Sunday, December 21, 2014

Deaths in Yellow Lights

Aadujeevitham (Goat Days) by Benyamin was a sensational début. What I loved about it was the rather simple narration devoid of any gimmick. The plot had borderline elements of a fantasy, yet the narration was footed in reality. Manjaveyil maranangal (Deaths in Yellow Sunlight), his another bestseller that I just read, stands totally opposite. It follows a non-linear structure, is pretty fast paced and almost surreal in narration.

A man living in the distant island of Diego Garcia sends an email to Benyamin. Christy Anthrapper always wanted to write a novel in Malayalam. His ancestors used to be the rulers of the island. He happens to witness the murder of his old classmate Senthil in broad daylight and later finds that all evidences of the murder are removed from records. He sets on a journey to find the truth and lands in Kerala only to find out deeper secrets waiting him there. He has written his life story and each chapter is hidden with different major characters of the novel. To find out what happened to Christy Anthrapper, Benyamin has to get hold of each chapters from them and find the clues.

I loved the complexity of the story. Benyamin succeeded in writing a thriller of a plot with several characters who leaves an impression in reader's minds.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Kumarakam Clicks

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Day Lost in Train

After reviewing Railonama, the book about train journeys, I remembered a couple of experiences while journeying on train. I thought I would scribble one of them here.

This happened at the time when I had completed my education and was searching for a job. Through one of my friends I got an interview call from Pune. I went and booked the train ticket from Shornur Junction to Pune. Train was supposed to start the next day afternoon from Shornur. After booking a sleeper berth, I casually asked the booking officer about the arrival time of the train in Pune. He replied that the expected time is early morning 3 o'clock.

Then I called my contact in Pune and told him that I will be reaching the day after tomorrow early morning. I told him that I will somehow manage in railway station till daybreak and then I will call him. After reaching home, I informed my mother and other relatives that I will start the next day and by the day after I will be at Pune and will meet my friend.

The next day I boarded the train from Shornur. There was a boy of my age sitting across my seat. By the time train started, we were chatting. After an hour passed, he was telling about the long journey ahead of us and about passing a whole day in train. It took sometime for me to realize that the train won't reach Pune the next day morning. The scheduled time is at 3 O'clock the day after. I had a whole day to spend in train...!

Mobile phones were not so common those days and there was no way I could convey this new situation to my friend in Pune or to my family. I tried to find a phone booth at any passing station, but a few coin phones were only for local calls. I passed a day sitting on thorns.

When I reached Pune, I called my worried friend and he was relaxed after hearing me. Same with my family. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Book Review: Railonama, Unforgettable Train Stories

Railways are the lifeline of India. Millions of Indians depend on it for their transport requirements due to its access and cost effectiveness. For anybody to see India and experience its diversity, a long trip through rail is mandatory. Even the emergence of low cost aviation or of posh buses has not made a dent in the loyal costumer base of railways. Any movie or book by an outsider about India compulsorily includes the involvement of trains. Take Slumdog Millionaire or The Myth for example. Every journey through rail is a soulful experience. When I was given a chance to review this anthology of 'train stories' based in India- Railonama, the first thing that I did was recollecting all the good, bad and the ugly trips that I took in trains. So many experiences I had, so diverse people I met, so different places I saw, I felt I could fill a book with all that details. And I am pretty sure, so would be the case of many others. 

Railonama, as I told in the last paragraph, is a collection of Indian train stories contributed by people throughout the world. The person who created this book is Anupama Sharma, who has also contributed an inspiring story- A Slice of Apple, about the joy of sharing. The book contains forty five stories, (some among them are poems), contributed by writers from different strata and different generations, focusing on multiple aspects of railway travel in India. Though all the pieces are worthy of reading, I would just mention a few that were appealing to me. The book opens with the story Courage is Everything, in which Dr K C Jindal recounts how he treated an unconscious boy in train when he was a medical student- his first patient. Ken Haigh from Canada had to suffer an overbearing stranger on his journey from Bhutan to Kolkatta in the immensely funny account My Boon Companion. Dr Roshan, whose blog Goodyears I follow regularly has contributed a cute story about two kids who causes their families to acquaint with each other by bartering sweets in train. 

Kshitij Bisen encounters a life changing moment on his train journey when he discovers that being homosexual is a normal way of living. Esprit de Corps is the story by Ajay Mankotia in which he recounts his experience of his mother missing the train when she got down on platform to buy food. Life on the Edge by Ganesh is about the thrill that a train journey gives when travelling at the door of a speeding train. The Castaway by Vibha Batra is shocking and hard hitting on its last sentence. Elsewhere by Anindita Deo is about an intuitive person whom the writer meets on a journey. This story builds a great atmosphere by its narration. Sumedha Sengupta's story A Very Special Passanger happens in pre-independent  Indian when the author, then four, saw Mahatma Gandhi riding a train. Sheela Jaywant tries to make us wise about the perils of transporting canines in trains in a very entertaining way and succeeds. Travelling through Kerala is a wonderful poem by the German Frank Joussen in which he claims though Kerala's nature is beautiful, the true beauty manifests in its people. 

The range that these stories present is vast, and that I feel makes Railonama a must read. It covers the good, the bad and the ugly of Indian Railways making it a roller coaster ride of emotions. After reading Railonama, I am sure my journeys by train will never be the same again. 

This review is a part of the biggest" target="_blank"> Book Review Program for" target="_blank">Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Book Review: Lost in Pattaya by Kishore Modak

Lost in Pattaya is the second book by Kishore Modak, an author based in Singapore. It is published by Grapevine India. It is a short book with just 215 pages. I read it within two evenings after I received it for review. The book is set in Thailand and Singapore and deals mostly with the flesh trade that forms the economic backbone of Thailand. It also tries to sketch the abuse of alcohol and mind altering drugs, without being judgmental on the issue.

Palash Mitra is grief stricken after his daughter Li Ya gets kidnapped in Pattaya. He was there with his Chinese wife, Fang Wei and daughter on a vacation. What adds to his sorrow is that the girl was kidnapped due to him being distracted by his weakness for drugs. His marriage, which was still surviving only due to the kid, crumbled after his wife blamed him totally for their loss. His professional life as an auditor too started disintegrating after he decided to take a stand that could affect the business of his firm. Jobless and divorced, Palash soon gets engulfed in grief and turns to alcohol and drugs for survival. A meeting with a similar fated lady made jhim take a decision that altered his life- he decided to go and search for his daughter in Pattaya, where he believed she has fallen into the traps of child prostitution. His search in Pattaya lead him to Thuy Binh, the much revered and feared lady boss, who controlled the entire sex mafia in Pattaya and Miho her deadly companion. Will he be able to rescue his daughter? Will it be too late by then? 

Lost in Pattaya is narrated from the view point of Palash, as a flashback. Only in the end it is revealed his true situation. The narrative is a bit loose and staggered and gives a feeling that it is told by a man still in the depths of the effects of drugs- a very effective technique that enriches the reading experience. It helped me to relate to the lead character, someone who is very unlikable and even abhorring at times. The plot is disturbing and violent, but the writer manages to breeze the reader through the tough subject due to his gripping narration and pacing. The language of the book is very different from any of the recent Indian writing that I happened to read. It turns coarse sometimes, poetical at some point, emotional or matter-of -fact otherwise. 

I especially loved the fact that though the blurb in the back page seems to reveal almost the whole plot, the actual story turns out surprisingly different with its fresh approach. I hope to read more from Kishore Modak. 
The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.