The Queen’s Last Salute by Moupia Basu | Book Review

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The year is 1842 and an ageing king has brought home a wife – a young bride, all of fourteen years – whom the townsfolk are eager to catch a glimpse of. Word is that she is a strange girl, one who wields a sword and is a trained horse-rider. More bizarre is the fact that she has grown up playing with boys and is smart, witty, maybe even a little cheeky.

While people begin to gather in the Diwan-E-Aam, ten-year-old Meera is arguing with her mother, Saanvali, in the zenana, about why she needs to dress up to meet the queen. At the same time, she is curious to learn how this peculiar girl, only a few years older than her, has managed to accomplish things unheard of for women, and how her arrival will change their ordinary lives.

When Saanvali brings her daughter up to the dais to meet Queen Lakshmibai, Meera, finally getting her chance to satiate her curiosity, looks straight into the queen’s eyes and asks, ‘Is it true that you ride horses?’ Even as the durbar hall lapses into silence, stunned by Meera’s insolence, the queen simply asks her name. Meera seems to remind her of a peacock – slender and graceful, with a hint of arrogance. But it is her large dark eyes that sparkle with innocence. The queen rechristens her Chandraki and announces that henceforth, Chandraki will be her companion.

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Drawn from her travel experiences and subsequent research around the rich folklore and history of Jhansee, Moupia Basu spins a fascinating historical thriller inspired from the life of the Rani of Jhansee, leading up to the events of the 1857 Mutiny. While Basu loops in all major historical events and characters of the time, starting from when Manikarnika married Maharaj Gangadhar Rao Newalkar and made Jhansi her home, the axis of this narrative is the relationship between the Queen and Chandraki. As I see it, more than Rani Lakshmibai it is Chandraki who is the lead protagonist, for it is through her eyes that we watch the events of Maharani Lakshmibai’s life unfold amidst the pages.

Read more about this heroic queen and her equally courageous lady-in-waiting, in my detailed review of the book published on Women’s Web as a Featured Post, here.

Title: The Queen’s Last Salute: The Story of the Rani of Jhansee and the 1857 Mutiny
Author: Moupia Basu
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
ISBN: 978-93-5345-024-3
Edition/Year: First Edition 2019
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Women’s Web
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Moupia Basu has a master’s degree in English literature from St Stephen’s College, Delhi University. She grew up in the Delhi of the seventies and eighties. She has worked as a journalist with Times of India, Economic Times, Indian Express and Business Today and has written on a variety of topics including business, education and travel. Her debut book, Khoka, was published in 2015. She lives in Pune.

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Daughters of Legacy by Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal | Book Review

There is a tremendous amount of history behind successful businesses which have continued for generations and time has shown how it has brought its share of challenges and perks in running them. Included in that history is the fact that these age-old legacies were handed down through the male line of succession – from father to son – who, born into privilege, automatically gained a position of power.

Today, however, there are increasing examples of daughters taking the reins in their hands and steering these businesses to newer and greater heights. They have had their share of struggles in navigating the challenges and scaling new peaks, the greatest of which is proving themselves as women in a man’s world.

Rihanna said: “There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer.” The question remains – why are legacy businesses still considered a man’s world?

In Daughters of Legacy, authors Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal show how a new generation of women is redefining India Inc.

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The book features twelve women from illustrious families such as the Future Group, Kirloskar Systems, Emami Limited, Parle Agro, Nalli Group of Companies, and MBD, to name a few and have been chosen from a wide cross section in terms of scale of business, roles and hierarchy. These women have not only kept the legacies alive but have also gone on to carve a niche for themselves as individuals beyond their famous last names.

To know more about these path-breaking women and their inspiring stories, read my detailed review published as a Featured Post on Women’s Web, here.

Title: Daughters of Legacy: How a New Generation of Women is Redefining India Inc
Author: Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0-143-44158-8
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Women’s Web
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Authors: 
Rinku Paul is an internationally certified life coach and a proponent of women leadership and an inclusive work environment, and has brought together her love for entrepreneurship and writing in her published works. Her previous books – Dare to Be: Fourteen Women Who Gave Wings to Their Dreams and Millionaire Housewives: From Home Makers to Wealth Creators – were released to acclaim. Her passion project is ‘Dare to Be Conversations’-a podcast series and a platform for women to be a part of stirring stories and breakthrough ideas.
In her previous avatar, Rinku has had a corporate career spanning over sixteen years with the news channel Aaj Tak, a part of the India Today Group, till she decided to pursue her dream – impacting people’s lives.

