Sunday, 31 August 2014

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Book Review - India Was One

Book: India Was One
Author: An Indian (Anonymous)
Genre: Fiction

The book starts with the protagonist, Jai going through a lonely, dark, jungle kind of slightly-eerie place with a local guy. Once they reach a certain spot, Jai looks through binoculars, across a border at his wife. The two cannot cross the border - the border dividing North and South India.

After a glimpse of this emotionally-charged, tense moment, the story goes into flashback and starts from the college days of Jai and Kaahi (Kahaani's nickname).

Is Kahaani really a name, I wondered. So I googled it - it apparently is, but not a very common one. I had heard of 'Kavita' (means 'Poetry'), but never ,Kahaani' (means 'Story'). Surprisingly, no one in the book asks Kahaani about her name.

Jai's family is from Karnataka, and Kaahi's from Gujarat, though both the families stay in Mumbai.
I hail from North India. My first thought was - well, Gujarat is not in the North of India. But from the point of view of dividing the country into North and South, it is in the northern part of India.
Also, I had expected some major lifestyle differences in the two families. Since both the families stay in Mumbai, that expectation didn't hold good either.

Jai has three friends - Sikh, Tamil and Bengali... India, after all, is one. Even many other communities find a place in the story. All living in harmony... mostly. The friends are mostly stereotypical examples of their community or religion.

Jai is the hero, and is portrayed as one. His father is rich. As I read along, I realized he's filthy rich. Uh Huh, really loaded with money.

The book has two fonts - Normal and Italics.
The normal font tells you the story.
The italicized font is explanatory lessons/lectures about India, its diversity, different cultures, cricket, bollywood, etc.
Once the story moves to America, the italics start with details of American lifestyle, many things that an Indian would find strange there, the weather, etc.

But certain things can't be explained. Can you explain the impact the impact of a Gabbar Singh dialogue to one who's never watched, or even heard of, Sholay?

So the book is a fiction, a travelogue, and a self-help book for expats in India and America. Even the difference in the education system of the two places is explained.
The author has chosen to stay anonymous. The book does seem to have strong autobiographical inspiration, though.

The book is written in the English that most Indians speak. It is spoken English on paper. So sentences, such as 'Jai's feelings for Kaahi were mutual, not just a one-way street' can be found in this book.
I personally don't mind reading such sentences once in a while, but one gains nothing. A good story, written well, is an enriching experience.

Hindi script is used for certain words and phrases, which are then transliterated and translated. 
If one understands Hindi, it does add to the way one can relate to a certain situation, in a couple of places in the book. But mostly the translation works almost as well.

The contents of the book are listed differently. Each chapter has a small illustration. The same illustration is at the beginning of each chapter.
Chapter one titled 'India was One' has lantern as title illustration. Chapter two titled Canteen, has tea cups as the illustration. The two meet at the college canteen. 

The main sore point for me in this book has been Kaahi's character. 
She is introduced as a smart girl, with a mind of her own. But as the story proceeds, I feel only Jai thinks that. Because her actions speak otherwise.
She has no ambition, is conveniently fond of cooking and is rather timid. She can't even keep track of the take-off time of her flight, it seems.
There is an instance in the book, when Jai is discussing that Kaahi is bored. I was like, 'Finally!' Instead the two of them take yet another vacation, giving us another travelogue. She doesn't even have any friends of her own. Jai's friends become her friends and all is hunky dory.

A quote from 'India Was One' -

  • "... people here love cricket no matter what their religion is: Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, etc. Cricket has a cult-like following in this country. It's like it has formed its own religion. It never cares which religious background or caste one is from. It breaks all boundaries, and is a great equalizer in this country where people are still shackled by caste barriers."
I had expected an intense story of India dividing and a couple stuck across the border, pining for each other.
I found instead a book that is good for one-time light reading, with lots of information about life in India and America.

Shared with Write Tribe

Friday, 29 August 2014

Lonely Evenings - poem

Nariman Point, Mumbai (Image Source)

Lonely hearts
gazing at the waves
dark sea scary
at least to me

What peace do they get
at Nariman point
Doesn't the gaiety around
make them feel worse

As I stroll along
as always with family
may be I'm wrong
do they choose to be alone?

