Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book Review: Sita- Warrior of Mithila


The story of a trained warrior, Sita, who also is the Princess-Prime Minister of Mithila and chosen to be the next Vishnu- the transformer- who chooses opts to partner with another Vishnu candidate Ram by marrying him but is abducted before is able to put any plans into practice.


Review

The world is going crazy reading and reviewing the books shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and I have just finished reading Amish' Sita- Warrior of Mithila. I had seen it being talked about on social media in the feminist circles but did not have much desire to read it. But the truth of the matter is that I did get down to it. I think the cover clinched it for me. So back to the Warrior (I like the omission of the word princess) Sita.

The book Sita is as well know a fictionalised account of the leading lady of Valmiki's Ramayan. In this world of Amish's, there are no Gods or unknown powers. He has managed to humanise everyone. From the trio of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh to Devi. He gives them the human body and characteristics and if you have read the Shiva trilogy then you know that he also lends them conflicts that you and I face.

It goes to his credit that he pays utmost respect to the natural boundaries, regions and writes almost lovingly about various physical aspects of our country. I know a bit more about my country's past and present heritage, thanks to him. He tries to weave in more action in Sita's story than there was in his previous trilogy and you almost feel as if you are watching scene from an action thriller as characters run, hide, attack, defend and run.

Sita is found by Queen Sunaina and King Janaka of Mithila as they return from meeting Kanyakumari (a person and not place)with respect to  a water problem that their kingdom is facing. A vulture dies protecting the baby from wolves in the jungle from where she is then taken to the palace. She grows up, is sent to study, meets and makes friends with other characters like Jatayu, 'Hanu' bhaiya via his cousin Radhika and in course of time chosen by the plotting Vishwamitra to be the next Vishnu. Sita runs the Mithila as the Prime Minister after her mother's death. A swayamvar  is organised at the right time by her own insistence where she wants Ram to come and be chosen as her husband. Like in a Hindi movie the bad guy Ravana also turns up, (we are only given hints how) and all hell breaks loose leading in a way to the 14 year vanvaas and then Sita's abduction from Panchvati.

Amish lures you to read his next with two threads: the enmity between ex friends Vashishtha (who is the Guru of Ayodhya princes and wants either Ram or Bharat to be chosen as the Vishnu) and  Vishwamitra as well as Sita's birth.

Some of it is entertaining but then it gets repetitive and both these facts for which I just praised writer make you (made me) skip a few pages to get on with the story. It could be attributed to the fact that he has not much to do and say in his this book. We all know the story of the queen and there probably is a limit to which it can be fictionalised.

This is the feeling that I had got in the last part of the Shiva trilogy (The Oath of the Vayuputras) which after the glorious The Immortals of Meluha (which was brilliant in terms of imagination, imagery and story) and The Secret of Nagas also sounded repetitive and dragged endlessly.

Anyway the two major answers that hopefully he will reveal in the next should be good reasons to but it, a worthy set of reason though I am not sure.

Title: Sita- Warrior of Mithila
Author: Amish
Genre: Myth
Pages: 376
Price: 350
Publisher: Westland
Language: English
Rating: 2.5/5


Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Review: The Sacred Sword by Hindol Sengupta


A book that will leave your palms sweaty, fill you with fear and rage but which will then, also soothe you down and offer some answers via the word of the warrior Guru, on whose life and legend this is based upon.


Review
A nine year old boy is brought the severed head of his father.

Guru Gobind Rai ascended the throne after his father Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded on the orders of the Mughal king Aurangzeb. The tenth Sikh Guru transformed the land of Punjab and through his touch the common men of the villages of modern day Northern plains became lions, Singhs.  

The book, The Sacred Sword, follows the life and legend of Guru Gobind Singh. This fictional account of Guru’s life takes us from Chandni Chowk in Delhi, where the beheading of his father took place, to Nanded, where the warrior Guru breathed his last. In between we witness how he transforms into a great leader training his people for a war that was thrust on him, a gallant fighter who was an ace marksman and a visionary teaching his people to be fearless and equal.

The betrayal of the local kings of the hill states, Guru’s mystical side as he pens poetry and the treachery of the Mughal king Aurangzeb, which cost him his four sons, two as young as six and nine years old- have also been woven into the saga.

The Sacred Sword balances various aspects from the life of the Guru. I could almost see the Guru dressed in blue, with the plume of the blue heron in his turban, riding his blue steed majestically, a hawk perched on his shoulder. I could hear him recite the famous lines
Chidiyaan naal main baaz ladawaan
Geedadan to main sher banawaan
Sawa laakh se ek ladawaan
Tabe Gobind Singh naam kehlaawaan’

As I belong to one of the northern states and have keenly studied geography and history with I could visualise the areas the setting very well. Mr Sengupta does a fabulous job of recreating the ambience of the Hola Mohalla in his book as well as the gathering that must have taken place at Anandpur Sahib, on the day the Khalsa Panth was born.

