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Book Review: Blue Vanquisher

Book Review: The Blue Vanquisher

Author Manoshi Sinha

Published in 2017

Blue Vanquisher


Indian mythology and particularly the great battle between Kauravas and Pandavas in the Mahabharata which continues to fascinate us and holds a prominent place in Hinduism. There are countless authors who are adopting the mythological stories by adding a dash of modernity in making the characters human and down to earth. Author Manoshi Sinha’s Blue Vanquisher is the second book as part of Krishna’s trilogy which followed the Eighth Avatar where she shows her devotion for the Lord which is a much-admired character in the history of Hindu mythology.

In short, Blue Vanquisher makes for an interesting read on the place Lord Krishna occupies in Hindu history which serves as a good guide to living a life laden with humility, sacrifice, and hard work.


Circa 3216 BCE! The end of Dwapar Yug! The first battle between Krishn and Jarasandh, the king of Magadh, ended in favor of the former. Sixteen more battles followed, one after another, with grander strategies and bigger armies in the outskirts of Mathura. To avert the 18th battle, Krishn did something. What did Krishn do?

Credit: Amazon


The Blue Vanquisher is an attempt to trace the life of Lord Krishna from his 14th to 85th years. There are several instances in the book right from the romance between Krishna and Rukmini that makes for an interesting account as well as the former’s friendship with Balram and Sudhama. Through the narration, the author showcases the friendship with Sudhama in a heart-wrenching manner touching several aspects such as the sacredness of relationship where prejudices or class differences play no part.

The climax makes for an interesting read where Draupadi makes a tirade and doesn’t even spare her own husband, Yuddhistir which puts to the fore the role of a wronged woman in society. The book discusses several issues such as the victory of good over evil in this tale where Krishna has always been a very competent ruler who strived to put an unbiased perspective, something that many of us should learn from.

On the whole, Blue Vanquisher makes quite an interesting read for people who are not well versed with the Mahabharata and the role of Lord Krishna in the Hindu way of life.

What’s Not!

Blue Vanquisher tells the story of Lord Krishna in the Mahabharata but, at the same time, it could have been set in the contemporary times by injecting a dose of realism to make them contemporary in real-time. At some point, the narration becomes drab with the 256 odd pages and perhaps the author could have given the narration a compact twist coupled with shortening the length. But, then, the book ends with the preparation of the Mahabharata war and one can only hope that the author builds on the interesting premise to make it engrossing.

Final Remarks:

The Blue Vanquisher serves as a good guide for people who are keen to explore the basics about the Mahabharata and Lord Krishna who is adored by many devotees. Another plus point is the author’s devotion for Lord Krishna. The book has both its high and low moments but, at the same time, the war climax is quite engaging where it promises to be an enthralling affair during the next installment.

You can check the author’s page here and buy the book on Amazon.




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Book Review: Braking News by Sunetra Choudhury

Review Braking News

Author: Sunetra Choudhury

Publisher: Hachette India

Rating: Four stars

Braking News.

‘I would not be an MC-BC (that’s mike carrier/bite collector’ in TV parlance and not just the Hindi gaali you’re thinking of!) I was free to gallivant about the country doing stories that I liked. If they gave me the show, it also meant that among the barrage of political reportage coming in across the country, my stories had less chances of getting lost.’


Today, Indian television occupies every tiny space like encroachers on pavements where some go to the rhetoric length while a few believe in their stories, not hesitating to make us discover the very small towns and villages, against whom we nurture biased prejudices.  NDTV’s Sunetra Choudhury’s Braking News is laden with intelligent humor which not only brings her electrifying persona alive but exudes an honest vulnerability as a journalist as Election Express steers 200 kilometers a day during the 2009 Lok Sabha election.

Braking News is an election special where she along with fellow journalist Naghma travels through the length and breadth of the country in NDTV’s iconic red bus.  At one shot, Braking News is a must read for aspiring journalists to unravel stories hidden in the vast Indian hinterland but should also be decoded in journalism schools or for experienced journalists in need for reinvention.


