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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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

The Amma and her Maid! It’s Complicated!


Booking page 1

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Maids – those powerful women who can get away with pretty much everything! You can’t live with them, their attitudes, their non-existent leave plans, their tardiness, their sorry tales and all their drama! Yet, you can’t live without them! A slice of Indian life from the town of Chennai 🙂

Sunita looked visibly annoyed as she listened to the yarn trailing out of the her maid Anu’s mouth. The woman had disappeared for 3 days in a row without any prior notification, leaving Sunita to handle a house full of guests, the resulting loads of laundry and the never ending piles of dishes along with a full time job!

This was not the first time that Anu, who had received several warnings from Sunita  in the past about being fired  had gone AWOL*.  And yet, here they were again, listening to the tall tales that Anu spun about how her daughter had eloped to get married, while her son was ill from an infection on his foot!

Sunita was exhausted and Anu’s high pitched voice with dramatic undertones irritated her more than usual. She cut Anu off mid way…

“So, is your daughter married now?”

“No amma, she has run away with that useless boyfriend of hers and we are still looking for her!”, responded Anu

“Who is we?”, questioned Sunita

“My son and me, amma!”

” I thought your son was ill when all this happened! You said he cut his leg on some pieces of stray glass and his feet have been bandaged! How exactly is he helping you? I am getting sick of your lies…why can’t you just let me know before you take off? What good is your phone if you don’t answer it?”

“He hurt his feet while we were looking for her!”

Anu was trying hard to patch the gaps in her story. Pushing her luck she continued, “Please don’t fire me amma, I need to take my son to the doctor again and I need more money. Would you consider giving me an advance?”

“What?? You still owe me thousands of rupees in back loans! I am not giving you any more money!”

“But, I need to buy my daughter a new saree and some jewellery….”

“I thought you were angry with her because she ran away with a man you did not approve of! Now, you want to buy her gifts?”, exclaimed a confused Sunita

“I still need to give her dowry…what will my son-in-law’s parents think of me?”

Mindful of being dragged into Anu’s family drama, Sunita raised her voice and ended the conversation “Just get back to work and next time you do this, I WILL fire you!”

Anu scampered away as fast as she could while flipping out her cell phone to call her son and remind him not to show up around “amma’s” house as his feet were supposed to be bandaged!

Sunita heard her and sighed! This would happen again, maybe when Anu’s daughter returned (if had she  run off in the first place) and she would still not fire Anu.  She would probably loan Anu more money to throw a feast for her daughter and new son-in-law.

Finding a maid was the hardest thing to do in the city of Chennai! Yes, the relationship between the lady of the house and her maid could be best described as complicated!

*AWOLAbsent without leave.

Ek Kahani – The true story of the desi litter dump


My contribution to The Great Indian Litterbug organized by Times of India

Image Courtesy: The Great Indian Litterbug

Image Courtesy: The Great Indian Litterbug

 

 

I was smooth, wide and clean as a slate,

When the corporation parked me in front of this gate,

Now I am scratched, faded and filthy,

And you can smell me across this gully.

 

They figured that I would fit like a mit,

In this neighborhood which was a hit,

It had the city’s most popular school,

Not to mention the expensive homes that housed the cool.

 

I looked forward to holding all their filth, I was created to do that, so I had no guilt,

But sadly most of my insides remained empty as a haunted garden.

I was surprised as much as you, to find that they tossed their garbage around me,

It was not like I was too tall, that they could not toss in all their soils.

 

First the fancy school and its students littered around me,

Then it was those residents, who decided that it was too much to walk near me,

So they tossed their junk from the comforts of their cars and balconies,

Almost always missing my mouth that was open as wide as a crater.

 

The cats, crows and street dogs were my loyal company,

Along with the rats that sent everyone into a scurry,

Alas even they lasted only until they spotted that gypsy,

Who thought that it would be fun to go diving into my belly.

 

Then there were those that worked in the fancy homes,

That mostly seemed to lack service rooms,

For when it was time to answer natures call,

They always seemed to be splashing on my walls.

 

If you think that my story is sad,

Just wait until you meet my little cousin down the road,

The citizens of this gully can’t be bothered to walk down the street to fill his belly,

But  managed to turn an empty plot into a landfill that is too smelly.

 

The corporation took him away,

Before he could have his say,

“There aren’t too many people using him”, they said,

“Well, won’t you just look at the landfill?”, he said.

 

Then they came to clean me up and shook their heads in disgust,

And complained as always about why people couldn’t use me best,

My cousin smiled from the back of their great truck, he was glad to go

Maybe he wouldn’t starve so much else where and get back his glow.

 

“Just you wait, my little one”, I said,

You have a lot to learn before you turn into a metal case like me,

We still live in a land of gazillions,

That wouldn’t mind giving their doctors a million.

 

They can never dream of making hygiene their goal,

As they believe that this stuff is for the all phoren souls.

Ask that NRI down the street, who is clean as pin in Jersey City,

But will not think twice before spitting at my sides in this great city.

 

Learn and live my little one,

My tale is not the only one,

There are plenty of us around this great country,

Who will tell you the true story of the Great Indian Litter Dump!