Puja Singhal, having spent more than a decade living the corporate life, strategizing on how best to marry business and people as an HR specialist, decided to take a break to focus on her family and other love, writing. Having co-founded a writing studio, The Muse, and published two books, Dare to Be and Millionaire Housewives, along with Rinku Paul, she is now back to juggling corporate responsibilities along with family duties and, of course, writing. Puja holds an Honours degree in political science and an MBA in human resource management.

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Who Stole My Memories? by Maitrayee Sanyal De | Book Review

I strongly believe memories are the treasure and guardian of all things. They are the filter through which we look back on our lives. I distinctly remember reading somewhere that memory is the fourth dimension to any landscape and I, for one, couldn’t agree more. It is memory that has allowed us to progress as a species, something many other species are not known to possess.

We understand that memory is subjective and, like the cogs in the wheel can disengage – with age, trauma or other conditions, we can just as easily lose it. However, is it possible for someone to steal our memories?

Anu is leading a normal life with her husband in her suburban home in Johannesburg when she wakes up one day to find the police knocking at her door. She is arrested and things get complicated when she fails to recall her name. Soon, she discovers her name is not the only thing she forgot. Everything about her seems blurry  – her house, her life and her loved ones.

The next day, upon discovering drugs hidden in her cupboard, and receiving an anonymous message telling her to run, Anu flees her house, only to find herself alone in a foreign land where she has no one to rely on except strangers. Slowly, she discovers that the life she was leading was a lie and the people she trusted are not who they appear to be. With all that she holds dear at stake, will she be able to save herself and her memories?

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Who Stole My Memories? is a thriller exploring the dark underbelly of one of the world’s leading financial centres and the darker shades of grey that hide behind seemingly innocent faces. How the two entwine forms the basis of the novel.

The author adds a twist to the idea of memory loss with her choice of title for the book and you soon begin to understand the direction this story is taking. While it seems all too predictable at first, the science behind memory theft makes for some interesting reading.

Anu’s path crosses those who, like her, have been wronged by their loved ones and are looking to erase their painful memories and start afresh. Listening to their stories infuses confidence in her, but sadly, there isn’t much that she is able to change about her situation. It is the supporting cast that turns the wheels to uncover the dirty game in play.

As the protagonist, Anu’s character does not check all the boxes, nor does that of her husband, Aman. On the other hand, characters such as Dr. Edeson, Hussain and Mosa offer a far more colourful personality to engage the reader. It is really their story that adds the element of mystery and thrill. I must mention here that the book needs to be edited with a sharper pencil. Many expressions tend to fall flat amidst the errors, thus losing the impact they are meant to make.

Even so, the book is a quick read. As Tennessee Williams said – Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going.

Fans of crime thrillers may enjoy what the book has to offer.

Title: Who Stole My Memories
Author: Maitrayee Sanyal De
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858546-9-9
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Author
Rating: 3 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Maitrayee is a lifetime writer but a debutant author. Her love for writing blossomed at a young age and she has filled several diaries with her poetry and short stories.
She started working in the corporate world first as a Content Writer and then as an Instructional Designer at a reputed firm which finally emboldened her enough to come out to the world as an author.
Besides writing, Maitrayee enjoys travelling and photography.
Who Stole My Memories is her debut novel.
To connect with her, find her on Facebook.

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Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan by Ruby Lal | Book Review

A few years ago, Hillary Clinton, speaking to a women’s magazine, said: “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world. It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.”

While she was spot-on in her observation in the wake of 21st century’s rising wave of feminism, I doubt she was aware of the dynamic woman who did all that and more at a time when it was absolutely unheard of. A woman who proved to be a feminist icon in the days of 17th century Mughal India – a time when the term Feminism had not yet been coined (it would take nearly two hundred years for the world to first hear what Feminism was). And yet, this astonishing woman accomplished what no other woman in the history of Mughal India, neither before or after her, would ever hope to.

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Ruby Lal, in this remarkable biography titled Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan, traces the rise of Mihr un-Nisa, born to a Persian noble and widow of a subversive official, who became the twentieth and most cherished wife of Emperor Jahangir, and later co-sovereign and ruler of Mughal India.

To know more about this phenomenal woman with a fascinating history, read my detailed review published as a Featured Post on Women’s Web, here.