Sunetra Choudhury has a rich command over the down-to-earth expressions and a rich vocabulary boasting of self-depreciation humor, but most importantly a storyteller with a unique flair which shows the journalism penchant for hunting human stories that a nation needs much beyond the daily diatribe to boost TRP. There are very few, among journalists and intellects who would confide in a book how stories are rejected, a make-up gone horribly wrong and publishing hate letters from viewers. We are introduced to the superstar journalist Naghma who remained unfazed by all the attention and characters like the camera people Mohammed and Nishant or the chain-smoker with a heart of gold, Ganga Singh-Ji driving them to explore various facets of India.

Aspirations are inherently vibrant among small-town folks when we see an 11-year-old Hirendra in Penchmohalla speaking fluent English and confident on his aspirations to become a doctor. One can only languish at a rotten system that kills dreams in the embryo. Isn’t it true for lakhs in small towns and villages? Contrast it with little Bhuri, a young girl in Shivgarh staring at Sunetra when village women urge the journalist to take her along. There is saying that we compromise with what we lack and perhaps, the motherless Bhuri was making do with and secretly wishing to run away to soar in the sky. Why do we obliterate the fact that we belong to a failed system?

Braking News is not a book restricted to journalism but the people in India and our prejudices when we see Naghma fascinated by temples and on account of being a Muslim visiting a Hindu place of worship shouldn’t grab an eyeball. But the conversation between the two ladies finds relevance when the danger of tolerance lurks in.  The fact that Naghma takes an active part in rituals and when she walked past a temple with a notice, ‘Only Hindus are allowed’ makes us hope for our secular future and the values which India has always stood for.

Of course, the honesty is searing in Braking News when the author tells the tale of local journalist  Narayan who marches ahead to unearth real issues in Andhra Pradesh on the poor and slum dwellers when roads are built overnight to impress upon foreign dignitaries. A far cry from the mainstream media weighing the impact of nuclear disarmament, geopolitics and India’s might over Pakistan and nicely ignoring the need for ‘roti, kapda aur makaan.’ We often get the impression that the poor don’t exist where real issues such as decent roads, eliminating potholes, drainage, better roads or nutrition finds no relevance.

Bihar is one state that hogs the limelight for more wrong reasons than right ones not just during the feverish election but when scandals rock the boat.  Of course, Lalu is a common thread but there is a life beyond the faces when we take pleasure in scorning on bhaiyas. The issues are real, be it electricity-deprived villages while a tower stood high or street smart children hailing from the state-funded Jharkhand schools mastering six languages but yet the one to open floodgates of opportunities, English, was not taught in schools.

NDTV journalist and author, Sunetra Choudhury.

It’s no secret that Laloo is a self-obsessed man where the author offers a first-hand account of the man many think to be a cartoon. It’s revealing to see the man fancying for the NDTV’s red bus to win over his people.

Of course, one revelation that perhaps would make many shudder are the college-going Haryanvi girls who cannot vote before they are married. Traditions can be strange and the balance heavily tilted against women where we are tempted to say, ‘No country or state for women.’  The episode of the Haryanvi girls should plague us since we are dealing with postgrads students who remain unaffected on their rights to freedom or democracy.  The future should worry us with this Sarpanch herd mentality where making a voting card is a seemingly lost cause.

Sexism remained an important part of the campaign where women are at receiving ends on the different treatment being meted out. It’s a sexist world with distinct power stroke strategy for both men and women. Actress turned politician Jaya Pradha paid a huge price when she was labeled for her dancing skills and ‘theatrics’ by Azam Khan rather than being questioned for her lack of political astuteness or policy strategy.

The light moments flits effortlessly in the book where Naghma is incensed as Sunetra innocently asked what’s ‘thandai’ the last glass relished on the trip or the most hilarious moment when the author asked a gun toting dude in public, ‘Are you from a daaku family?’ It seems innocent and fearful at the same time but the instances could have easily been part of a humorous rom-com book about a couple eloping. Love it.

What’s Not!

The Modi wave was a single thread missing in the 2009 election when L K Advani led the pack and perhaps Sunetra could have offered a glimpse on the former PM’s candidate prospect, no matter how bleak it appeared in real time. Sonia Gandhi is another intriguing character as the Congress’ high command and how I wanted an insight not just in her life but also Priyanka who bears streaks of grandmother, Indira Gandhi.