Prompt by and Shared with - Poets United

First week of school - a poem

Four days of waiting
outside the classroom
Having you come
again and again
Every time I said
stay in there
I kept repeating
make friends
Fifth day today
you didn't come
I am repeating
I should be glad

Prompt by and Shared with - Poetry Jam

Heartfelt... Short Story

As they heard the news of Vivek's hospitalization, all eyes turned to Sophia. Some slyly, others openly. Sophia didn't seem to pause writing for even a moment.
No one had expected anything different, as she was notorious as the 'heartless ice-queen'.

Vivek had been trying to get Sophia to go out with him for weeks now. He had been wooing her with flowers and chocolates.
She was never rude to him, but she didn't so much as smile at him either.

As everyone got back to their work, disappointed that they'd not gotten a human reaction from her, Sophia stopped writing and closed her eyes, not changing her posture though. She didn't know what to feel. Vivek had been in an accident. It hurt. Vivek would die.

Sophia thought death had taken all it could from her in this lifetime.
Sophia had accepted a flower from Vivek, for the first time, the previous evening. They had talked for hours and she had told him why she was scared of emotional entanglements. She had started dreaming of the future.

Sophia didn't believe in superstitions, despite everything. Now she was thinking that maybe she should have been superstitious. May be she should have stayed away from him.

Just then, her phone vibrated with an unknown number on display.
Sophia ignored it. It rang again.

As she accepted the call, a voice whispered, "Hey. You won't believe what happened today. What an adventure! Why are you so quiet? I can't talk loudly. It's me, Vivek... at a hospital."

© Nimi Arora

This is written in response to Three Word Wednesday prompt. The three words given in the prompt are - Entanglement, Death, Heartless

Monday, 25 August 2014

Letter to a Harry Potter fan...

Letter from a mother to her son, who just joined boarding school. The son is a Harry Potter fan.

Dear Son,

Imagine you are at Hogwarts.
So, you may come across a Snape who's rude but is actually trying to help you.
And then there's Prof. McGonagall, a strict teacher, but if you follow the rules, your best guide.
Prof. Dumbledore, to whom you may not talk much, but who's making sure you are okay (from afar).
And maybe a Hagrid too. Certainly not a half-giant. But a teacher, a friend and little senseless...

Give it time. And with God's grace, you will find great friends like Ron and Hermoine.
Of course, there will be Draco Malfoy and Crabbe and Goyle too. But learn to ignore them.

Harry Potter is a story. But so is life.You will find more good than bad. Harry didn't always have a happy life. He had his sad and difficult times, but he lived through them positively.

So, do your studies as though you are learning magic. Because studies can do magic for your life ahead.

You have a family who misses you every minute. Your family and old friends are always there for you.

Never forget all the good things in life and never forget to thank God for them.


Sunday, 24 August 2014

Waiting over - Five sentence fiction

She sat in the cafe, laptop on table in front of her.
It looked as if she's engrossed in something on screen.
As the waiter came from behind the counter, she looked slyly.
Then back to her laptop screen.
Just then her cappuccino was served... waiting over.

Prompt by and Shared with -
Five Sentence Fiction - Waiting

At home - short story

I can't sleep.
I have to board a train to Goa early tomorrow morning.
Is it excitement? I wish, I so wish for it to be excitement.
I try to analyse what I am feeling... Restlessness, anxiety and even, fear.
I am going with my college friends.

I met them almost three years back on Day 1 of college.
I, with my awkwardness and shyness, was dreading ragging from seniors. These friends of mine took me under their wing. All four of them were from the same school, and they had the confidence to get friendly with the seniors.
The ragging phase was bypassed for them. And for me too.
Though silent, I was accepted as a part of that group. And I was happy. After a long time, I felt I'd come home.

My actual home doesn't feel like home. I live in a joint family with many aunts, uncles and cousins. But no parents - my parents passed away years back.
I am told that I am lucky to have such a good family taking care of me.
I hate being ungrateful, because I am taken care of. But there is no one person in the family, for whom I am the most important person. In this big family, I am invisible.
I wish this home felt like home.