Title: Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan
Author: Ruby Lal
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0-670-09062-4
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Non-Fiction/Biography
Pages: 328
Source: Women’s Web
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Ruby Lal is an acclaimed historian of Mughal India. Her previous books are Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World and Coming of Age in Nineteenth Century India: The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness. She teaches at Emory University and divides her time between Atlanta and Delhi.

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The Boy Who Loved Trains by Deepak Sapra | Book Review

If any fans of The Big Bang Theory are reading this, do not be misled by the title. This book is not about Sheldon Cooper.

This is a book about a boy who fell in love with trains at a very young age, so much that he had the entire railway timetable memorised – for every train, at every station. A boy who stumped his college interview panel with his fascinating knowledge about trains and went on to study at the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (IRIMEE) and then was commissioned to work in the Indian Railways Service. This is the story of that boy who loved trains.

As a young officer posted in India’s Eastern Railway, Jeet Arora is responsible for running trains on one of the densest train routes in the country.
In doing so, he encounters pretty girls and thugs, shares space with buffaloes and goats and finds himself in the midst of oil spills and fires.
As he stumbles across several unexpected, hilarious and entertaining adventures, can he keep trains, and his sanity, on track?

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Deepak Sapra uses his experiences earned during his career in the Eastern Railways to take you on an exciting train journey unlike any other. From his stint at the IRIMEE where he earned his engineering degree, to the challenges of working in an establishment of this magnitude as the Indian Railways, he keeps his readers engaged with a delightful story.

In addition to the insight that this novel offers on life within the IRS, generously flavoured with anecdotes on the mechanism of a government operation, there is also the subtle, often dry, humour that Sapra brings forth – of Jeet working amidst dust, oil and grease – which is extremely entertaining.

Amidst all this is Jeet’s family, who assume he must either be a Ticket Collector or Train Driver and can supply them with free train rides for the rest of their lives. Then, there are his own aspirations as a young man, doggedly vying for the romantic affections of his lady friend and hoping to put down some roots between the many directions that the train tracks follow.

After having read this novel, I wonder why more Indian authors do not write such pieces of fiction with a backdrop of the workings of large scale Indian industries. I believe they could be real entertainers, despite including what many would (incorrectly) assume to be mundane details.

As Jane Smiley wrote: Sometimes, a novel is like a train: the first chapter is a comfortable seat in an attractive carriage, and the narrative speeds up. But there are other sorts of trains, and other sorts of novels. They rush by in the dark; passengers framed in the lighted windows are smiling and enjoying themselves.

There couldn’t have been a better metaphor for this novel about the boy who loved trains.

Title: The Boy Who Loved Trains
Author: Deepak Sapra
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-9385854644
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Deepak Sapra is a former Indian Railways Service officer. He is an alumnus of IRIMEE, Jamalpur and IIM Bangalore. He travels, blogs and writes on places and people. His diaries have been published by the Outlook Magazine.
He currently holds a very senior position in an MNC and lives in Hyderabad with his family.
To know more about his life in the railways, connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Koi Good News? by Zarreen Khan | Book Review

Marriages, they say, are made in heaven. Well, so are thunder and lightning.  A wise woman once remarked: whether you’ve been married a year or several, it is an Indian marriage that is most frightening.

When Mona Mathur of Dehradun married her college sweetheart, Ramit Deol of Amritsar, there were two things she wasn’t prepared for:
1. The size of the Deol family which put any Sooraj Barjatya movie to shame.
2. The fertility of the Deol family which had them reproducing faster than any other species known to mankind.

It has now been four years since their wedding, and Mona and Ramit have done the unthinkable – they have remained childless. Of course, that also means that they’ve battled that one question day in and day out: ‘Koi Good News?’ It doesn’t matter that they have been happy to be child-free. They are married; they are expected to make babies. After all, there are grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, and even colony aunties in waiting.

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Now, the truth is, Ramit and Mona had been trying to conceive for the past one year. But having a baby isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be. Finally, aided by the wine at their highly glamorous neighbours’ party, Mona gets pregnant. And so begins a crazy journey – complete with interfering relatives, nosy neighbours, disapproving doctors, and absolutely no privacy at all!

Can Mona and Ramit survive The Great Indian Baby Tamasha or will their carefully built tower of marital joy crumble to the ground?

To find out more about this book, which some bookstores have been found to also categorise under pregnancy self-help, read my detailed review as published at Women’s Web, here.

