This is My Life?

Daily PromptIf you could read a book containing all that has happened and will ever happen in your life, would you? If you choose to read it, you must read it cover to cover. 

“Excuse me, how much is this porcelain doll for?” I asked the ancient-looking shopkeeper with wizened eyes and a silver beard Santa Claus would be jealous of. Christmas being just around the corner I was stocking up presents for friends and family, and a rather quaint pink porcelain fairy doll in the window of an antique shop caught my fancy. I thought I would try to get it for my mother.

The shopkeeper, without even moving from his post behind the counter, pointed at the dusty label on the doll which proclaimed it’s price to be 50 rupees. A bargain by any estimate but being an astute shopper I thought I would try for more. The first rule of bargaining: don’t seem too interested in the object you are buying. So I set down the doll with a grim “hmm” to indicate my dissatisfaction with the price and looked around aimlessly. The shop was crammed with odds and ends: tarnished silver spoons, a dozen cracked mirrors (how many years of bad luck does that accrue to?) , dream catchers that have caught nothing but dust bunnies, porcelain dolls with frozen smiles and a few leather-bound books. Being the bookworm I am, I naturally graviated towards those, and froze in shock. The black leather bound book with golden edges, fifth from the right in the second row, very clearly proclaimed in its title my name in bold, engraved, and golden alphabets. A dozen possibilities ran through my mind, each more intriguing than the last: I had a namesake, who coincidentally, was also an author; I had travelled back from the future in a T.A.R.D.I.S. and this is a book I myself wrote; this was the book my parents read before they had me and named me after it. 

Intrigued and surprised I picked it up and was about to open it when a wrinkled old hand with surprising strength slammed it shut. I flinched back in shock. I was pretty sure I had left the old propreitor sitting behind the counter, at the other end of the store, only seconds ago. How on Earth did he creep up on me so fast?

“This is your book” he said. “This is your life”.

“What?” I said. 

“This book chronicles all that has happened to you in the past and that will happen to you in the future. It details your entire life. You can read it if you want, but you must read it cover to cover”.

A thousand things crossed my mind but what crossed my lips was, “It’s so short!”

The old man clicked his tongue, “Tsk, tsk! Such a typical comment of someone your age” (Why is it that grown-ups can’t say anything without making at least one comment about your age?) “You yourself are a writer of flash fiction. You should know better than to judge a story by its length”.

The idea that my life was similar to a flash fiction story written by me didn’t really reassure me. But I had more pressing concerns, like: “You read it?”

The shopkeeper shrugged, “It gets lonely around here”.

“Ohh…” I said because what else was there to be said.

“Can you give me some tips then? Anything I should look out for, a  lottery ticket number, the question paper of the final exams?” 

He fixed me with a stern glance, “That is against the rules. You must read for yourself, if you choose to…” He let his voice trail off meaningfully.

Oh man, did I want to read that book! So many questions that I wanted an answer for – did the guy I like like me back, would I get into the institute I was aiming for, would there be a Sherlock Season 4, so on and so forth. But there was also the realization that if I did I would never be able to unread it. And that meant No Surprises – Good or Bad, ever again in life, and how boring would such a life be!

So with a heavy heart I kept the book down and told the shopkeeper, “Thanks but no thanks”. He gave me a mysteriously knowing smile, which prompted me to add, “Wait…you already knew I wouldn’t read it! You read it!” 

“Maybe, maybe not” he said. “Now where were we on the porcelain doll? 45 is my final offer, and don’t pretend because I know you want it”.

There was little argument I could offer to that so I meekly paid the price, and left.

Just before the door closed, he called out, “By the way, I would look out for Komodo dragons if I were you”.

“Wait…what?” I tried to push the door open but it had locked itself behind me.

I don’t know if the man was bluffing or not but I think I will cancel my trip to Komodo in Indonesia, just in case….