Final words:

‘Everyday I’d stood up to the journalistic test of being only as good as my last story. But after, today, would I be content to go back to my old beat, running between the Congress office and Parliament?’

It’s no easy task to pen a book like Braking News which complements humor, by-lanes, the real India we call Bharat which offers seamless insights into lives hidden by the smokescreen. Like Sunetra Choudhury says, Election Express was an arduous task yet it offers an experimental journey that would alter the journey of a journalist worth its salt. Braking News is the book you need to read if you want to understand the nuances of journalism in India and I say it as an outsider. The book makes you feel like a traveler in the Election Express.

You can check the book link on Amazon. 



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Book Review: Mountains to Manhattan is a riveting read

Book Review: Mountains to Manhattan

Author: Pinakie Kansabanik

Published: Omji Publishing House, New Delhi

Rating: Three and a half stars

Released: June 2017

Image credit:


Tenzin Lhamo is a Tibetan born in India. She is smart and politically conscious. There is a certain charm in the fleshing of a character, driven by passion and ambition. What she lacks is a home she can call her own. She is wild in a subdued manner but armed with dreams to conquer her world.  The novel Mountains to Manhattan, as the name implies, traces the journey of a Tibetan girl, in the high-cold desert of Leh in the Himalayas to Bangalore, Delhi, Austria, and Manhattan in the quest for an identity.


What if you were born without a country? Tenzin Lhamo is a Tibetan born in India. To fulfill her own aspirations and that of her family, Tenzin undertakes a perilous journey halfway across the world in search of a country that would own her, give her respect and freedom as its citizen and let her earn enough to support her family. Was she given the dignity, she yearned for? Tagged Chinese, an identity all Tibetans shun, she wondered if it was worth the cost of a citizenship.

Credit: Goodreads 


The book opens in an engrossing manner where the author, Pinakie Kansabanik paints a vibrant picture about life in the mountainous and raven valley coated with amusing anecdotes by Tenzin’s granny who cannot get enough about her past Tibetan life.

The small house carved with clay, the celebration of the local new year Losar and a peek into the village life, the walls of the house, ‘sloped inwards and a layer of shattered twigs and juniper branches were the ceiling’ lends a certain simplicity and human endearment to a story which is a rarity nowadays.

The soupy noodles offered to the God, it’s called Thupka and Granny’s ritual of flinging the food towards the sky as if it’s a toast on the eve of Losar enriches the narration with a delectable flavor pretty much like the staple Tsampa diet. Beautifully constructed and weaved like a lyrical hymn celebrating humanity in a spirited galore.

The pain of displacement is brought to the fore with the self-immolation of one Thubten Ngodup in public glare to raise attention on the plight of the community, with people sitting under a huge white canopy or wearing black bandana as part of the free Tibet movement. It’s a reality which finds resonance in today’s time right from Palestine to Rohingya. The author makes a powerful statement on the silent rebellion of a displaced community which raises questions on basic human rights where a local community of settlers feels excluded. It’s grave and not limited solely to the Tibet community but the North East community, Jammu populace or Kashmiris, born and bred in India.

The author raises pertinent questions on the anguish faced and battling the label as ‘refugee’ in one’s own country. There is pain borne in everyday reality where the protagonist has to seek clearance issued by the Government in the form of identity certificate, another name for a visa-like document seeking permission to breathe the fresh air in one’s land.

The character Tenzin is a girl in a hurry in the quest to crave for human identity coupled with the dearth of opportunity or freedom for her lot. It begs the question on a borderless land to conquer fear and the reality at the other end of the road where equal opportunity seems to be a term lost in translation, a world that we choose to willfully ignore. There are questions that disturb us at a time when we are aspiring to become a first world country yet people born and bred in the country are excluded on flimsy ground, be it poverty, as unequal citizens deprived of their identity and rights.

We have all heard about the chinki pejorative which is not only used but spread or perpetuated in our society slowly building up into a social malaise. Pinakie Kansabanik builds an effectively animate and fiery conversation between Tenzin and her boss when she wants to move out of the country in the quest for a better life on the plight faced on being a Tibetan.

