Sunday, February 15, 2015

Book Review: Ramayana- Shattered Dreams

Some time back I had reviewed the first installment of Ramayana retold by Shubha Vilas, Rise of the Sun Prince, which ended in the royal wedding of Sri Rama. The author had send me a review copy of book 2, Shattered Dreams. The book continue the story of Rama from where the author left us in book one. Now, this was one part of Ramayana that I never felt inclined to read due to the family story and  heavy dose of emotions and sentimentality between characters. I am never a Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham person being more a fan of the Gadar thing that follows it. May be that was why I delayed reading the book for some time.

Dasaratha had a terrible dream one night. He infers that his past is catching up and it is time to retire. Logically, Rama, the elder prince is announced as successor. The whole kingdom rejoices in King's decision because everyone loves Rama due to his virtues and are sure he will excel in his role as emperor. But Manthara, the maid of second and the King's most beloved queen Kaikeyi, successfully manipulate the queen to force Dasaratha to change the decision. Kaikeyi, siting an old promise by the King makes him to send Rama to exile for fourteen years and give the throne to Bharatha, her son who is currently staying with her father.

Chaos follows in the kingdom, but Rama, being a noble son, gets ready to obey his father and move to the forest. What follows is his interactions with his dear ones, his mother, wife and brother, where he convince them about the correctness of his decision. His brother Lakshmana and wife Sita accompany him to jungle. Dasaratha, overcome with grief dies a sad death. When Bharatha hear the news he is immensely sad. He follow Rama and request him to return back. Unable to do that, he returns with the sandals of Rama inorder to throne them and rule the kingdom as a mere representative of them. Parallel to this story, the ascent of Ravana is also told.

As I told in the review of the last book, it is written with the intention of being a guide to the reader, for using the principles of Sri Rama in their lives to tackle situations that present unique dilemmas, to inspire readers to follow the right path and not depending on the convenient one. The bonus is that the story is narrated beautifully. Shubh Vilas manages to convey the emotional gravity of the story to the readers effectively. The characterisation adds to the narrative and we are able to feel in sync with even the minor characters.

To summarize, Shattered Dreams is in every way a superior follow up, and a useful one too, to the first part of the book.

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. 

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