Title: Koi Good News?
Author: Zarreen Khan
Publisher: HarperCollins India
ISBN: 978-93-5277-905-5
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction/General
Pages: 388
Source: Author/Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: After working for Pepsi, Hindustan Times and ACNielsen for ten years, Zarreen Khan decided to take a break and raise two children, who are sometimes kind enough to let her role-play as a marketing consultant. She lives in Delhi with her husband, Moksh, and children, Zayn and Iram, dealing with the craziness of being half-Muslim and half-Punjabi, which is detrimental to her weight, sanity, and sense of humour.
Zarreen’s first book, I Quit! Now What?, was published in 2017. Koi Good News? is her second book.
Follow her on Facebook to know more about the author and her writing.

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Great Textpectations by Ruchi Vadehra | Book Review

How many of you (if you belong to that generation) remember the time when mobile phone service providers first added the text feature? When each message character was worth its weight in gold, and we were forced to develop an entire lingo meant specifically for messaging in order to have a text conversation without emptying one’s bank balance?

Today, nearly two decades later, however, texting is a much more evolved form of speech – Fingered speech, to be precise. Now, we can write the way we talk, especially when characters are not weighed by their monetary value. No wonder, then, that people are having entire relationships via texting. Whether it is a couple in love, living a few kilometres from each other, or two people sitting on different continents running a business together, texting is the new means of interaction; of getting to know each other and thereby establishing a deep, albeit largely virtual relationship.

Without the necessity of face-to-face interaction that most expect to be the framework of relationship building, new rules are being established, as the protagonist of this novel discovers along the way.

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Amaya Kapoor is a Delhi-based intellectually inclined thirty-five-year-old single, financially independent, and sexually liberated woman, who wants to open a ‘boutique bookstore’ and live life on her own terms—single and content. She comes across Rohan while playing Scrabble online, and they soon get chatting, enjoying each other’s company without the usual baggage face-to-face interactions bring. Their text conversations are fun, flirty, and become instrumental in connecting their worlds. Amaya and Rohan become an integral part of each other’s lives even before they realize it and so, eventually, decide to meet. What happens to their virtual relationship when they finally do meet in the real world? Can texting really be the key that unlocks the heart?

To find out more about this book, read my featured review as published at Women’s Web, here.

Title: Great Textpectations
Author: Ruchi Vadehra
Publisher: Rupa Publications
ISBN: 978-81-291-5183-4
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 236
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 3 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Ruchi Vadehra belongs to a family of writers from both sides of parentage. Writing is thus homecoming to her. She began with conceptualizing and co-editing a neighbourhood community newsletter which inspired her to take forward her zest for words, people and travel through fiction.
Ruchi lives with her husband and two children in New Delhi. Great Textpectations is her first book.
To know more about her book, connect with her on Twitter.

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How I Became a Farmer’s Wife by Yashodhara Lal | Book Review

In an interview, many years ago, Bill Gates remarked: “I know there’s a farmer out there somewhere who never wants a PC and that’s fine with me.”

At the time he said this, Gates probably didn’t take into consideration the rapid development of technology and, more importantly, our dependence on it. Nor did he account for Vijay Sharma’s determination to venture into farming and rely on the now omnipresent network-connected device as a valuable resource to aid his endeavour.

Can you blame him? Who in their right mind would’ve thought, back in 2006, that an educated man would contemplate giving up a successful corporate career to become an urban dairy-farmer? Even today, it all seems a little far-fetched, but Yashodhara Lal’s latest offering narrates the story of just such a hare-brained idea.

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Mild-mannered Vijay is the perfect Indian husband – responsible and predictable. Well, at least he was, until he decided to turn Farmer! Vijay’s unsuspecting wife Yashodhara is caught off guard when, tired of the rigours of city life, he actually rents land and starts dairy farming! As if Yash didn’t have enough going on already, what with her high-octane job, three children and multiple careers. As Vijay dives deeper into his quirky hobby, the family is plucked out of their comfortable life in the steel-and-chrome high-rises of Gurgaon and thrown headfirst into a startlingly unfamiliar world – complete with cows and crops, multiple dogs and eccentric farmhands, a shrewd landlady and the occasional rogue snake. Will these earnest but insulated city-dwellers be able to battle the various difficulties that come with living a farmer’s life?

To find out more about this book, read my detailed review as published at Women’s Web, here.