What’s Not!

The book is engrossing and a page-turner on the plight of the Tibetan community but at some point or the other, there is a certain cliché which slackens the narrating flow. The sequence where the protagonist’s mother makes an over the top drama by accusing her of having sex or raped by a boy she likes seems forced to the plot. Moreover, the entire adventure of pretending to be born in China while seeking Austrian asylum and once business gets done, she moves to the United States using the same trick gets tedious after some point.


Concluding Words:

On the whole, Pinakie Kansabanik’s Mountain to Manhattan is a powerful book which stresses on the plight of the Tibetan community and their sense of alienation in a powerful manner.  It raises several important questions about the lives of refugees that go much beyond what we read in the news. The story is bold, riveting and tears our heart in a gut-wrenching manner. Of course, there is no dearth of light moments in the book for the author has injected the endearing concept of exchange of the good ole love letters as love blossoms. It’s something we don’t see anymore in books. It’s one aspect that helps to break the seriousness or gloom that sets in. A must read.

Click on Amazon to buy your copy. You can check the author’s website here.

PS: It is a commissioned review.

With love


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Book Review: This Unquiet Land by Barkha Dutt

This Unquiet Land

Author: Barkha Dutt

Publisher: Aleph

Rating: Four and a half

You can buy the book on Amazon.


This Unquiet Land

You cannot observe India from a distance, our rich history, painful past, the caste system, cross-dressing politics, plight of women treated as second-class citizens, terror or Kargil war. India boasts of a rich history and legacy that no one can blithely claim to ignore. Unravelling skeletons in the cupboard is something many of us wouldn’t dare to do.

‘This Unquiet Land’ offers a subtext and narrative of journalism often aired live in recording studios about a country which is forever restless and provokes chaos entrenched in our lives as we wear the cloak of passive spectators. Barkha Dutt who is arguably one of the most talked journalists is never shy to explore the issues with depth and explore our contradiction as a nation.

Barkha Dutt remains for me a journalist of indomitable courage and someone whom I hold in the highest regard. One couldn’t stop smiling when she narrates anecdotes about her initial years in the profession.

The book starts with this anecdote that makes one smile on how a young Barkha Dutt leaped and sat on the bonnet of the car and obstinately refused to be buckled down. The brash brat TV kid, after all, started her career at a time when private TV has just seeped into our lives.

  1. War zone & conflict, terror, and peace

 ‘War is one thing but basic human right is another’

The Kargil war occupies a place of pride in our history, the Sachian glacier and of course, sons of our soil like Captain Vikram Batra and Vishal Sikka who gave a dose of realism and makes us shudder down the spine to think the soldiers walked past the barren and cold mountains. Barkha Dutt gives a first-hand account of negotiations between General Malik and PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee or the hard truth about the US’s colorable device who always jump the gun, albeit interference whenever it suits their vested interests.

It is very easy to succinctly give in to temptation on war zone not for the comfort offered but inherent fear of bombs and guns splintered. It commands respect and admiration when the journalist tells in an equivocal manner that she expects no special favor on the account of being a woman.  It is relevant in the present times where we debate at length on the place of woman in society.

The fear of terrorism is ingrained in our psychology.  Dutt reminds us of events that we have comfortably forgotten, be it the Coffingate scandal in the procurement of Kargil coffin and the security lapse when an Ambassador car hoodwinked security to find its way inside parliament. It simply blows the mind when we come with the lame excuse of being within striking distance. The lack of aggressiveness in our foreign policy and tackling terror is legendary.

Same echo during the 26/11 when we witnessed an entire collapse of the defense system, right from wireless communications to dearth of reinforcement and the support team. It’s blatant. It was an unequal battle where the bulletproof jackets failed to protect against 9 mm bullets.  The substandard protective gears show how corruption is deeply rooted in the system or the obsolete jacket worn by forces where a city was brought to its knee.

