One thing that is different in a book of short stories, that I expect to find while reading, is a common thread connecting the stories. It happens sometimes, and it doesn’t sometimes. This book of short stories did have it, and they were connected by the title of the book itself. Even before the author connected with me, requesting a review, this book was on my to-be-read list, having been recommended by a friend. “India Unlimited”… what a fascinating thought. The subtitle and the cover design just intrigued me further. Continue reading “Book Review: India Unlimited, by Kulpreet Yadav”
My thoughts on the book:
Sometimes, I wonder if I should be reviewing poetry books. Being a poet myself, I know it’s not easy to express thoughts in verse, keep the flow and the emotions.
It was only recently that I chanced upon this book, being a freebie on Amazon for a day. I snapped it up immediately, the appeal being the title of the book, “Glimpses of an Indian Soul”.
Looking further into the book on Goodreads, I came across the excerpt as below…
Here in the West, whenever India is mentioned, we tend to associate it with either call centers or yoga. Without a doubt this is a monochromatic view of a very diverse nation with a billion people. ‘Glimpses of an Indian Soul’ is a collection of poems that snapshots different facets of India and Indian society. It boldly speaks out against social evils like untouchability, corruption, terrorism, religious intolerance, poverty and female infanticide. It celebrates the Indian spirit and captures some very humanistic traditions with an Indian flavour. It captures in a very poetic way, mundane everyday scenes in India.
I do hear of that stereotype, but I guess I cannot understand it, since I’m yet to go abroad and hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
The poems in the collection are expressive. Starting from the first, where the poet expresses his sorrow at the various things corrupting our nation, and calls for us to wake up and stop the atrocity, each poem speaks of India from his eyes, an aspect of our nation.
For me, my favorite poem in the collection was Gitanjali. It spoke as I would have spoken too. Expressing respect to the great work of Tagore, wonder if the poet could ever write like that, if what he wrote could be that way or even if he should write more when such great works were there. Then we see humility that like only a candle could lead in darkness, similarly when the greatness of the poet Tagore has set, it is the poet who should keep the light alive.
Another poem is the one of mother and child, which the poet says symbolizes hope and the future.
One of the more heartfelt ones is the plea of a Harijan, to not let caste come in the way of his son’s dreams, in the same way that it came between him and his dreams.
The collection has a few gems, and I’d definitely go back to read it.
Title: Glimpses of an Indian Soul
Author: Betty Paul Thottam
Publishers: Thought Sanctuary via Amazon
Price: INR. 55
(Sept 9th, 2013)
About the author:
This is perhaps the first time that I am reading a book and not knowing exactly who the author is, other than that he is an Indian. I did search to see who he is, but I didn’t get his name, just that he was born and raised in Mumbai and now stays in L.A.
Cover and blurb:
From the description and cover, I could imagine a situation where India was divided into two countries. It was hard to imagine the situation but that’s what I thought the story would be about. Coming from an Indian author, I felt it would have been as difficult for him to write it, as it was for me to imagine it.
We all have, at one time or another, through our words (albeit in a casual, offhand way or to place where we are from in the country) called ourselves as North Indian or South Indian. Possibly even while discussing recipes for our favorite food items, we’d have told it to be so. But could we imagine a time in the near or distant future when there would be two separate countries like that? North India and South India? Where there’d be political turmoil and a barbed wire fence separating the nation across the middle? Well, that’s the premise on which this novel starts, and we are introduced to a couple Jai and Kahani looking at each other through binoculars on either side of the “border”. The story then enters flashback mode, and we are taken to the couple’s college days, to the time they first met and how their relationship developed, how they got married, where they went for their honeymoon, and how they settled abroad before hearing of the civil unrest that split the nation into two nations overnight.
So what is different in this book till the split happens? It sounds like yet another love story, which it possibly is, but it is much more than “just” another love story. The author doesn’t make it only about love, or their moments of romance. He tells it as it happens, and that’s what is needed I feel to make it believable. Love at first sight yet something that develops as they progress. Fun moments of friendship that are so true-to-life in college days, the excitement brought about by the monsoon, the tension of avid cricket fans during an India Pakistan match and the dreams in young eyes as they look ahead. The difficulty in getting settled abroad which we have faced or known someone who have faced it, and that desperate, inevitable feeling of homesickness that we have often heard or deciphered from the voices of loved ones who are abroad, and tried to ease through our happy talks. They are all put as it is, and there are even Hindi fonts used for authenticity (to give it an Indian touch). The Indian culture is well explained, and the author doesn’t wait till the end to do so, rather he does it immediately. I also felt that the emotions the couple go through when they find themselves separated by a border were well done. The ending was also very sad, yet something that fell in tune with the story’s flow.
There were a few things that I didn’t like. I think the first obviously is the premise. Though there is that state of unrest and the split does happen, there aren’t much details to that part. It is just put as unrest, and then the solution, just like the problem, also happens overnight. I, as a reader, would have liked to know more about what happened to cause that unrest, how were the people handling it, their state of mind and such, The second, though it gives a sense of authenticity, is the Hindi/Bengali fonts. I like that Hindi terms are used and their explanation given then and there, but if it was just in English, with a glossary at the start or beginning, the story would have gone more with flow I feel. The third was the train trip that Jai and his friends take. They reach the destination, and then suddenly we are back in Mumbai and their college cafeteria. It was confusing.