When did I become the punching bag of my college group? When did I become the butt of every joke. And when did I decide to smile through it, because I felt I belonged?
Everyone in college knew me, because I was part of a popular group of students. I was visible.

I get up to go to the kitchen. May be I will make myself some tea, sit by the hall window and enjoy the rare silence of the house.
As I open the door I see that the light is on in the hall. I take a step back into my room, when Tauji (my father's elder brother) calls. "Who is it?"
As I come forward, he smiles. "I can't sleep either, Beta. Come, sit".
He's sitting on the swing. His demeanor is royal as usual. I join him, taking as little space as possible on the swing.

I sit there, not knowing what to say. Tauji has never been one for talking too much.
He must strongly believe in 'actions speak louder than words'. Being the head of the family, he lives a disciplined, selfless life that everyone respects, and follows, at least in front of him.

"So what's your plan now?"
I hate this question, because I don't have an answer.
I sit, pondering over what to say, so that I don't sound as foolish and lost as I feel.
"Your father would have wanted you to do what you love", he continues, to my surprise. "He always regretted not following his heart to become a writer. He took up a job because that's what was expected of him. By the time, he realized what he really wanted, he had responsibilities. And now... Don't do things that you don't want to."

I have my head bowed and eyes on his feet the whole time. Now I look into his knowing eyes. No one ever talks about my parents when I am around.
Does Tauji understand my turmoils and insecurities, I wonder. I feel strangely at peace, at home.
He smiles, pats me on the shoulder and leaves.

I do sit by the hall window, minus the tea though.
As dawn smiles at me, I feel excited.
After a long time, I feel like I have something to look forward to.

And I missed the train...

Image Source

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Simply Thrilling - Book Review ('Private India' - Ashwin Sanghi & James Patterson)

Private India
Authors: Ashwin Sanghi & James Patterson
Genre: Fiction (Mystery/Thriller)
Published by: Arrow Books
No. of pages: 447
Cover price: Rs. 350

Murders in the city of Mumbai, clearly the work of a serial killer, are being investigated by Private India, a premium investigative agency.
The head of Private India, Santosh Wagh is fighting his own private demons as he races against time to solve the murders, before the serial killer strikes again.
As the murders are investigated, it becomes a complicated case, when the Rich and Famous, the Politically Powerful, a Gang Leader, a Godman and even Terrorists, all seem to be somehow involved.

Santosh Wagh reminds me of Dr House. I guess the cane is the main reason. But there is also Santosh's addiction to alcohol, and Dr House's addiction to Vicodin.

For me a book takes-off, when I am going back to reading it every available moment. In case of Private India, the take-off took a little while. By Page 40 or so, I was hooked.

The chapters are usually short, as if small acts are being played. A peek into one angle of story, and then the scene changes... it keeps the mind on its toes...

Especially in the first few chapters, as the Chapter (or Act) would change and as new characters were introduced, I had to stop a couple of times, to kind-of think back, recall it all, and read on. But as I said before, it didn't take me long to be hooked.

The crime scenes described from the vision of a serial-killer are almost clinical, which is an effective means of making them scarier.

The life history of each character is short and to-the-point, a few words describing the defining experiences of their life.
As I read along, I was impressed by seemingly unpretentious descriptions of Mumbai. The contrast of the rich and poor of Mumbai, local trains, Haji Ali, Navratra celebration are described simply and precisely. It is impressive....
For me, this book epitomizes the art of 'less is more'. A few precisely chosen words, paint vivid, striking visual images.

This genre is not what I would usually read.
But I love Sherlock Holmes book, and this love has been further strengthened, thanks to BBC's Sherlock.
Mysteries interest me, but it is the mystery solvers that interest me more.
Private India is a good mystery, but the mystery solvers, i.e., the detectives are interesting too. That is why this book worked for me.

Private India is part of the Private series of books written by James Patterson in collaboration with other authors. It is the first of the series that I have read. But after reading it, I will certainly want to read a few others.

