the Gauri was the ease with which she always comes out of every situation looking like the better person. She even declares the same in her characteristic forthright manner to her ex-husband during a conversation with him. Is this  even possible? How can one only always emerge as the better person after being hit by every curve ball life throws at them? Maybe she is a saint or maybe this is where a fictionalized part of the memoir comes in 🙂

The book also scratches the surface of serious issues issues such as child abuse and the gender equality in India. In fact, it converses on great details about the later.

The language is conversational and the entire book is laced with humor, a writing trait I always enjoy. The cover of the book is stylish – makes you wonder where the woman is off to! 🙂

Pick it up if you are in a mood to read a story about how it always works out!!

I See You


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“Liam’s life has become a waking nightmare. He’s plagued by constant headaches and is hounded by inexplicable events bordering on the insane. He is convinced that his vindictive ex, Lily, despite her vehement denials, is the one sending him disturbing packages. The only bright spot in a life gone berserk is Aliana, the woman Liam has loved ever since he saw her in a parking lot. But a shocking revelation about her leaves him questioning everything he knows. As Liam plunges deeper into the twin abysses of unbridled love and unexplained insanity, he has to do all it takes to stop his life from spiraling out of control

If you are in the mood to be spooked out in the most subtle manner, you need to get a copy of “I See You” by Aindrila Roy right now! I won a copy of this book in a give-away hosted by author Sharath Komarraju along with some other scary gems 🙂

As implied by the title, the plot is about a spirit that only its victims can see. The book starts out slowly, introducing us to the main protagonist Liam Redmond and details the nuances of his life. The only thing that stands out initially is the fact that the protagonist suffers from migraine headaches which disappear miraculously every time he meets Aliana Swinn, the girl he has fallen in love with.

The plot thickens as Liam’s health spirals out of control and his nights are filled with hallucinations, nightmares, visits from a mysterious entity and a cat which follows him around in the most creepiest of ways! What happens? Who is Aliana? Does Liam suffer from kind of mental disorder or is he crossing lines between reality and the supernatural? Can anybody help him?

Well, I cannot say more without giving the plot away so I am going to control myself. However, let me tell you, I started reading this book at around 9:00 p.m at night and had to put it down around 11.00 p.m while the rest of the family was asleep because I was getting creeped out!

For an author debuting in this genre, Aindrila Roy has done a wonderful job. In the foreword she mentions  that this was a story that had been written years ago and has been refined multiple times to the book that it is today. The hard work definitely shows and has not gone to waste.

I loved the fact that her language was simple and straight forward, devoid of any complicated words or rhetoric! This really helps to keep the reader’s attention on the plot and ensures that we keep turning the pages of he book without having to look up words in a dictionary.

Initially, I did wish that the book had been Indian in its setup. However, now I believe that it is perfect just the way it is!! Also, at about 218 pages the book is quick and satisfying read.

Grab a copy if you enjoy reading horror and the supernatural.

About the author:

Aindrila first penned a short story, of a princess defending a fortress, as a 11 year old. Glad that it was out of her system, she threw that piece of paper away. But over the years, her imagination kept tormenting her with story ideas, until she decided that it was time to finally let them out.

She now writes full-time, mostly horror-fantasies, filled with complex and anguished souls, fighting monsters within and without. She is fascinated by Indian and Greek mythology, Japanese animes, high fantasy novels, and paleontology, all of which have found their way into her stories as subtle tweaks to the backdrop.

‘I See You’ is her first published story

The Devil’s Prayer


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“A nun commits suicide in front of thousands in Spain. In Australia, Siobhan Russo recognises that nun as her mother, Denise Russo, who disappeared six years ago.

In search of answers, Siobhan travels to the isolated convent where her mother once lived. Here she discovers Denise’s final confession, a book that details a heinous betrayal that left her crippled and mute, and Denise’s subsequent deal with the Devil to take revenge. In the desperate bargain Denise made with the Prince of Darkness, she wagered Siobhan’s soul.

