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.

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com

 

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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.

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com

Lanka’s Princess by Kavita Kané | Book Review

Those familiar with Valmiki’s Ramayana will recognise Surpanakaha as Ravan’s sister, who chanced upon the Ayodhya Princes in Panchvati during their exile. While she was smitten by Ram’s youthful good looks, he spurned her advances, claiming his faithfulness to his wife Sita. Rejected, Surpanakha approached his younger brother, Lakshman, who reacted in a similar manner. The brothers began to tease her and, upon realising she was being humiliated, she attacked them. Ram recognised that she was in fact a rakshasi (demon woman) and promptly ordered Lakshman to maim her. Thus, Lakshman cut off her nose and ears and sent her away.

Few know that Surpanakha, which means the woman as ‘hard as nails’, was born Princess Meenakshi – the one with beautiful, fish-shaped eyes. Growing up in the shadow of her brothers who were destined to win wars, fame and prestige, she instead, chartered out a path filled with misery and revenge.

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Ugly, untamed, brutal and brazen – this is how she is often perceived. Accused of manipulating events between Ram and Ravan, which culminated into a bloody war that wiped out her family, Surpanakha is often the most misunderstood character in the Ramayana. But was she really a perpetrator of war? Or was she a victim? Was she ‘Lanka’s Princess’? Or was she the reason behind its destruction?

Kavita Kané picks up yet another enigmatic woman from the pages of history and tells her story leading to the more familiar events of the Ramayana.

The book opens with Krishna, who upon seeing Kubja, the hunchbacked woman of Mathura, recognises her as a reincarnation of Surpanakha. He reveals to her that he himself is Ram, now born as Krishna (Ram was the seventh incarnation of Vishnu and Krishna his eighth) and has come to her to rectify the grave misdeed he committed in his previous life – of rejecting her.

He begins to narrate Surpanakha’s story from the time she was born as the youngest child of Rishi Vishravas and his second wife Kaikesi.

I can’t say I have much knowledge of ancient Hindu scriptures, other than the more commonly known events of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. However, while reading Lanka’s Princess, I was curious to know if this was a retelling of actual events, or a fictitious representation. I noticed later that the copyright page, which I had skipped in my hurry to start reading this mesmerising novel, clearly listed the disclaimer that this book is a work of fiction.

The author appears to have done extensive research as she combines the events of different versions of the Ramayana and other supporting texts (so revealed by a quick google search), to unfold the life of Princess Meenakshi a.k.a. Surpanakha. With deep mahogany skin and eyes blazing gold, she was a handful from the very beginning. Her character develops as the rage filled princess, hated by her mother, who would bare her sharp claws when someone tried to hurt her.

Alongside, the reader is taken through events leading to the rise of Ravan as King of Lanka and the ensuing effect it brings on his family, more predominantly Surpanakha’s life. The reader may sympathise with her for being the neglected child, while at the same time despising her for her vengeful tactics. The author portrays her not as a good or bad character, but simply as a misunderstood woman who, in her own eyes, is merely righting the wrong done to her when her one chance at happiness has been taken away.

The timeline moves fast enough for the reader to be absorbed in the events and not lose interest. In true Ramayana style, the author raises underlying questions about right and wrong, good and evil, gender discrimination, and women’s rights.

I was disappointed with the editing of the book. It probably needed one last round of proofreading to correct print/typeset errors. The author and publisher might want to correct this in the next print run.

To summarise, Lanka’s Princess may be a mythological retelling of events. However in today’s day and age, when women are still subjected to various forms of discrimination, the author puts the spotlight on a woman’s fight against injustice,  no matter how unjust the fight itself may be.

Having read this book, I am now curious to read her other stories of similar strong female characters.

Title: Lanka’s Princess
Author: Kavita Kané
Publisher: Rupa Publications
ISBN: 978-81-291-4451-5
Edition/Year: First Edition 2016
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 312
Source: Writersmelon.com
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazonand Flipkart.

About the Author: A senior journalist with a career of over two decades, which includes working for Magna publication and DNA, she quit her job as Assistant Editor of Times of India to devote herself as a full time author. A self-styled aficionado of cinema and theatre and sufficiently armed with a post-graduate degree in English Literature and Mass Communication from the University of Pune, the only skill she knows, she candidly confesses, is writing.
Karna’s Wife her debut novel, (2013)was a bestseller. Her second novel – Sita’s Sister (2014) also deals with another enigmatic personality – Urmila, probably the most overlooked character in the Ramayan. Menaka’s Choice(2015) ,another best-seller, is about the famous apsara and her infamous liaison with Vishwamitra – the man she was sent to destroy. Lanka’s Princess (2016) is her fourth book.
Born in Mumbai, a childhood spent largely in Patna and Delhi , Kavita currently lives in Pune with her mariner husband Prakash and two daughters Kimaya and Amiya with Chic the black cocker spaniel and Cotton the white, curious cat.
To connect with her, visit her at facebook.com/authorkavitakane or follow her on Twitter @kavitakane.

Note – I received this review copy from Writersmelon.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com

Book Review Contest – Weekly Prizes To Be Won

Further to my previous blogpost on the book review for Destiny of Shattered Dreams, here is an exciting contest for all book lovers.

The author of this novel – Nilesh Rathod, in association with Rupa Publications, is conducting a mega review contest for his novel which will extend from  17th July 2016 to 9th October 2016.

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The novel is already on the bestseller lists of Amazon, W H Wills & Sapna bookstores. It is critically acclaimed and now in its first re-print. Shobhaa De tweeted “Nilesh may just be the desi Jeffrey Archer India has been long waiting for”. Hindustan times in its review said “Putting it down may be hard to do”. The book has breached the Amazon bestseller in the contemporary fiction category and with over 15 mainstream media appearances, the novel is all set to be the biggest debut this year yet.

In order to take part in this contest all you have to do is buy a copy of this critically acclaimed bestseller “Destiny of Shattered Dreams” by Nilesh Rathod and review it on select book review sites. Post your review link on the contest page and get a chance to win a Kindle every week. The winning reviews will be posted on the Author’s page at the end of the week.

There is also a grand prize at the end of the contest, the winner of which will be selected among all the 12 weekly winners. This prize includes an all expenses trip for two to the Jaipur Literature Festival 2017 with 3 or 4 Star accommodation on twin sharing basis along with 2 VIP tickets for the entire event. 

With the weekend almost here, this would be the perfect time to shop ‘Destiny of Shattered Dreams’at your favourite local or online bookstore. Read the book and post your reviews on the contest page. Remember, you have from 17th July 2016 to 9th October 2016.

As a participating blogger, I will be voting for the best review each week. You can find me by my logo on the Contest Page along with Contest Rules, Terms & Conditions. Don’t forget to follow this blog to stay updated.

Good Luck and Happy Reading!

Image Source: Courtesy of www.nileshrathod.in