Book Review: ‘Panther’ by Chhimi Tenduf-La

front_2

Chhimi Tenduf-La’s latest novel, ‘Panther’, is a gripping tale set in a hostile environment where communal tensions, bloodlust and vengeance rules. He has set it in Sri Lanka…but honestly speaking, it could be any country: from the war-ravaged East to the civilized West, where they don’t speak of it. In the end, it’s a tale about human nature and the fight of humanity against evil forces that often may exist in your own mind. It reads like a poem and reminded me of these lines from ‘The Second Coming’ by W.B. Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre,

The falcon cannot hear the falconer:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

A haunting tale that will inevitably remind you of all your troubles back in high school. The novel traces the journey of Prabhu, a young Tamil boy and a cricket protégé growing up in Sri Lanka, who is admitted to an elite school of rich boys. But Prabhu has a past that his classmates who have lived comfortable lives guarded against all harm cannot imagine: he is a former child soldier and had been once closely associated with the fictional terror group of ‘Panthers’. With a past that refuses to be silenced and memories that abruptly rear their ugly heads, Prabhu has to learn to overcome the onerous burdens of high school.

What is noteworthy about the author is his incredible talent to poignantly pen on paper the angst of adolescence, for all boys, rich or poor. Some problems like finding a perfect date, scoring good marks in your examination, gaining popularity among your peer circle, impressing your crush and living up to your parents expectations, or more pertinently, them living up to yours, are universal themes all adolescents can connect with. But at the same time, the novel deals with darker themes like the plight of child soldiers, or simply of children growing up in a war-ravaged nation. Children growing up in an environment where tensions are high are forced to make impossible choices between right and wrong, good and bad; sometimes with no proper guidance. More often than not, they end up emulating their parents and other elders around, but the real question is: what happens when the elders are prejudiced and misguided? The vicious cycle of hate pervasively present in so many South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Western nations has been pain strikingly taken apart by the author and presented to us in vivid detail.

From paedophiles who rape orphaned boys, to terrorist leaders who brainwash child soldiers to fight wars they don’t understand, to army soldiers who shoot and torture even those who surrender, to families forced to sacrifice one child to the ‘cause’ to save another: this book (some may find it disturbing) expostulates on the worst side of human nature. It talks about everything society would rather push under the rug. Yet, as is atypical of this author, the serious is peppered with moments of hilarity. This extract, for instance, is one of my personal favourites:

…the letter ‘A’ pendant cost six thousand rupees, but they had a discount on the letter ‘I’ pendants. He deliberated for a while. Since Achala’s name began with ‘A’, the ‘A’ pendant might have been the more appropriate, but he knew he couldn’t ask Indika, whose name began with an ‘I’, for more money. So the ‘I’ would have to do.

Indika and Prabhu’s friendship is one of the most humane bonds of friendship that I have ever read in a novel. The characters of both boys is so well-developed that you would feel you know them personally. In many ways the novel is also a ‘coming of age’ story, as different characters evolve and grow in different ways as the novel progresses. The concluding chapters especially have a beautiful point of climactic twist in certain protagonists’ personalities, but saying more would be giving out spoilers, and for a book as captivating as this, it would be a cardinal sin.

The only minor point of contention for me would be the excessive use of abuses in the text, but I guess it does help set the mood, and my prudish love for ‘proper’ language would probably be judged by most to be orthodox. We all do have our points of squeamishness, don’t we? The style otherwise is unique: the narrator, who is incidentally also the protagonist, shifts from second person, to third person and even to first person narrative. Sometimes it feels like he is narrating a story to us, while at other points the readers are standing next to him, watching an event unfold. The style is such that all passing thoughts and sudden observations are noted down in vivid details, for example a page devoted only to a cockroach on a cricket pitch. Yet the details aren’t random or arbitrary. In many ways this book has a firm foundation in psychology and these seemingly random details, in the end reveal a lot more than one could imagine. The language is simple and easy to understand, but hard to gauge. You might just find yourself turning the pages for one more read.