As Siobhan discovers the fate of her soul, she learns that hidden within the pages of her mother’s confession is part of The Devil’s Prayer, an ancient text with the power to unleash apocalyptic horrors.

And now her mother’s enemies know Siobhan has it.

Can Siobhan escape an order of extremist monks determined to get the Prayer back? Can she save the world from its own destruction?”

After reading this book, I can safely proclaim that I am officially out of my reading slump! I couldn’t have asked for a better book to kick-start the scorching Chennai summer. When I first received an email from the author Luke Gracias, I was thrilled for two reasons; one, because I had been recommended to him by Rishi Vohra and two, the blurb of “The Devil’s Prayer” seemed to be on the lines of one of my favorite genres – historical fiction  and the promise of a good treasure hunt. But I was pleasantly surprised when the plot that set the entire book going was actually a revenge saga, the wheels of which are set off due to acts of greed and the violence that follows such acts. 

The book started off like a Dan Brown novel. A nun is chased by a bunch of monks for reasons unknown to the readers, only to jump to her death! What follows is a page turning cat and mouse game between a young girl, Siobhan in  search of her mother’s past  filled with secrets she took to her grave and a brotherhood of monks who will stop at nothing to make sure she fails.

As the pages unfold, the pace of the book sets your pulse racing. The reader is drawn into the perfect world of news room anchor Denise Russo, a world that is shattered due acts caused by greed and betrayal. One can’t help but sympathize with the protagonist when she makes a deal with the Devil in order to the save the life of her daughter Siobhan. Her world that seems to get normal after the birth of her second daughter Jess is shattered yet again when she discovers that she has been short-handed by the devil into giving birth to his progeny.

The transformation of Denise Russo from a gullible and trusting Denise, a loving mother and daughter to that of a cold and calculating murderess who will stop at nothing to protect her daughter followed by that of a nun who takes a vow of silence while quietly working against the devil has been beautifully drafted by the author

The other character that stood out in my mind even after I had finished the book was Siobhan. Truly her mother’s daughter, she comes across as strong young woman ready to take on her mother fight and the anguish that could follow.

While this book is all about the coming of age of Siobhan, one is left wondering as to what happens when Siobhan understands the meaning of her mothers quest? Will she complete her mother mission? My guess is that the author has left this for a sequel!

I was engrossed in the book the moment I started reading it. In fact, the day that I started reading the book, I continued to read it until 1:30 AM in the morning simply because I could not put it down!   The efforts that have been put in to research the various pieces of history that is truly impressive. Even more impressive was the fact that each of these little historical facts and events that took place across the globe have been tied beautifully to the plot. There was a time when all the information was getting a bit too much for me, but I believe that this was due to the fact that I was taking in too much at once. Had I relaxed my pace of reading I am pretty sure I would not have felt this way.   Well, I am saving relaxed reading for another day 🙂 Also some of the content in the book is a bit explicit but it becomes a part of the plot and does not seem to have been written for the sake of thrills as is the case with many books that have such content.

I will finish my thoughts on this page turner by saying that there is a new promising author on the horizon!. Read “The Devil’s Prayer” if you are a fan of this genre or the occult or plan ole fiction! Read it in the silence of the night or at the crack of dawn (if possible) for a more fulfilling reading experience!! 

About the Author:

Courtesy: horrorsociety.com

Gracias is an environmental specialist who has worked as a consultant in the resources industry since 1994. He is also the CEO of Instinct India which has been involved with bringing Bollywood film and TV projects such as “Singh is Kinng” to be shot in Australia. The film went on to become the highest grossing Bollywood film of 2008. Based on the tourism generated over the film, Instinct India was nominated for the Premier’s Export awards in that year.

An avid photographer, Gracias travelled through Europe during the development of the film script for The Devil’s Prayer in 2014 and 2015, documenting a 13th century conspiracy between the Mongols and the Papal Inquisition on which this story is based. Photographs of the amazing locations of The Devil’s Prayer can be seen at www.devilsprayer.com..

The e-book of “The Devil’s Prayer” was received from the author Luke Gracias, in exchange for an honest review.