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 Prophecy of the Trivine


A book review that I did early last year, but got published only by the end of the year….I had to share it out here anyway.  The book was a very different read for me. Here is the blurb:

An emissary of an advanced alien race travels to the Earth to undertake responsibility of an experiment that has gone out of control. The outcome of this fateful experiment, which was conceived millions of years ago by her species, now rests in her hands. As she prepares to deliver her final judgment, she comes across three young men in a sacred forest who change her life forever.

These three men – a scientist, a hacker and an artist – happen to take refuge in that forest, trying to escape from the oddities of their own unfair lives. Struggling with their dreams and demons, they begin to explore the dark and paranormal behavior of the forest by forging a companionship. From the rare flora and fauna breathing alive on the ground to the deadly wide expanse of the whimsy black sky, everything they find is yet another puzzle unsolved. 

Little did they know that four of them hold in their hands the future of mankind, and much beyond imagination, they are connected through an ancient Prophecy that was long lost in the sands of time. . .”

Check out the review at: http://thetalespensieve.com/2014/11/bookreview-theprophecyoftrivine/

For more details on the book visit: http://scifinovelist.wix.com/theprophecyoftrivine

Love is Vodka – A Shot Ain’t Enough


"Ever since I started deciphering the meaning of the word LOVE, it confused me. For some obscure reason to me it was just another overused, overrated and much abused word. Also the more I experienced it, the concept of spending ones life with just one man appeared so boring." ~~Page 4 Image Courtesy: Internet

“Ever since I started deciphering the meaning of the word LOVE, it confused me. For some obscure reason to me it was just another overused, overrated and much abused word. Also the more I experienced it, the concept of spending ones life with just one man appeared so boring.” ~~Page 4
Image Courtesy: Internet

Being a love child; Moon is anything but a conventional teen. With a leading TV news anchor as her mother, an aspiring entrepreneur as her boy friend, the word LOVE baffles her. The whole idea of having one partner and love being eternal intrigues her.

Life turns upside down when she falls for her mother’s boyfriend. Destiny further complicates things by blessing her with a mega modelling assignment and turning her famous overnight. A war between her head & heart exposes her to various hues of love.

Will she decipher the true meaning of love? Embark on an exhilarating rendezvous with Moon and discover love like never before

Of late, I have been reading loads of books that have been heavy on relationships and emotional quotients and wanted to take a break and read something as light as possible. When I found this book on BlogAdda with the interesting blurb and even more interesting cover it seemed like the ideal choice – a chick-lit that promised some light reading and some smiles. Well, the book was definitely light and did make me smile but it also made me squirm quite a bit [could be because I think I am a bit old fashioned!] but more on that later.

Can love be found with just one person? What is the difference between love and loyalty and why are the two connected especially when “Love is all about freedom whereas loyalty is just another form of slavery.~Page 6

A story about finding true love and how one needs to sample several “the ones” before finding the actual “one” (see inset above). And here comes the comparison to Vodka – a single shot is never enough to enjoy the heady feeling that the drink promises! The book has been narrated from the point of view of a nineteen year old girl with a unique name – Moon. With a powerful single mom who has given her everything that money can buy, Moon comes across as one of those confused kids who have everything in life but don’t feel quite settled. These kids seem to be looking for that one particular thing that could anchor them somewhere with someone – that crazy little thing called “Love”. Those of us who have heard of or seen kids of rich and powerful parents who don’t have much time for their kids can easily identify with the kind of rebel that Moon is.The plot is fairly simple – it details the evolution of Moon from a lost and spoilt teenager to that of a mature individual who finally finds her true love and accpets herself for what she is through a journey of bad affairs, jealous boyfriends and a strained relationship with her mother that mends gradually through the course of the book.

Things that baffled me about the main protagonist:

In spite of having a steady boy friend Moon is still on the prowl for “the one” and in the process falls for the 48 year old boy friend of her mom! Now, this I really didn’t get; only because kids these days are much smarter and mature than to get into a messy affair this complicated, especially when they seem to have the whole world on platter! Especially when they are 19! Maybe if Moon were in her mid 20’s it would have made more sense (or not!). The chapters describing her relationship with “D” and their amorous escapades put me off!(Recall my reference to what made me squirm!) And it just got worse because she happened to be cheating on her steady boyfriend whom she treated as an on demand chauffeur and a walking personal bank account whose job was to swipe his credit card for her whenever she required.