The conclusion to this book has a chapter titled Being an Indian, wherein the author speaks freely of his thoughts, and also asks us what our point of view is on what makes us Indians. I find this chapter very beautiful, and perhaps the most thought provoking part of the book. If you can procure a copy, I think it is definitely worth reading. Would I have been interested in it if I came across the book at Landmark or Crossword? I think I would give it a thought for sure, because the title, and the premise are worth pondering over.
Title: India Was One
Author: An Indian
Genre: Graphic Novel
Publishers: CreateSpace via Amazon
Price on Amazon: INR 175
(Aug 28th, 2013)
About the author:
K Harikumar is working as an Assistant Director in the Indian film industry. He has written, acted and directed four independent projects that have been screened at various film festivals. This is his literary debut.
Thoughts on the cover:
Perhaps this might be a story of three unlikely people taking shelter at a railway station, and a friendship developing afterward. The title definitely indicates they are strangers to begin with.
Impressions from the blurb:
A drama that has a lot of genres in one plot, and that revolves around a father-son relationship. Sounds interesting, especially since the three protagonists are strangers. It’d be interesting to see how the three stories gel into one. There’s a little mystery afoot too maybe, though that is uncertain.
Right at the start, we are introduced to hot-tempered Jai, a young lad who has just had a breakup with his girlfriend Tania. Fast-forward and we’re at his home the next morning, where his father, a renowned Mathematics professor drags him to an engineering college where he wants Jai to study, giving Jai’s dreams of doing animation no regard at all. On finding out that the college wants a hefty amount for his enrollment, and his friend had been given entrance without any fees, Jai tries to talk some sense into his father, who still is adamant about his son’s future. Realizing that he is probably going to be forced into a future he’s not interested in, Jai decides to take a big step, and runs away from home. When he finds out the metro has been halted because of an accident and trains are only going as far as Ghittorni station, he takes a ticket and ends up there. Till this point, we are also given a little insight into the life of Hussain, a Pathan who has big dreams and knows he’s just won a lottery that could make all those dreams come true. He too ends up at Ghittorni as he has to go to collect the amount. At the resting room in Ghittorni, Jai tries to be by himself, but a talkative, pot-bellied Iyer comes sits with him and begins a conversation. This is the beginning of the Iyer’s story, which is really what the author wishes to share with the world. So this is where I leave my summarizing.
There are many reasons why a book appeals to a reader. Some like the cover page, some are piqued by what the plot may offer and some even take the book because it is fresh on the bookshelf. A new author definitely brings something new to the literary world. I think this book appeals to me because of its realism. The plot appealed to me personally with a father-son relationship being involved. And it touched me. What I like in this book is Hari’s narration. As a reader, I love it when I can get lost in the tale and let it take me away into its world. His narration does that. The characters I can relate to, and the story seems familiar. It’s not a big unique plot that one will make one go “Wow, I didn’t see that coming”, but even its familiarity, its simplicity keeps a reader engrossed. The twist in this tale might make one say those words though. It may be a light-hearted drama according to Hari, but I find it heavy with emotions.
The book needs some proofreading. Though the story flows fine as it is put, it’d have been even better with some editing. Also, I can imagine a father calling his son a fool, stupid, worthless or such, but I do not feel he’d call his son a bastard, or SOB (he almost did) no matter how angry he is, or how much he is irritated by the son’s actions. If I could tell Hari a place that perhaps could have been done differently, I’d ask him to give Arshad’s dream a happy ending. I know that that’s where the Pathan’s ending was headed, but a scene or two for that would’ve been nice. Jai meeting Hussain at the end wasn’t a necessary scene perhaps.
I could understand the emotions woven into the tale quite well, and I enjoyed the book a lot. I look forward to his next novel. At this price, it’s a steal I feel.
Title: When Strangers Meet
Author: K. Hari Kumar
Publishers: Srishti Publishers
Price: INR. 100
(May 20th, 2013)
About the author:
Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Iyer Laxman is an Indian cartoonist, illustrator, and humorist. He is best known for his creation “The Common Man”, for his daily cartoon strip, “You Said It” in The Times of India, which started in 1951.
My thoughts on the book:
When a heavy on the mind book comes along, you can’t usually finish that read in one stretch. When you start to feel that heaviness, a break becomes essential. If you’re an avid reader, that break probably might involve reading a fast read, maybe a humorous one. This book falls under that category.
RK Laxman is known for his common man cartoon, the frazzled guy with a little moustache who stays silent even though he sees the atrocity around him. This book however is a mixture of both jokes as well as cartoons, and the common man does make an appearance in some of them. One of the cartoons in this book shows the mom beginning to worry that her baby isn’t being normal after seeing her baby reading a Shakespeare novel. It made me wonder, aren’t there some moms who start to celebrate seeing their kid take up a book so early. I’m thankful that moms these days are mostly sensible and give equal importance to reading and playing as well.
This book really lives up to the title. It gifts the reader with loads of laughs. Some cartoons are particularly memorable. There’s one where the guy has fainted, and the other person explains to the doctor that he fainted whilst bravely telling of changes he’s going to do to his life. That felt so familiar. How often do we think of changing and then fear the change and withdraw?
Other than cartoons, this book has a lot of jokes. It alternates actually. Odd numbered pages are cartoons, and even numbered pages are jokes. Together, they make a good pairing. A refreshing read to get your mind clear.
Title: A Dose of Laughter
Author: RK Laxman
Genre: Cartoons & Humor
Publishers: Penguin Books India
Price: INR. 200
(April 4th, 2013)