Title: How I Became a Farmer’s Wife
Author: Yashodhara Lal
Publisher: HarperCollins India
ISBN: 978-93-5277-585-9
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 328
Source: HarperCollins India / Women’s Web
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Yashodhara Lal is an author, mother of three children, marketing professional, and fitness instructor. She lives in Gurgaon with her family, her husband Vijay and three kids – Peanut, Pickle and Papad – who never fail to provide her with material for her blog.
To connect with her, find her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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Gurgaon Diaries by Debeshi Gooptu | Book Review

I remember when we were kids, and Gurgaon was a far cry from what it is now, we would pile up in the car and often head over for a drive outside Delhi, via Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road, relieved to leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind. Admiring the vast expanse of farm land along the way, secretly counting the dhabas and petrol stations on the highway to see who got the most, we would continue along until the mountains came into view.

Then, on the the way back, we would stop for ice-cream at Jumbo Point, sit on the top of the car, and wait. Wait for the sound of an approaching airplane and, as soon as it became audible, attentively follow its path until it descended lower and lower, and finally crossed the airport wall right above our heads with a deafening roar.

As far as we knew back then, going to Gurgaon meant the thrill of driving fast on wide, empty roads and see an airplane land or take-off over our heads. But when I look back now, I also remember how the landscape of Gurgaon evolved slowly and steadily. By the time I started working a few years later, and began driving myself to Gurgaon, the village and its people were already unrecognizable. I made sure I was always armed with a city map, for it was not yet the time of smart phones and Google Maps, and one couldn’t afford to be stranded in this strange land.

Modern-day Gurgaon was Guru Dronacharya’s village, a gift from the Pandavas and Kauravas for training them in military arts. While the legends of the mythical village are woven around the warrior mystic, the Millennium City, as it stands today, owes its rapid growth to globalization, outsourcing and the BPO boom.

From swanky malls and skyscrapers to pot-hole-ridden roads where gleaming Mercs vie for space with rickety rickshaws, from voluptuous North Indian aunties and brawny local men to rotund Bengali mashimas, from designer stores and Starbucks coffee to roadside vans peddling chole bhature, Drona’s village is riddled with contradictions, both hilarious and poignant, irreverent and bittersweet. Debeshi Gooptu’s Gurgaon Diaries is a humorous peek at the workings of this modern-day village and how the Millennium City is a paradox in itself.

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The author begins with a lovely introduction chronicling the history of Gurgaon from as far back as the Mahabharata. She describes how she first saw it upon moving here nearly two decades ago, having left the city of her birthplace, Kolkata (I believe it had still not been renamed from Calcutta back then), behind. Land, roads, infrastructure, people, and the language – it was all the hallmark of North India’s very own village bordering the grand capital.

Then came the boom in property and while builders and real estate agents seemed to take over the landscape to raise the skyline, there was an influx of people from all over the country who came in hordes for better opportunities. The village was taking over.

Unfortunately, this village wasn’t prepared to handle the rapid development and urbanization. Infrastructure was severely lacking. Gurgaon was unable to keep up. Soon enough, the success story developed large cracks, much like its potholed roads come monsoon season.

Nonetheless, the city has continued to grow and Gooptu has captured the nuances of her experience through the years in a short story / essay format.

The book is divided into three sections – Life, Work, and Play. True to their name, the stories in each category describe her various adventures of living in Gurgaon. Some are humourous, while others evoke anger, and then there are those that completely appall you.

The wonderful thing about the book is how, within the backdrop of development, it is a study in Gurgaon’s Sociology. Changes in values, culture, morals, ethics – life in Gurgaon and the people here are shown as the mishmash they are. As the author still learns to come to terms with this development of an entirely different kind, you – whether you are a resident, or visitor – can’t help but marvel at it.

I may be a born and bred Delhiite, yet, having been closely associated with Gurgaon in more ways than one, I still find myself amazed reading these stories. And while I continue to have an old, foldable map in the dashboard of my car (probably quite outdated now), I still trust it to help me find my way home if I do get lost in the burgeoning city. Though, I must confess, I am strongly considering supplementing the map with this book. For all you know, it might teach me a trick or two in handling tricky situations, or trickier Gurgaoniites.