Top 10 Authors I Really Want To Meet

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were having a discussion on the places we would visit if we ever have the money to time travel. The first entry on our list was USA and the main reason we wanted to go there was to meet Mr. Rick Riordan, the author of the best-selling Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles. So when I saw this week’s prompt from The Broke and the Bookish I pulled my laptop close to me and started frenzied typing that scared my colleagues at the office I am interning.

collage

  1. Enid Blyton: They didn’t specify if the author had to be alive and I grew up reading Enid Blyton’s mysteries and short stories. Meeting her has been a childhood dream.
  2. JK Rowling: A die-hard Potterhead like me had to include her in the list.
  3. Rick Riordan: Most of the Percy Jackson books have an ‘8+’ sign on the cover. I started reading them when I was 16, and still couldn’t get enough of them.
  4. Dan Brown: Technically speaking I have ‘met’ him, if you call attending a talk delivered by him to be a meeting, but so witty and eloquent was his speech then that I still wish to engage in a direct face-to-face conversation with him.
  5. Khaled Hosseini: I have read every one of his books at least three times and with each subsequent read my admiration for him has increased tenfold.
  6. Agatha Christie: Any lover of mystery has to have fallen in love with the Queen of Mystery Novels! And to think she started writing mystery novels only because a friend made a bet with her!
  7. Suzanne Collins: The exulted author of The Hunger Games, my all-time favourite dystopian novel. I have read the trilogy consecutively for three times once, and would have continued doing so if my mother hadn’t started fearing for my sanity 😛
  8. John Green: One reason I was often disdainful of teenage ‘coming of age’ novels is because they fail to effectively capture the contemporary teenage voice, till I read John Green. His novels capture teenage angst and triumphs beautifully. His novels have made me laugh and cry, and I really want to meet him.
  9. Oscar Wilde: I admire him for daring to write about the topics he did in the times he was born. I admire his courage, his wit and his literary style, and would be absolutely delighted to meet him.
  10. Louisa May Alcott: Last but not the least, I would really like to meet Louisa May Alcott, an authoress I have admired for quite some time now. I first picked up her book, ‘Little Women’ when I was in my adolescence and her poignant novel about the four March sisters was my guide. I used it as a self-help book, using Marmee’s words of advice to her daughters in my own life.

A Harry Potter Birthday

I met Padfoot (my nickname for her. She calls me Prongs) in junior college. She was a commerce student and I was studying Humanities. We bonded over our mutual love for young-adult fiction. Four years from then, we are the best of friends. We chat incessantly for hours on the phone, discussing everything from our tangled love lives to the latest Game of Thrones episode. Whether the news is good or bad, she is always the first one I share it with. She chides me when I worry too much and cheers me up when I am low. I try to do the same for her.

Yesterday was her birthday. Now I have my exams coming up in a few weeks and I am also interning with an ad agency. Work and studies take up so much of my time that I have very little free time left. Yet I wanted to do something special for my friend’s birthday. Another common friend and I scoured the shops looking for gifts. We bought her a few goodies we thought she would like, including a LED book lamp.

But I still felt like something was missing. I wanted to do something more. Not a grand gesture, but a small one which showed how much I appreciated and cared for her; something that commemorates our friendship. So I went about creating goodies inspired from one of our favourite books Harry Potter. 

We made her a Chocolate Frog Card, a letter from Hogwarts, a ticket to the Hogwarts Express leaving from Platform 9 3/4, and a box of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans. I will tell you how I went about it, just in case you want to make something similar for a special friend of yours.