Favourite quotes from 'Private India'
  • "Mumbai - once known as Bombay - was a throbbing metropolis with the attitude of New York City, the chaos of Kathmandu, the vibe of Miami, and the infrastructure of Timbuktu."
  • "Life has no meaning without the presence of death. Life is simply the absence of death. The fools of this world labor to prevent death, unmindful of the fact that it is death that will set them free."
  • "The relationship between hunter and prey is unique. It's almost like unrequited love because one party hardly feels anything at all."
  • "Unlike a piece of wood which can turn out too short when you cut it, if a piece of metal is botched, we simply wait, reheat, and give it another go. There are always second chances-both in metal and in men."

I am not telling whether the ending was a big surprise, a small surprise, or no surprise at all. I will tell, though, that whatever it was, it was good, it was worth reading 447 pages.

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

Monday, 18 August 2014

Book Review - Kingdom Come (Aarti V Raman)

Title: Kingdom Come
Author: Aarti V Raman
Genre: Fiction (Romance, Thriller)
Published by: Harlequin India
Pages: 311
Cover price: Rs 299

'Kingdom Come' by 'Aarti V Raman' is the story of Krivi and Ziya.
Krivi Iyer is a former spy struggling with his painful past. His struggle with the pain and with self strikes a chord from the word go.
Ziya Maarten, brought up in foster homes, has a successful career. She is a loving person, who continues to see the best in people.
But for Krivi she's a person he has to spy upon as she's suspected to be the sister of The Woodpecker, a terrorist. Spying would be easy for Krivi had he not been for the attraction between the two.

Then there's Ziya's friend, Noor, a bubbly yet intelligent girl. Noor's fiance, Sam is in the military. Theirs is an endearing and haunting love story in itself.

Dada Akhtar, the owner of Goonj Business Enterprises, where Ziya works is another character that leaves an impression.

So, although, it is a book of Romance genre, it's other characters also leave a mark.

'Kingdom Come' has Krivi and Ziya's endeavour to catch The Woodpecker (a terrorist) while struggling with their own feelings.
The character of the bad guy is not as deep, intense or well-etched as Frederick Forsyth's books. But then, Forsyth's books are not reading for relaxation. This one is.

The book takes the reader from Kashmir, Ladakh and Tibet to London and even Mexico.

The author's appreciation for the tranquil beauty of Kashmir is indicated in the acknowledgements. Through the book, the serenity of Kashmir, Ladakh and Tibet are described with loving detail. Not that the practical problems of the places are left out.
Ladakh is described as 'God himself lived in these hills' and also as 'home to some of the worst atrocities humanity had committed against itself'. The tranquility of these places does provide a contrast to the struggles that take place in this book.

The twist in the tale is vaguely reminiscent of a Sidney Sheldon novel I read long back.

The cover design of the book gives a glimpse of scenic beauty and a couple holding hands, but alert as if on a mission... just right. And then there is the explosion on one side...

The phrase 'Kingdom Come' means 'Until the end of time'.
Not only is it the perfect title for a romance, it works great to describe all the thrill and danger in the story.
One gets blown to Kingdom Come if a bomb explodes.
And loving forever is 'loving till Kingdom Come'.

'Kingdom Come' is a fast-paced thriller with raging emotions. The story, it's emotions kept me hooked.

©Nimi Arora

Introspective Quotes from Kingdom come

About the Author:
Aarti V Raman lives in Mumbai, India and has a degree in mass media from Mumbai University. She has always dreamed of being either a romance writer or a lawyer and decided to pursue a writing career from a very early stage.
Aarti has already published a romantic thriller under the name Aarti V and has more works coming out in 2014. Her favourite dream of writing for Harlequin Mills and Boon has finally come true and she hopes to continue this fantastic relationship with many more love stories and fascinating characters.
Aarti loves to watch movies, TV series and read other romances and travel to different places in order to find a new hero and a new story.

I got this book in exchange of a review of the book - Write Tribe

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Why I still remember Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu with fondness

Chacha Chaudhary (Image Source)

Chacha Chaudhary is a neighbourhood uncle who is wise and kind.