Title: Gurgaon Diaries
Author: Debeshi Gooptu
Publisher: Rupa Publications
ISBN: 978-81-291-4995-4
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 240
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Debeshi Gooptu is a business journalist turned digital content strategist and entrepreneur. With more than twenty years of experience in print and television (Business Standard, Business Today, Plus Channel) and higher education (British Council, Canadian High Commission, Intel Asia Electronics), she runs an online research consultancy for overseas education organization and works as a digital content strategy head for Digiqom, a digital media agency. Debeshi is also the India editor for Innovation Enterprise, a Singapore-headquartered publication tracking trends in technology and innovation in Asia-Pacific.
She frequently blogs for The Huffington Post and runs ‘The Gurgaon Diaries’, a successful blog. In 2015, she self-published an e-book (with the same name) comprising a few of her stories from the blog, on Kindle Select. The book did extremely well with readers across the world requesting for more writing in this genre.
Her latest book – Gurgaon Diaries: Life, Work and Play in Drona’s Village (also based on her long-running blog of the same name) – was published by Rupa Publications in January this year.
Her book, Dragon Aunty Returns, and a collection of short stories has been published by Juggernaut Books in January last year.
In her spare time, Debeshi plays the piano, sings in the bathroom, and desperately tries to emulate Nigella in the kitchen.
She lives in Gurgaon, Haryana and continues to blog while also being active on Twitter.

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Little Maryam by Hamid Baig | Book Review

One can’t deny that deep down we are all hopeless romantics who believe that love makes us grow stronger, which is why we have consoled our broken hearts time and again with the age old saying: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

The story of Little Maryam begins on quite the same note and by the end one can’t help but question: How far are we willing to go, for love?

While giving a speech for his Nobel Prize nomination, Dr. Saadiq Haider, a renowned gene therapist, receives a phone call that changes his life. Abandoning his duties and responsibilities, Saadiq hurriedly boards a flight bound for India, embarking on a journey that spans thousands of miles and pulls him back into a past long-buried.

Seated next to him on the flight is Anne Miller—an intrepid journalist with a nose for headline news— who senses the reclusive genius has a bigger story to tell, and she is determined to get it. With some coaxing, Saadiq transports Anne back in time to a small, sleepy town nestled in the mountains of northern India. A time where every second of Saadiq’s life belonged to Maryam Dawood – a girl Saadiq was born to protect – his first and only love. But when the friendship between Maryam and Saadiq matured, it was tested in the face of tragedy. She was forcefully taken away from him. And now, decades later, Saadiq is finally going to meet Maryam. One last time.

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The book seems to grip you before you’ve managed to turn over the first page. It is evident there is a mystery waiting to be revealed, depending on how fast you can read to get to it. The author successfully adds a thrill, by way of conversation between an unwilling protagonist and a persistent reporter, even as he has only just begun narrating. It creates the framework that is enough to keep you hooked.

The story is divided into two parts – Saadiq’s life as it is now while he is on a plane reminiscing his past, and what is to come later when he finally does meet Maryam. In the first part, the events oscillate in a steady rhythm between the past and the present. Timelines are paced strategically in tune with the narration. The second part moves slowly, adding to the suspense.

Baig allows his lead characters to traverse the highs and lows of love, heartbreak, separation, and reunion. He brings an intensity in his writing with the way he creates conflict in person and story. Saadiq’s character is etched with a nuanced detailing that makes him endearing as a young boy, while at the same time absolutely loathsome as an adult. The transition is seamless and falls right into place as demanded by the events in the story.

The simplistic elegance of the prose comes as a pleasant surprise, unlike most books by debut authors. However, I found it to lose its crispness as the book progresses. It calls for a thorough proof-read and edit to fix grammar which seems rushed after about a quarter of the book.

Despite that, what wins you over is how the author treats the theme of friendship and love . I have always believed that there is something truly magical in the love that begins from a deep friendship. Bruce Lee explained it in its simplest and purest form when he said: ‘Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.’

Little Maryam is just such a beautiful, yet heartbreaking tale of love and loss. The story of a deep childhood friendship that grows into a love that is powerful and intense. And when love calls to make the ultimate choice, it is the power of love itself that makes the decision. With that Hamid Baig proves the paradox that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

Title: Little Maryam
Author: Hamid Baig
Publisher: Notion Press, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-64249-055-8
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 296
Source: Author
Rating: 3 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author:  Hamid runs a successful market research company, providing customer insights to some of the biggest names in the industry. He is a voracious reader and has been one for as long as he can remember. He started penning short stories at a very young age, but never thought of writing a full length novel until the idea for Little Maryam popped into his head. He writes as fast as he reads, which is sometimes just a little too fast.
Apart from enjoying good books, Hamid is passionate about travel and food. He is sometimes called “the culture connoisseur” by his friends because he loves having long conversations about different cuisines, exotic travel locations, and of course, books.
Hamid lives in New Delhi with his wife and two wonderful kids.
He is active on Facebook and Twitter.

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com