The only thing you will need is a modicum of talent in Adobe Photoshop or a similar photo-editing software.
For the chocolate frog card, I took an empty template off Google (just Google Harry Potter chocolate frog card template) and opened it in Photoshop. I put my friend’s picture in another layer. Then on the first layer, using the magic wand tool (kind of apt in this context) I selected the empty space inside the card, and made it into a layer mask. Then I carefully positioned my friend’s image in that space.
For the platform ticket, I again took the image from Google and on top of the place where it said London I first erased the word using the clone stamp tool and then I wrote Mumbai on top of it.

image

This is the end result


Then I drafted a personalized letter from Minerva McGonagall, the Headmistress of Hogwarts, awarding an honory degree to my friend.
For the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, my friend and I purchased a cheap plastic container. We filled it with different types and flavors of sweets – gumdrops, mints and colourful chocolate balls. Then we put the chocolate frog card inside and decorated the container using coloured craft paper.
A tip in case you are using a plastic container like us – use tape instead of glue to attach the craft paper onto the box. Glue we learnt from trial soon ebbs away
image

Then giftwrapped the box and put the letter and ticket in an envelope. At the back of the envelope we put a picture of an owl with the words Delivered by Owl Post , and on the front we wrote her name and address.
The project took an entire day and by the end we were very tired. I hadn’t studied anything and I had work the next day. But the effort was well worth it, because Padfoot loved the gift. She got teary-eyed with happiness and her happiness was our reward. After all, what are good marks in front of a friend’s happiness. I am glad I spent as much time and effort on her gift as I did. She had been with me through thick and thin, and she is one of the best people I know. She deserved a gift that would make her feel as special as she is.

I am participating in the#DilKiDealOnSnapdeal activity atBlogAdda in association withSnapDeal.

Book Review: The Amazing Racist

A half-English, half-Tibetan author penned down a book set in Sri Lanka, narrated by an English protagonist, and which I, an Indian reader, loved reading. It won’t be wrong to state that Chhimi Tenduf-La has penned down a global novel.

Written from the point-of-view of Eddie Trusted, an English school teacher who moves to Colombo and falls in love with a native girl, ‘The Amazing Racist’ explores in intricate details the many idiosyncrasies of South Asian countries: our pride of our rich, past heritage; the anger we still feel towards our erstwhile colonizers, the poverty, our culture, our work values that stress on achievement and financial success, the potholed roads, the insufferable heat, the corrupt bureaucracy and finally our hot curries. The book explores all this and more in a poignant and witty package.

The story is one which has been told a numerous times in many Bollywood movies: boy meets rich girl at a party. They fall in love and wish to get married. They visit the girl’s father to seek his blessings but he balks at the idea of having his daughter marry (in this case) “a white guy”. Like all South Asian parents, Mr. Thilak Rupasinghe, wants his daughter to marry a man…

“…of the same race, religion, caste, literacy, social club, library, the same town, the same street, the same house. Someone with the right horoscope, the right job, salary, house, car…and skin tone”.

A white teacher from England just doesn’t fit the bill.

However my favourite part of the novel is the second half; after Menaka and Eddie’s marriage and the birth of their daughter, Kiki. Eddie and Thilak have to set aside their differences to look after Kiki, as her mother Menaka immerses herself in war reconciliation efforts that leave her with no time for her family. What slowly fosters through brilliant narration and witty anecdotes, is a bond stronger than blood.

The Amazing Racist is an amazing book!

It beautifully describes the changing South Asian social fabric, and tackles many contemporary issues like divorce, inheritance, extramarital love and stereotypes like that of the house husband and the career-driven mother.

The book will make you laugh and cry at the same time. Through his words Chhimi Tenduf-La will draw you into the world he has created: a world of white suddhas, lush paddy fields, extravagant fundraisers, hypocritical mothers, forbidden romance and an orthodox father-in-law with a sharp tongue and a golden heart. You will fall in love with the well-nuanced characters. The author describes them with such vivid details that you, as the reader, start feeling like you know them as intimately as a close friend: their fears, their ambitions, their triumphs and their weaknesses, all are laid out in black and white. The place and character descriptions are vivid, without being tedious.