Dutt’s book portrays the shoddy state of affair and shows why blame game doesn’t amount to concrete action where Kasab and consorts were given a free rein. The lack of ambulance to ferry Salaskar or the missing jacket of Hemant Karkare raises questions that we haven’t been able to answer even nine years later. Headley, of course, is the missing link in one of the biggest terror attack considering that he was under surveillance for a year before the heinous crime that shook Mumbai and the why of the information that was failed to be passed to New Delhi by the FBI.

The disturbing scenes when Barkha Dutt reported 26/11 in front of Taj Hotel disappointed me for I felt she was swayed by the rhetoric mantra to garner TRP.  I am glad that she addressed the concerns of citizens and critics, alike. It was disturbing to see my favorite journalist hitting the wrong nail. There was a middle-class malaise that perpetuated since Mumbai was pretty much about us and was the first time this specific class complained about the scheme of things. Perhaps, the media wasn’t doing enough to give the people a voice. How I wished she spoke in a more expansive voice on what went wrong with the media on this day. The graphic of violence is something the urban community wanted to avoid and I agree with her. It disturbs but reflects reality.

  1. Poverty, women, and liberalization


BARKHA DUTT/Image credit:

If statistics could speak, we should have hung our head in shame when seven out of ten households in India remain rural and live on less than Rs 200 a day.  I think it is a human tragedy when we cannot fight poverty and let people die of hunger at a time we are speaking about Make in India campaign or furthering so-called development agenda in our quest to become a super economic power.

It hurts us as a country when a Pawan Malviya is stone pelted for taking his baraat on a horse. His only crime is being born a Dalit. Or, Maya Gautam shunned even by beggars and considered to be filthier than the washroom she mops. It’s a social malaise in an age of modernism which is not solely restricted to Dalits.  We cannot talk about growth or aspirations when half of the children in villages are dying due to malnutrition.  The stats in the book never lie: 1.4 million children die before they turn 5. Let’s not speak about India Shining. The food stock that gets lost or is pilfered and the remote distance to be covered to visit a doctor when the poor Kesar dies on his way should concern everyone, from the media to the policymakers, corporate and civil society.  It’s a criminal act. The poor boy’s nutrition was rabri made on atta chakki, ground maize thinned with water to last longer. No, a child cannot afford milk and his death is blame on fever.

We live in an ugly patriarchal world. The author taps into an important issue facing women the Triple Talaq where women up against it for a fair and just society were at the receiving end.  It’s something that the author spoke at length in the book on women fighting against it who were scorned upon and just now the cabinet cleared the bill to make it a criminal offense. The debate surrounding Uniform Civil Code for India makes for an interesting perspective on how the odds are stacked against gender equality. Triple Talaq or not, the prejudice that woman suffers remain in our society.

Unfortunately, like the author stresses out, India is still defined by cultural incongruities and the fight for women rights unrestricted to India remains the biggest battle.  Like Indra Nooyi the CEO of Pepsi Co once said, ‘No women can’t have it all’, it is something that should push us to reflect on one of the most important rights for women which legitimately belong to them. Freedom cannot be traded or compromised.

Barkha Dutt’s hits the right nail when she says the global rights of women that contains sexual violence and gender equality shouldn’t be treated as a marginal issue. “Feminism is about freedom.’ She calls for parity at home but at the same time, the sexy ads with taglines,  Superman, and Superwoman which are deemed by many of us as unfair balance mounted against women. How do we change our attitudes against women?’ remain the larger questions that call for a passionate debate much beyond social roles at home.

Of course, India is plagued by sexual violence with the rape of Jyoti Singh christened Nirbhaya or innocent children brutally raped push to ponder what has changed after the mass protest in Delhi. We continue to blame the victims but never the perpetrator. The author touches something personal when she faced an attempted sexual violence and the hypocrisy in the faculty telling her to be ‘practical’ in an age where the Vishakha Guideline was non-existent.

The chapter on ‘The Place of Women’ is treated with sensitivity for us to explore the issue in its entirety. There is not a woman who has been spared be it physical violence or groped in public.  We cannot remain as passive spectators and this chapter in the book provides fodder to us all on where to start and tackle the issue from its roots.