Sabu is an alien from Jupiter - the first alien I ever knew. Long before E.T., and many other books and movies on aliens (some good, most bad), Sabu as Chacha Chaudhary's companion was lovingly and innocently accepted.

Chacha Chaudhary's brain works faster than a computer. Computers have been becoming unbelievably faster over the years, and I believe Chacha Chaudhary's mind still works faster than a computer. Go figure...

Source: Twitter

The alien is over-sized, brawny sidekick of Chacha Chaudhary, who comes in when physical force is needed to fight the evil. But despite the height gradient between Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu, he always seemed to be normal, just a 'little' taller.

Just as Chacha Chaudhary's brain is compared to a Computer, thanks to Sabu's brawn, 'Whenever Sabu gets angry, a volcano erupts in Jupiter'.

Cartoonist Pran (Pran Kumar Sharma) has been given the title of 'Walt Disney of India' in The World Encyclopedia of Comics.
That's great... but I knew and loved Cartoonist Pran's characters before I knew of Walt Disney.

RIP Pran ji (August 15, 1938 - August 6, 2014)

Book Review - Once Upon a Crush (Kiran Manral)

Title: Once Upon A Crush
Author: Kiran Manral
Genre: Fiction (Romantic Comedy)
Published by: Jufic Books, 2014
No. of pages: 224
Cover price: Rs. 195

The cover design of Once Upon a Crush with slightly smudged heart and red-coloured lipstick, sets the mood for the fun, light-hearted pleasure that this book is.
The red and gold cover is playful - the lipstick, the heart, the smudge and the colour.

Rayna De is the main protagonist of Once Upon a Crush. She's independent, about to turn 30 and has not love life. Her parents are after her to get married.
She has a crush on Deven Ahuja - Rayna compares him to Edward Cullen and Mr Darcy. Oh, and he has cheekbones comparable to Benedict Cumberbatch.

The stage is thus set for the emotions and the insecurities of being attracted, of getting to know someone. The hesitation of not asking a question frankly, and then looking for answers in gestures and random statements.
And especially our minds making mountains out of every molehill of gesture, statement and even silence.
The choice of not marrying, yet the insecurities of being alone.

I had just read the first couple of pages when I knew I would enjoy reading this one.

I was hooked when I read Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings mentioned in the same sentence. Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, Fifty Shades of Grey, Phantom, When Harry Met Sally, Twilight Saga, and many more make this book a reader's delight. Even the Queen of political incorrectness, sarcasm and outspokenness, Aunty Acid finds a place.

Rayna's day-nightmares make for great mental visuals - her shriveling ovaries and open pores on her face spouting geysers of oil.
So do her day-dreams - wanting to feed her boss bit by bit to very hungry crocs.

I wish there were more about Pixie in the book. Pixie is Rayna De's friend. Obviously I can't tell you much about her, as I don't want to fill up this review with spoilers. As the book ends, it left me wanting to know Pixie better, I want to know her story now - more about her past, and a lot about her future.
May I suggest to the author a sequel with Pixie as the protagonist. Tentative title 'Once Upon a Marriage' - depending on what path Pixie chose for her life.

The way the author plays with words is fascinating.
After reading this book, I find my head telling me to 'Carpe the Diem' instead of simply telling me to 'stop lazing around'.
The book is great for easy reading with lots of humour thrown in.

There is not a moment of boredom reading this book. The story may not throw up any great surprises, but the words are strikingly expressive.
There's a serious risk of having a smile on your face while reading this book and thus, attracting questioning stares.

Fun Quotes from Once Upon a Crush

About the Author
Kiran Manral has worked with some of the leading media houses in India as a features writer and journalist. Her debut novel, The Reluctant Detective, was published in 2012. She lives with her family in Mumbai and puts her current job definition down as school gate mom.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Pleading Eyes - 55 word fiction

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 48; the forty-eighth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton


His sister sat in her wheelchair, her eyes hopeful that he would change his decision to leave. He was the only one who could make her laugh.
He kept mumbling to himself, regret nothing. That's what he believed in.
Still he glanced back, gave her a pleading look, hoping she understood. His free life waited.

The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Participation Count: 01