The only fault I could find with the book was its depiction of Menaka as a negligent and selfish mother only because she prioritizes her career over her family. I find it wrong to pigeonhole women like that.

To conclude it is definitely one of the better books that I have read in quite a while now. A fantastic debut by Chimmi Tenduf-La. I can’t wait to see what further literary masterpieces come my way from his pen.

My rating for this book is very high. I simply loved it. I loved the witty descriptions of a tropical country that closely resembles my own. I loved Thilak Rupasinghe’s sarcastic comments and blustering arrogance. I loved Eddie, Caroline, Kiki and even Menaka.

And most of all I loved the simple narration of everyday life of simple, everyday people that culminates into a piece of literary brilliance.

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

Review of TMS: That’s My Story

If you have read even a couple of my blog posts, you will know one thing for sure — I am a die-hard book-lover. So when I heard of BlogAdda’s fascinating book review program , where they ask bloggers to review books on their blog, I was thrilled. When I was chosen to review the romantic novel, ‘TMS: That’s My Story’ by Vinay Mashalkar, my excitement knew no bounds. Romance is one of my absolutely favourite genres! But the book evoked mixed reactions in me…

TMS reads like a teenager’s diary. It records in explicit detail the story of Vikram, an IT professional working in Bangalore. He is  a typical Indian bachelor who spends his weekdays working, and his weekends drinking ‘booze’ with his friends. His parents are the traditional conservative Indian parents. His mother asks him to visit a temple on the first day of his job, and his father gives him a hard time over his paltry pay check.  In a way, Vikram’s story is every Indian middle-class guy’s story. It is easy to connect to, and I went through a lot of GoodReads and Flipkart reviews of the book, and every one of them praise it for it’s simplicity and say that it is very easy to connect to.

But here is a couple of things you should not expect from the book:

  1. Proper English and Grammar: I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but the book is written in a colloquial style; long sentences with redundant grammar were a little too common for my liking. Here is a sample: In the night, I was debating with myself whether it is worth waking up early in the morning only to see her and getting disappointed, if she does not turn up. However, when it comes to matters like this, guys are more optimistic about it than anything else in their life. If the author was trying to replicate the authenticity of the Indian English slang, he succeeded marvelously.
  2. A Line Between ‘Love’ and ‘Lust’: In true filmy style, our hero falls in love with the girl on first sight from his balcony during monsoon. Immediately he knows she is ‘The One’ (as Ted Mosby would say). He obsesses over her, stalks her, but of course in the end wins her over, because ‘true love’ and all that. The narrator however goes to great lengths to prove that it is not only the girl’s looks that makes him ‘fall in love’ with her: She was very beautiful, but it was not just her beauty that caught my attention, it was her overall charismatic personality that attracted me towards her. Because it is very easy to gauge a stranger’s personality from a distance, right?! Also, in the very start of the book, we meet Vikram’s friend and colleague Swami, who as the author very succinctly puts it loved ogling at girls. A very noble hobby, indeed!

Well, I guess once you get over those two facts, the book doesn’t make for a very bad read, a little tedious maybe, but it’s simplicity is touching. You do feel Meghna and Vikram’s pain. The author manages to draw a neat little web with his words and draw you in. It shall appeal to a wide audience, but I am not a member of that group.

Any book takes a lot of hard work to write, and Vinay Mashalkar’s efforts are evident in the narrative. The cliches are at places overpowering though, and seems ridiculous and unnecessary. A good first effort but could be much better.