What are we trying to teach young Indian girls in post independent India? This does not make much sense when women are trying to break away from all shackles and establish themselves as individuals in their own right nor is it correct to make it look like men can be treated this way. I am not saying that the author is trying to do this but then when such statements are repeated often, that is the idea many readers would get.

Somewhere along the plot, the readers find Moon gradually getting addicted to alcohol! First she sneaks into her mother bar and pours herself a shot and this gradually becomes a habit. Soon she is sitting around in pubs, nursing a glass of the same (seems like a scene out of Sex and the City) but then the age of the protagonist doesn’t really make drinking look cool and stylish even if she is a model! I am sure there are many models don’t drink at every given opportunity. Thank God! she doesn’t become an alcoholic but all the tell-tale signs of the same are present – I wish this could have been handled differently..

Something that I appreciate about this book is that a male author has been able to reflect the turmoils and feelings of a teenage girl  well. I havent not read chick-lits by any male authors till date!

On the whole, a quick and light entertaining read if you have a few hours on hand….I rate this book 3/5

Leaving you with some lines from the book that make you think as a person and also if you happen to be an Indian woman immersed in the midst of the myriads of Indian culture, societies and practices :

  • Why can’t we all exist the way we like, without catering to anyone’s expectations, beliefs or value systems?
  • Why can’t there be freedom of choice in life?I mean, share when you want, close the doors when you don’t want to.
  • We spend so much time socializing, putting our best foot forward and trying real hard to make people like us, to garner social acceptability. In the process, we clog our organizers with birthdays, and anniversaries, just trying to show others how much we care. All this to win some so called friends.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers.</a> Participate now to get free books!

The Wordkeepers


Image Courtesy: Internet

Image Courtesy: Internet

Anya’s carefree teenage life is thrown into turmoil when her mother is abducted, passing on the mantle of wordkeeper to her. Her only ally for this task is a cursed immortal warrior.

In another part of the country, village boy Bilal dismisses tales about a prophecy claiming he is the avatar, Kalki.

Anya and Bilal need to find each other so they can fulfil the old prophecy and destroy their common enemy, the vengeful god who pursues them. Will they succeed?

What do you do when a god is desperate to cling on to power – and you’re in the way?

 I had downloaded this book as a part of the free ebook downloads that was offered by Amazon, India last month. I read some reviews, some stating that the book was typical of the genre of young adults while other reviews just called the book bad. But me being me, I cannot let go of any book that promises loads of mythological fiction and this one was about the avatars of Vishnu to boot. So, I read the preview of the book and then a decision was made and the book found its way into my kindle.

Plot Summary

Ashwathama is cursed by Krishna to roam the earth till the end of time, until he is set free by his savior, who would be the final avatar of Vishnu, Kalki. When there is a savior, there needs to be a villain which is where Kali,(not the goddess, but the god of all vices) makes an entrance. It has been prophesied that he would rule the Kali yug provided there are no interferences from the savior. In order to make sure that this becomes a reality, Kali and his team of warriors organize themselves to prevent the birth / emerging of the savior. When there is a hero and a villain, there needs to be a guardian or a protector and this where the “Wordkeepers” come in. Heralded by none other than Vibhishan, the brother of Ravan, he has successfully managed the secret clan of “wordkeepers” whose only life mission is to protect the savior with help from other immortals like like Parashuram and Goddess Dhoomvati. The wordkeepers pass on the legacy of this mission from one generation to the next.

It is the middle of the 21st century and the peak of the Kali yug and everything seems to be on track, until a key wordkeeper, Tanya is abducted.  She passes on the legacy to her 14 year old daughter Anya who needs to find the savior before its too late. The only catch is that she would not be able to recognize the savior but only find the path that would lead others to Him. Her life turns topsy turvy as she is thrown into a mission along with the cursed Ashwathama who is the only one that can identify the savior…. Also is the savior really a Muslim boy named Bilal from AP?? How are Anya and Bilal connected?? The answers to all this and more is embedded in a web of historical and mythological gobbledygook in the pages of this book!

My thoughts

The author has picked a topic which is pretty new to Indian mythological fiction; one which explores the avatar of Kalki. I haven’t read other books that explore this angle. The book starts where the “Mahabharatha” ends and this was very interesting as the author has picked out  “Ashwathama” as an important character to commence this trilogy. The book is fast paced and can be completed within a few hours, provided one can read it in a single setting. The language is very simple, sometimes too simple bordering on “kiddish” which is probably why many believe that only young adults can read this book….Honestly, I wasn’t expecting words like “Bullshit” to make an appearance in the book.