An Unequal Harmony


Image Courtesy: Internet

Image Courtesy: Internet

While the Indian cricket team fights on the Wankhede grounds to create history, two men engage in a game of words to determine the future of their lives.

Reva – a celebrated Page 3 journalist, and Anshuman Mehra – Creative Director of India’s most popular advertising agency are a happily married couple till a car accident relegates Reva to the ICU and reveals to Anshuman the biggest secret of their lives – Siddharth Kashyap. A reputed fashion photographer, Siddharth had met Reva a year-and-a-half after the Mehras got married. But what started off as a formal professional association soon morphed into a friendship that transformed into love.

As Reva’s health swings between crisis and recovery, Anshuman and Siddharth retrospect their lives and associations with the woman who bound them together. It is through their reminiscence of the relationships and interaction with each other that we traverse through their meetings, their feelings, their heartbreaks, their dilemmas and their insecurities. However, what looms large is one pertinent question – can Reva love two people at the same time?”

Read more about this novel by Souvik Gupta here

The Redeemers


Image Courtesy: Internet

Image Courtesy: Internet

One bizarre vacation marked a turning point in the lives of four teenage friends. It dawned upon them that corruption and malpractices had become rampant and deeply ingrained in our culture. They felt anguished and shocked at the shameful state of affairs.

They pledged to redeem and change the destiny of the country. They had only two weeks of vacation left to take some big initiatives. The pressure on them was immense. Status quo or failure was not an option for them.

Read the inspirational story of a unique movement masterminded by youngsters through innovative ideas and creative thinking. Not a single family could escape from its unrelenting onslaught. It was a rewarding outcome for their persistence and hard work, as they nostalgically recall in 2030

This book was sent to me by the author many eons ago in exchange for an honest review. So before I share my thoughts, I extend my sincere apologies to Mr. Taneja for the delay in publishing the review. He must have probably wondered if he had just sent the book to someone who probably didn’t read it! I wouldn’t blame him…This is probably the longest I have delayed to publish any review – it’s just that I have been slammed by life in general to the extent that I even forgot my word press passwords! Well, time to correct the situation and carry on doing the little things that give me some peace in spite of what life would want to challenge me with! In one way I think its good that I delayed the review of this book as I needed to get my thoughts in order to write about this book as it deserves an honest attempt on my part to give it some justice.

The book explores an issue that is very relevant to India today – a country plagued by corruptions, scams, defiance of authorities and lack of respect for law and order and anything else that a normal Indian might complain about when it comes to day-to-day life.

The plot not only talks about the issue in general but also dares to give a solution to the entire mess. That right! While most of us are busy complaining, someone has attempted to give us a solution to tame the ugly monster of corruption and greed that plagues our nation today and that too in a manner consistent with Gandhiji’s idea of “Ahimsa”

It is the year 2030 and India is the new super power and is the cynosure of the attention of the world. Ambassadors cars are in demand and the country is known for everything good and ideal;starting from clean streets, a complete absence of corruption and ideal citizens, so much so that even the USA wants to be like India!! Just close your eyes and think about it – which Indian wouldn’t want this dream to come true? Even as our bubble is popped as we open our eyes, we can’t help but wonder…..

And all this has been possible due to four friends who come up with the idea of tackling the issue when personally faced by the problems of the corrupt system while on a vacation. The youngsters who refer to themselves as G4 and their parents as G3 ( honestly, it could me some time to figure this out) tackle the problem with the help of the good citizens of the nation, the media and educated strategies.

Now, the whole idea just seemed like an impossible dream. But kudos to the author for trying to come up with a decent solution ( any solution that doesn’t involve slandering is decent one) to the entire mess as impossible as it seems. His love for the country, earnestness and beliefs in his solution and the hope in trying to get out of this nightmare shines through the plot.

Speaking of plots, this is a very slow one, without  the elements of surprise or thrills that might enable readers to keep turning the pages with great gusto. The chapters move very slowly, but the language is very simple and can be easily understood by readers of all levels across the nation. The book reads more like a documentary / research thesis of the efforts of G4 rather than a story. 

A good attempt by the author to talk about something close to everyone’s heart as of date. It is my sincere belief that this book should be used as supplementary reading in schools across the nation. Since most of us do believe that a good education can initiate the solution to such problems, the least that can be done is to start teaching our kids quite early about what is right and wrong and try to nip the issue in the bud. More treatment to the plot and this could have been a better read for adults.

A thoughtful read: albeit a slow one, especially during the elections! 🙂

About the Author

Suresh Taneja is a chartered accountant by profession and is looking after the financial affairs of a listed company. He published his first book “We can pull it off” in 2010. This book is an improved and complete version of his earlier book. Suresh aspires for maximum readership of the book, particularly by children and youth. Suresh strongly feels that the youth need to play a leading role in shaping up the future of our country which presently is plagued with alarming proportions of corruption, malpractices and declining moral values. The intent behind this book is to kindle a sense of awareness amongst the youngsters on their possible role, encouraging them to be creative in finding solutions and inspiring them to translate their thoughts into action. Suresh writes regularly to express himself on a variety of issues. His writings are generally inspired by his life experiences and keen observations. Suresh does not wish to confine himself to issue based books only; he is keen to experiment with different genres and capitalize on his knack for storytelling

You can buy this book on any of the leading online book stores in India