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

Seven Sequels I Can’t Wait To Get

  • They have kept me awake at nights — musing and pondering over what new twist the plot would reveal;
  • I have included them in my prayers — “Please God, don’t let me die, before I read _________. I don’t think I could bear the suspense for eternity;
  • I have obsessively stalked e-commerce portals to see if it is available yet for ‘pre-order’;
  • I have visited the shady corners of the world wide web, looking for that one elusive clue as to what to expect in the upcoming book;
  • I have suffered the agony of impatience and learnt the lessons of patience over them;

…..the top seven (the magical number) sequels I can’t wait to get (as per the prompt from The Broke and the Bookish)

  1. Princess Diaries Royal Wedding: I think I screamed when I learnt that Meg Cabot intended to write a sequel to the tenth part of her famous teenage novel series, featuring Mia Thermopolis. The cherry on the cake is that it is set after a considerable time gap from the tenth book, and is about Mia’s wedding to Michael (my favourite fictional romantic hero of all time). Isn’t that what all fans dream about?! Finding out what happened in the life of their favourite characters…after the last page has been turned. 2015 can’t come soon enough!
  2. Mediator: Remembrance: If the 11th Princess Diaries book wasn’t enough, Meg Cabot also announced a seventh installment in my second favourite series by her – the Mediator series. As soon as I am done sighing wistfully over Mia and Michael’s happy ending, I will also have the opportunity to swoon over Jess and his ‘querida’ Suzanne’s life. 220px-9780545747813_default_pdp-3 (1)
  3. 39 Clues: DoubleCross: Mission Titanic: On 26th April 2014 (co-incidentally one day after my birthday) the next installment of 39 clues was announced. I finished the last part of the series only a few weeks ago (after a frenzied period when I nearly stopped eating and drinking, and spent nearly all my waking hours poring over the novel), I already can’t wait to read the next part. PJ GREEK HEROES jkt 1REV
  4. Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes: Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods was a witty, tongue-in-cheek, and undoubtedly unique book on Greek mythology. I can barely wait for the next installment from the Myth Master, Rick Riordan, to be released on the protagonist Percy Jackson’s birthday, August 18, 2015. Campers of Camp Half Blood, mark that date! Plus, there is the new series of Magnus Chase to look forward to as well!! 😀
  5. The Unnamed Sequel to The Staff of Serapis: What can be better than the sequel of your favourite book — when the characters from two of your favourite books meet, and the two worlds, collide! Like in Rick Riordan’s Staff of Serapis and Son of Sobek – a fusion of the characters from Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus! Now, I am just waiting for the final installment of what Riordan (unfortunately!) declared as a trilogy. download (3)
  6. Fever Code: James Dashner’s Maze Runner series is hauntingly beautiful. It talks of a future that is scary in its realism (the world destroyed in a ecological disaster brought on global warming – yeah that’s never gonna happen!) and mesmerizing in its narration. I gobbled the first five book — can’t wait for the next serving! 8709528
  7. The Ruby Circle: The Bloodlines Series by Richelle Mead is a guilty pleasure of mine! I have read and re-read the entire series, and I can’t wait to for more of Adrian and Sydney’s sizzling chemistry.

God Is A Gamer: A Book Review

god is a gamer‘God is a Gamer’ by Ravi Subramanian is written in a style reminiscent of Agatha Christie mysteries. The first few chapters start with establishing the setting and the characters, and just as you start getting a sense of familiarity with them events start rolling in motion — an influential banker in Mumbai takes a high dive from a highrise building and her daughter is sure that it wasn’t a suicide; in Washington D.C. an American senator dies in a car explosion; in Goa two young people meet and fall in love amidst riots, and a father is reunited with his long-lost son; a hooker in America starts blogging about her sexual exploits with 300 celebrities; and in New York the biggest ATM heist of all time is carried out.

Subramanian skillfully lays out every incident, like jigsaw puzzle pieces, and the rest of the novel is a ‘game’ as he slowly connects the dots to form the entire picture, where everything falls in place. Betrayal, Murder, Lust, Scandal, Love, Trust, Lies, Corruption – the emotional roller coaster of the plot twists through all these dirty alleys. There is the ultimate revelation scene: the detective (like Agatha Christie’s character Poirot) in an elaborate setting and in the presence of all the characters solves the mystery, and turns to the culprit to shriek – You there, YOU DID IT! 