The book is split into sections and each sections begins with a note from Vibhishan. I especially loved how the identity of Vibhishan and Parashuram are revealed. Also the fact that the final avatar could be a non-hindu is very intriguing….

I have to admit, certain parts of the book got me a little curious. For e.g. I haven’t still been able to figure out who Goddess Dhoomvati is and why she travels on a crow! She seems to be a cross between Goddess Kali and some other god or goddess….Also, most of us have grown up listening to how the avatar of Kalki would end the world as we know it, so it was refreshing to view him as a savior of mankind and not as a lord of destruction..

I was very disappointed with the way the book ended! Definitely seemed like the ending of a children’s book. Also the timeline of the story is 2028  which means, life and technology would have improved further compared to what it is now. But then everything that is described can pretty much be mapped to lifestyles of today which is kind of a let down.

I think that all authors who want to write mythological or fantasy fictions should take a note out the books of J.K Rowling – she is someone who has effectively managed to cater to kids, young adults and adults alike! She had the knack of making even the most simplest of things sound magical. The concept and backdrop of this book had a lot of potential to do this, but the author seems to have completely missed it. At the end of the book, I was kind of confused; did I like the book or not?

I enjoyed it in parts and then there were certain sections that I just wanted to get over with!! Maybe the author will improve upon these annoyances in the books that follow.

VerdictGive it a try if you enjoy mythological / historical fictions. This is a neither here nor there book, but will definitely help make a long train journey or waiting time at the doctors a more interesting one!

About the author:

Jash Sen is a DU, IIM graduate who worked in IT and taught mathematics while dreaming of writing a book. The Wordkeepers is Jash’s first novel and is the first of a trilogy. Check out more details about the trilogy at: http://www.thewordkeepers.com/

I am writing this as a part of UBC July 2013

Chanakya’s Chant


Image Courtesy: Internet

Image Courtesy: Internet

A typical Ashwin Sanghi novel with all the elements that appear in all his books. If you have read his books before you will understand what I mean…….Here are some obvious examples:

  • A roller coaster ride between the between the past  and the present – I was shuttled between 340 BC and current day India to the extend that that my head was spinning – only this time the plot was about is about a king maker creating a King!
  • Bollywoodish  with a new spin on the rags to riches story – If Chanakya created Chandragupta Maurya by selecting the smartest kid from a group of children playing “King and subjects” we have Gangasagar Mishra who creates India’s woman prime minister by selecting an intelligent girl called Chandini from the slums of Utter Pradesh! 
  • 2 story lines and Information overload – In typical Sanghi style, a parallel  is drawn between the two stories. The reader is exposed to loads of political strategies of modern India and 340 BC. There is an overload of information on almost everything and anything – politics, dirty politics, assassination plots, weird sexual encounters, the art of black mailing…..get what I mean?
  • Climax –  As with his other by the author and the climax of the book is a bit of a let down like his other books! The way this long book ended just didn’t do justice to the everything that the reader has read in the previous pages

The most interesting parts of the book were definitely the chapters on Chanakya and his political games. Chankaya is portrayed as a brilliant strategist and an intelligent king-maker. The reader has a glimpse of Chankya’s past and his motivation to morph from being obscure Brahmin to a king-maker. This portrayal is something that we would not have studied in our history books that just mention Takshila and the Arthasasthra.

I loved the chapters steeped deep in history while compared to the chapters on present day  politics and to be honest, I had skip many sections on political processes and talks as they were too overwhelming for me! It was so overwhelming that I forgot the plot many times and had to refer to the chapters that I had completed to get on track again. It was very refreshing to read about the Greek and Persian invasions and also a glimpse at the character profile of Alexander the great and his strategy to invade the conquer the world.

However, the book is a pretty good read and will definitely be a page turner for those who love to read about politics. Another feature that goes for this book is the fact that the author is able to tie the threads between the various plots and sub-plots with great ease! I mean I forgot many of the sub-plots, but I had to mention this as I am sure that this is no easy task for any writer. The book exposes the underbelly of political chaos and its murky details in India – a place where thugs rule with loads of shady elements and ever bigger thugs for company.  The saving grace was the fact that at the end of it, good triumphs over evil 🙂 I guess I was disappointed as I expected a book that was not so political…..