  1. Politics, rise of Modi, Moditva agenda and media relationship

Indian politics witnessed the frenzy of the Modi wave who thundered a massive election victory in 2014 that created history. It is important to go back to 2013 when the anointment of Narendra Modi as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate was met with opposition in the form of Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj or Advani. The power of balance was shifted within the BJP ranks and Dutt rightly drew a contrast when Rajnath Singh wore a skull cap offered by a Muslim leader when Modi refused. It was the start of Moditva agenda that shifted the power balance with the original Hindutva mascot L K Advani bowing out.

The relationship between RSS and Modi is an important facet that Barkha Dutt explored in the book with the meteoric rises of the BJP and voted swing in favor of the PM as RSS mascot. At the same time, pertinent questions are raised on the silence of the PM where provocative statements are made by his ministers, often lingering on insanity sapping the secular fabric of India as a nation. Dutt’s attempts to find an answer to that but it remains largely open to debate.

I think when we speak about the rise of Modi as PM, it is important to assess how Rahul Gandhi always makes the wrong comment at the right or wrong time. He is a personality that intrigues me. Dutt emphasized at Gandhi’s technicality, a rare trait that never makes leaders or wins elections fought at the grass root level.

4. Caste syndrome, rise of Hindu mob and dark era in history

Unfortunately, our rich history as a country also bears testimony to a painful past with the Gujarat riots, Janbhoomi issue or Ayodhya or riots that claimed the lives of Sikhs after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.  Ugly politics were played both by the BJP and Congress over human lives at some point or the other in Indian history. We faced the darkest period in our history where bodies were charred and splattered where no FIR was filed and grisly murder or rape of minority women post Godhra. The chanting of Jai Bajrang Dal in the 2000s presaged the rise of Hindu mob in today’s times and mass conversion where humans are stripped of human dignity.  It sends us a chill down the spine where rape victims were ostracized in the name of religion and politics.

This Unquiet Land.

It can be argued with legitimate reason that today’s triumph of the BJP has a lot to do with the destruction of the Babri Mosque.  It led to the rise of the fringe elements and Hindu Mob who would not stop at anything. The Congress played the secularism card shamelessly as a political tool and case in point is the banning of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses or the Shah Bano case.

The topic of mass conversion makes us wonder on its relevance in modern India and the place it occupies with the proselytization of Muslims and Christians’ place of worship. The author raises pertinent questions on the issues where rather than empowering the poor, conversions is used as a false argument to damage the country’s secular fabric.

I feel a shudder down the spine when the author unveils the stark reality behind the curtain during the Tsunami that struck the country where the class syndrome of the rich and blurred cast lines serves as a reminder on how the Dalit community battered to death would get food only after being distributed to high caste fishermen. It is a chilling account that should incense us as humans.  There was silence on the part of the high-class which reveals apathy.  Barkha Dutt shares how she received a call or a complaint, “Do we really have to watch this depressing stuff on television right now?” It reveals a malaise in our society on the high-class entitlement or their sense of justice.

The fourth estate is a watchdog of democracy and the brutal assault or murder of journalists doesn’t augur well for our society. Time to stop this rhubarb by calling honest journalists as prostitutes or Lutyens for they often take huge risks at the cost of their lives. It’s one of the issues that I have with people labeling journalist with all kind of names, ‘presstitutes’ which showcases the prejudice we suffer as passive victims that turns into an overt aggressor.

Barkha Dutt’s This Unquiet Land offers a first-hand account in the valley of Jammu and Kashmir that serves as an eye-opener on the misfortune and pain endured by the people. A chronicle of pain, corpses, coffins and the valor of men in uniform or the disappearance of a family member or bullets pumped in children or innocent women which sadly doesn’t make the cut in the global media dehumanizes us. One is tempted to ask, ‘Are they children of lesser Gods or humans?’ No candle lit or marches of solidarity but yet Kashmir Chronicles hit us hard on the face.