The ultimate plot twist at the end of the novel is perhaps the highlight of this story. Suddenly all that you had read and thought you understood was you realize nowhere near to the truth, and it forces you to impetuously go through it all over again, to examine the plot with the magnifying glass of your newfound knowledge.

All’s well that ends well. Not really. There are quite a few drawbacks to this novel as well. At places, the action starts dropping down or the climax is stretched out till it snaps, and it takes all your willpower to continue reading. The moments of dramatic irony and suspense are brilliantly written. Unfortunately most of these scenes come towards the conclusion of the novel. For a large time at the beginning of the novel, the readers are left floundering in the dark, trying in vain to find a common thread of linkage between all that they are reading.

The characters lack depth, and most of their actions seem arbitrary (of course in the Ultimate Revelation Scene all the arbitrariness start making sense, but it comes too late). A lot of effort has been taken to make the dialogues between characters seem natural, and this shows – which of course makes the dialogues seem all the more unnatural. Paradoxically one of my other complaints would be that dialogue in itself is very rare in this novel. The narrator’s voice is everywhere, clarifying everything that is being said by the characters, and at times this intrusion feels unwelcome and wholly unnecessary. It gives a sense of unnaturality to the scene, and reduces the sense of empathy. I would perhaps like this book more if the narrator had taken a back seat at times, and let the behaviour and dialogue of the characters take the plot forward. There are also loopholes in the plot as big as the craters on the moon, but with a plot as grandiose as the one Ravi Subramanian has woven, a few logical lapses are but inevitable. I, however prefer novels with seamless plot action, where each incident follows the next in logical succession as evidenced by the narrative voice; and the logical lapses in this novel and the sudden jumps in action feels akin to driving on a potholed roads.

Yet if you manage to withstand the ride, the view is beautiful.

This novel is one of those that requires a lot of patience and willpower in the early stages, for you to keep turning the pages, but the ending makes the efforts almost worthwhile.

I would recommend this novel to fans of mystery and drama, but not to fans of fast-paced action, because this novel doesn’t give you that. One thing that it does give (and therefore merits mention) is knowledge on e-commerce. Ravi Subramanian has oft been described as the ‘John Grisham’ of writing, and this book is a wonderful repertoire of knowledge about bitcoins and TOR or the Onion Router. The bits and packets of information have been skillfully interspaced with the plot, and is written in a simplistic way that anyone can grasp. At times it might feel too much or unnecessary, but my advice to you is keep reading. It will all make sense at the end. Actually this advice is applicable for the entire novel.

It all makes sense in the end. You just need patience to reach there.

This review is a part of the biggest <a href=”http://blog.blogadda.com/2011/05/04/indian-bloggers-book-reviews” target=”_blank”> Book Review Program </a> for <a href=”http://www.blogadda.com” target=”_blank”>Indian Bloggers.</a> Participate now to get free books!

The Penguin Annual Lecture 2014 by Dan Brown

The line started queuing up around 4, three hours before the lecture was commenced to start at 7. Teenagers with bright enthusiastic faces and copies of Inferno or Da Vinci Code tucked under their arms stood chatting outside the famed NCPA theater. College students from nearby cities like Pune and Ahmedabad could also be seen standing in the perpetually growing queue. The excitement in the air was palpable. Mixed among the crowd were middle-aged literary veterans, calmly surveying the chaotic youngsters. The gates opened at 6:15. Seats were randomly allocated seats on ‘first come, first serve’ basis, which essentially people (read: the author) who came first were allotted seats in a far off corner, while people who arrived later got front row seats. Well played Crossword!