The early bird catches the bird, but it is the second mouse which gets the cheese”. More like someone does all the work, but then I storm in and get all the credit!! This  oft repeated line throughout the book took my fancy and it clearly describes the state of politics and corporate life and maybe other professions that people choose to pursue.

Did I mention that it took me ages to complete the book!

I have enjoyed all books by Ashwin Sanghi, but one can’t shake the feeling of “If you have read one book, you have read them all!”. I am definitely looking forward to get my hands on Ashok Bankers of the Maurya dynasty; more history and less straying away from the plot I am sure 🙂

Once upon the tracks of Mumbai


Before I start this review, I would like to apologize profusely to the author for the delay in publishing this review. I had been slammed with other priorities which have taken over my life 24*7 and I am only just setting out to trying to find a balance between all things that matter. My sincere apologies to Rishi Vohra, who sent me the book around New Year. Though delayed, I have to let you know I absolutely loved the book and will definitely be reading books by you in the future

Image Courtesy: Internet

Image Courtesy: Internet

Blurb from the back of the book….

Autistic. Schizophrenic. Psychotic…

They use these words to describe Babloo the doctors, his family, his teachers everyone except Vandana. She treats him the way he wants the world to see him.

Mumbai the city that defines his ultimate desires. Will it allow him the love and normalcy he so craves?

Vandana yearns for a soul mate to rescue her from the confines of the Railway Colony they all live in. Is she looking in the right place?

Rail Man a fearless, real-life hero who succeeds in doing all that Babloo secretly wishes to do is Babloo his inspiration or is it the other way around?

A random twist of fate on Mumbai’s endless, serpent-like, jangling local train tracks ties all these characters together in a complex weave of love, heartbreak, and courage.

Babloo draws the reader into his fascinating, heart-rending journey through the twisted, choked lanes of Mumbai, into an open space where he can finally exhale, be born again.”

There is only one word I would use to describe this book – Wow!! Initially this book reminded me of “The clockwork Man” by William Jablonsky. The main protagonists in both books are “literal” thinkers without the ability to analyse much, the only difference being that the clockwork man was a mechanical robot whereas Babloo is human. The way the story has been narrated by the main protagonist in both cases is also the same and so is their quest to make a difference in their worlds, but the comparisons stop right here.

The book delves deep into the human psyche of middle class Indian families chasing average dreams while trying to keep pace with the fast life. Treated with indifference by his own family and society, Babloo draws us into his world of earnest thoughts and dreams coupled with the sincerity to do something that would make Vandana take notice of him. His love knows no bounds and he goes all out to impress the woman of his dreams. A big fan of Hindi cinema, Babloo sets out on a journey to cleanse Mumbai of the scum that plagues it’s citizens. He aims to be a super hero while harboring dreams of marrying Vandana and living happily ever after.

Burdened with an un-happy professional life, an old fashioned mother and dreams of finding true love and success, Vandana is your quintessential girl next door. Intelligent, pretty and charming she yearns for the day when she can control her life and leave behind the struggles that continue to plague her as she battles for her independence and dreams on a daily basis.

While Babloo is out trying to make the world a better place, fate takes a cruel twist when Vandana gets trapped in an unhappy engagement to Babloos brother, the boring and old fashioned stock broker intern Raghu. She turns to the local womanizing scoundrel Sikander who she believes is her Prince Charming. Blissfully unaware of any of this, Babloo tries to woo vandana in his own innocent way. Does he succeed? Does Vandana find her soul mate? Will true love over come all odds thrown its way?

The city of Mumbai provides ample fodder to the story and sometimes it feels like the city is a character by itself. The people, lifestyles, the environments that make up busy, gritty, dreamy and ruthless Mumbai have been beautifully described by the author so much I felt I was a part of the busy Mumbai scene, boarding its trains, exploring its markets and living the life of an average Mumbaiker.

The book also reminded me of the 80’s and its share of road side Romeos..It is amazing to see how these characters have transformed from usually harmless oglers to suave, womanizing and dangerous casanovas of today.

All in all a great book filled with loads of human emotions, dreams, simple and complicated relationships and ambitions all of which have been detailed very realistically by the author. I wonder how he has been able to describe them so well…that is real talent especially for a debut novel. With an interesting title, the book is a great super-hero novel for readers of India today and should definitely not be missed by anybody wanting to make a difference!