Concluding Remarks:

Barkha Dutt’s The Unquiet Land is a holy book that should find its way in schools of journalism and the various issues should be discussed as case study. A book which doesn’t limit itself to the nitty-gritty of the author’s profession but serves as fodder be it in the way India has evolved over the years from a self-sufficient to a society of mass consumption. Right from foreign cars being a rarity, including Dutt’s ‘Benzy’ in the 80s to mobile India with Americanized food chains or single hall cinemas, the great divide between the rich and ‘chavanni’ ushering into multiplex, we are a country at the crossroad. Perhaps, there are lots of confusing as we battle an identity crisis, past achievements, and struggles. Or else, how do we explain the grisly murder of a Mohamed Aqlaf? Do we suffer from class inferiority forever ingrained in religion? There are questions that we perhaps should leave open-ended.

This Unquiet Land is not a book but a journey in the life of a country. It’s India. The author doesn’t content herself to give just a peek but a rare insight into our identity and issues that never cease to prod us to discuss and reflect. If you want to study the country in its form and our knee-jerk reasoning often verging on the theory of irrationality, Barkha Dutt’s This Unquiet Land offers a subtle beginning and good base. A must read which no Indian or international observer can afford to stay away from.




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Book Review: Love across a broken map is searing portrait of emotions

Book Review: Love across a broken map

Genre: Short stories from The Whole Kahani/anthology across Asia

Copyright Dahlia publishing

Rating: Four stars

Image credit:


In the foreword, Susmita Bhattacharya describes Love across a broken map as a collection of short stories spanning across the South Asian diaspora.  It’s not just an anthology but a stream of human emotions expressed through the stroke of pens touching lives and imaginations. The various descriptions are vivid, be it portraying migrants nestled in a new home in London and craving for this staple diet called love or coming face-to-face with destiny.  In short, the anthology of short stories finds its earnest place in the reader’s heart on account of the honest and sensitive expressions.


From London to Goa, Manchester to Mumbai, tales that span start-ups, girl crushes, virtual gigolos, obsessive fans and astrological mishaps. This eclectic mix of short stories from The Whole Kahani explores love and loss across the dividing lines of culture, race, and ethnicity. Love is celebrated, broken and forgotten; is embraced and remembered in this collection of stories of heartbreak and resilience.

More can be read here.


The collection unfurl with ‘Watermelon Seeds’ where writer CG Menon injects prose pocked with gentleness and playfulness at the same time in the engrossing tale through the believable characters.  Alex Caan’s ‘Rocky Romeo’ stirs the taste bud in this heart-pounding offering where the words flow in the vein in narrating the otherworldly life fleshed in the most humane possible manner. Love can strike in the hardest way in the virtual world in this terrible fable beautiful marrying the road for thrill and unexpected love.

The Nine Headed Ravan served by Radhika Kapur is a real cocktail about an unusual love story between two incomplete humans and afflicted by the chasm of emotions or destiny, for that matter. The author throws an emphatic look at the gap in our relationships or fate’s way of snatching our identity that deprives individuals of becoming a whole entity.  It’s one of my favorite stories for the author doesn’t take the run-of-the-mill route but touches the story with a dash of realism, human emotions running high and the engrossing end in the quest for love built with a strong message about the heart’s peculiar way of joining the dots.

‘Three Singers’ is about well, three singers where Kavita Jindal weaves a compelling tale through her riveting language and effortless narration. You just cannot afford to put down this tale. Jindal has a rich language and the detailing in her repertoire, thus making it unique about the twin sisters and the subdued jealousy vying for love. The end comes as surprise but sensational in this down-to-earth story and refreshing story that captures the mind.

The anthology boasts of several heartwarming stories, right from Mona Dash’s ‘To London’ that gently reminds us that love needing no reason or logic. This impossible love story can get intense, repulsive and soothing at the same time which leaves a searing impact on the soul. Iman Qureshi’s ‘Naz’ brings an edge and rare intensity in depicting the gamut of feelings that we hide on the fear of being judged.  The story expresses the shady and dark sides of life’s various facets while at the same time, lending a ubiquitous charm and sensitivity to same-sex attraction. There is Rohan Kar’s ‘We are all made of stars’ who touches the issue of stars and planets in relationships and its violent bearing or the place of an independent woman in our society as well as the fact of coming to terms with the unpleasantness.  Reshma Ruia’s ‘Soul Sisters’ deserves to be read to understand the various nuances of human emotions and the therapeutic approach that effectively deals with darkness and disappointment.