All complaints however died out when the man of the hour himself walked in, after having been introduced by Indian author, Ravi Subramanian. As the legendary writer of Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown walked in, the entire auditorium erupted into cheers and applause. The entire audience were on their feet, clapping hard and long. He endeared himself to the hearts of all youngsters in the audience when he started his speech by exclaiming surprise at the young age of the majority of the audience. “Isn’t it past your bedtime?!” he jovially asked

For me, and most other members of the audience, this was a dream come true. To be in the same room as one of my favourite authors isn’t something I could have ever dreamed of. The lecture on ‘Religion and Science’ was delivered to perfection by the author. Mr. Brown started by telling us about his paradoxical childhood, with a church organist as his mother and a mathematics teacher as his father. He even showed us their respective car number plates. His mother’s read ‘Kyrie’ (Greek for Lord), and his father’s read ‘Metric’. He then expounded upon his theory about the god of gaps, wherein he said that whenever the ancient Greeks and Romans experienced a gap in their knowledge, something they couldn’t explain, they invented a god to fill in the gap. So infertility was considered to be due to a falling out from the goddess Juno, plagues were brought upon by the wrath of an angry god and hurricanes were caused by the god of the sea, Poseidon. In a style reminiscent of his famous character Professor Robert Langdon, Mr. Brown further explained that as science discovered the logical reasons behind these events, the pantheon of Roman and Greek gods slowly died out. Today we turn to God for answers to those questions that science cannot answer – where do we come from? why are we here? where do we go after we die? – and in a way, we are still worshipping the god of the gaps.

One of his most powerful statements, according to this author, was when he talked about world religions. The writer said that all human beings have similar spiritual experiences: while looking at the star-lit heavens, we all have at times acknowledged a higher power beyond our understanding, and yet we follow different religions.

1920475_10152539242071523_3109662511914801809_n

It is not religion, but language that divides us, he proclaimed. When we take metaphors as history, the cosmic space as a concrete space, and when we argue over the semantics of god that we are divided. Otherwise all religions preach a similar message of kindness over cruelty, and of love and peace.

“To grow up in a world without religious prejudices is a privilege, and not one many of us enjoy”, he said.

After his speech, Dan Brown engaged in a conversation with famous Indian author, Ashwin Sanghvi. The conversation steered to many topics. When asked about the two Hollywood blockbusters Angels and Demons and Da Vinci Code, based on his novels, Dan Brown praised the hard work of actor Tom Hanks and the entire filmmaking crew. He said:

The magic of a book is in its ability to be different things for different people…When a book becomes a movie the quantum wave collapses, and all possibilities die out except one…A movie is like someone else’s child. All an author can ask for is that the filmmakers stay true to the pulse, heartbeat and message of the book.

The talk was as engaging as it was informative. His humourous jokes cracked the audience up,every now and then. The minutes flew swiftly by, and the lecture was over too soon for anyone’s liking. The silver lining was Mr. Sanghvi’s question, when he asked Mr. Brown if his protagonist, Robert Langdon, would soon be following his steps to Mumbai. Though Mr. Brown’s reply was diplomatic, hope lingers. We can’t wait to welcome him back to these shores again!

Top 20 Books – My List

Recently there has been a trend of posting your top 10 favourite books on Facebook. I was recommended twice, and so I decided to put up two lists of 10 books each. So here are my TOP 20 books:

1. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott 
2. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
3. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck 
4. Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Verse – edited by Chris. Woodhead
5. The Five Findouters and Dog – Enid Blyton
6. Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series – Rick Riordan 
7. The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis 
8. The Harry Potter saga – JK Rowling 
9. The Boy Next Door – Meg Cabot 
10. Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown 
11. And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
12. Digital Fortress – Dan Brown 
13. The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady WIndermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde
14. The Scarlet Pimpernel – Emma Orczy
15. Malgudi Days – RK Narayan
16. The Immortals of Meluha and the rest of the Shiva trilogy – Amish Tripathi 
7. The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzzane Collins 
8. Remember Me? – Sophie Kinsella 
9. Partners in Crime – Agatha Christie (Actually, ALL her Tommy and Tuppence novels, and Poirot novels, and Quinn novels)
10. Jeeves – P.G. Woodehouse