He does manage to bring some fighting scenes alive with his words too but I can’t claim they were among my favourites.

All in all, The Sacred Sword touches important aspects of Guru Gobind Singh’s life, and the important people in it- from Mata Gujri to Banda Bahadur. At 219 pages, it is a very comfortable read and in my humble opinion does not drag, limp or stagger anywhere.

I would recommend The Sacred Sword highly if you are looking for a weekend read and history or legends are your genre.



Title: The Sacred Sword
Author: Hindol Sengupta
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
Language: English
Pages: 219
Rating: 4/5


Disclaimer: The book is due to release tomorrow and I was given the copy of the book by Penguin Random House India for a review. Opinion here is all mine.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Wo

Wo mujhe kuch to samajhta hai
Kya aur kitna, nahi maaloom
Na kabhi maine poocha
Na usne kabhi kaha.
Kyun? Kya maaloom.

Wo mera naam to leta hai
Baar baar
Likh kar
Kyun? Kya maaloom.

Wo kareeb aana to chahe
Par durr se hi dekhe
Waqt ka jaana
Kyun? Kya maaloom.

Guzrate huye saalon main
Hum roo b roo huye itne
Ki bas
Haal chaal poocha
Na gale mile, na roye.
Kyun? Kya maaloom.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Shikha's birthday

Today is Shkha's birthay. June 23rd. The date arrives every year after June 22, a date that has changed my family's narrative on many levels. Has it affected me? I can't say I guess. But I am the one who probably is farthest from the bitterness that this day and others around it create. Grief is bitter. Something that you have to come to terms with without being able to do anything about it. I mean you can't even laugh it off. My family huddles together in and around June 22.

All of them who were rendered old by time in one powerful blow, come together to sip tea, eat food, talk mundane things and protect each other from the invisible enemy. My sister is courageous enough maybe to call up someone in the family and talk to them about something unrelated which helps them as well as her to wade through the endless pool of time (like the infinity pools in expensive hotels) that June 22 seems like.

I don't have that strength. I feel like breaking down every five minutes and if I am busy with the kids I do not even understand why is it happening to me till the date strikes me. If by any chance anyone from the family calls me up all I do is ho humm. How would I help someone wade when I am drowning? So, I reach out to Shikha. I call her a day in advance to wish her happy birthday. She knows about it maybe.

I called her yesterday. She called me baby. I liked it. She knows the power these few days have over me. I think she doesn't mind that invariably for the last four years I have called her up a day earlier to wish her birthday. She offers me a virtual hug which I take gratefully. Does she know that I call her up because I need a distraction, not the impassive type like a book or some program on TV, but something more solid? Something or someone that knows about the incident. I doubt it. I too discovered this just yesterday after she told me I was calling her a day early. As usual. She did not evade the topic of  June 22. After tackling it we spoke about schools and how children are growing up fast. We spoke about her party, summer holidays, how much Abir talks and our parents.

Today I messaged her with all my love. Today was her birthday.


Monday, June 19, 2017

When your life is going nowhere

This is what I asked Google. What could have I been thinking before putting such words out in the world? Yahi na, that some gyaan ganga will open up for me. I will be directed to some great suggestions by people who are now past this feeling and have a rocking life writing and making money out of blogs which are read by people like me whose life is going nowhere. Or maybe some Youtube videos by new age babajis who have answer to anything, from objective to subjective.

My life has been stuck or should I say I have been stuck at this question since Saturday night. Why, asks George Clooney's voice in my head from a movie I can't recall. Shouldn't this be my own voice, I try to reason and then realise I don't care because as I write here I am dreaming of some great person happening to my lame blog and realising my great potential and taking me under their wing.

Now the Clooney is replaced by Sridevi but the question remains. I can't focus on the question because it is the Sri voice from the song O meri Chandni and you have to know the song to know how  annoying she sounded in that.

All in all what Clooney and Sridevi have done is made me lose the context of why my life is stuck and what to do about it. I am really keen on doing  something about it if only these voices in my head would stop.

My brain just gave me a Guru Dutt-esque stare. Like lifting his eyes to meet mine without a smile on those thin lips, looking for an answer which isn't there.

Instead i go back to a stale packet of matarphalis. Some anmol vichaar page is blinking on my screen. Maybe I should go check it and whoknows I might find a few answers there.