Shibani Lal’s ‘Entwined Destinies’ is about the father-daughter bond where the theme of sacrifice captures the heart. Our relationships are precious so are our dreams, aspirations, and destiny that spans across generations. The book ends with ‘By Hand’ penned by Farrah Yusuf where loneliness is showcased as painful and the end of everything is the only reality.  It’s a heart-wrenching tale that makes one wonder about the fallacy of human existence.

Final Words:

Love across Broken Maps is a collection of short stories and it gets tricky to pick faults in the individually penned stories spanning across continents. The authors have offered a bouquet of emotions and relationships set most in England where hearts are strummed together and bearing souls open.  A commendable effort on the part of the various authors in narrative sensitive tales about lives, and unpeeling the layers of expression, love which is unrequited at times,  pain, angst and dreams to conquer ourselves and the world we live in.

You can click on the Amazon link to buy the book and click here for more information.



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Book Review: Love has its Various Ways is the invisible force of the universe

Book Review: Love has its Various Ways

Author: Divya Kapoor

Genre: Self Help and spirituality

Rating: Four stars

Book Cover


Life is never known to put us on a pedestal. It is ruthless and often takes away our self-worth. Depression is one thing that gnaws us and bites us like termite in every breath that we take. Nobody can claim to be safe from the blows that life deals, be it a lack of self-worth, frustration and career swing where we suddenly find ourselves in shamble. The uncertainties and vagaries of existence can haunt us where happiness becomes a traded luxury.

Author Divya Kapoor approached me on Linked in for the review of her book, ‘Love has its Various Ways ‘where she takes a methodical approach to treat the issues that we face in everyday life. It would be wrong to confine this book under the tag of self-help but a gem that will accompany you at every step in life and push one’s boundary to fully explore the self at every stage.


Divya Kapoor gently explores several issues that touch lives where she offers a step-by-step approach to face the downside of things. We often stumble but willfully ignore the factors that make us an emotional wreck.  The book touches several aspects where the human mind and the body are constantly at odds that hit a new low every single day. The mind is not free from ailments. We are often surrounded by several negative people who bring such toxic energy that bogs us down and contributes to make us lose our self-worth and mental peace.

I like the caterpillar and butterfly analogy which is striking and powerful at the same time.  The pain that the caterpillar goes through before it takes shape into the colorful butterfly reminds us how change can tear us apart but at the same time, it takes the form of self-growth and empowerment. Life calls for drastic changes that allow us to discover a world of extraordinary and limitless possibilities when pushed to the brink.

Self-destruction mode is something that none of us is immune to and there are many who live a dead existence, losing the zing and mojo. Divya explores this issue of ‘US against US’ where she taps into the energy flow that we attract through our psyche and energy. The ingrained pessimism inside us will only bring negativity and it’s interesting to see how the whole thing works like a tide. There is a need to question established norms and beliefs that lead us to grow from strength to strength as a human being. Accepting the status quo has never led us anywhere. The book serves as a reminder and it shakes us to act.

Ever wondered why we are in a pit most of the times! There is a fear within us and it grows mightier that sucks our energy, hence, paralyzing our well-being. It’s a conditioned response, Divya observes.  But, she brings to the fore small exercises that we can do to flush it out. It’s about killing the fears. Most of us have gone through the mental blocks which are fed inside our mind.

I really like the three bones advocated, the wish bone, backbone and the funny bone. The sense of oneness and purpose coming face to face with the real are priceless learning that will make this book not only your guide but a friend that will equip you to face the trials and tribulations. Loving the self should be above everything.

The book includes a work book, from day 1 to day 10 which is very therapeutic and as I glean through them, I not only felt light like the light feather. It’s the real me. The exercise explains in detail the Emotional Freedom Technique (ETF) which every person in my humble opinion must go through. It’s a must have book. I personally love what Divya says, ‘Invisible force of Universe.’ Don’t resist and let it carry you.

Final Words

It is not just a book but a friend, an inner voice that must be nurtured and made part of your journey. Don’t push this force and tenderness away from you! It’s called Divya Kapoor’s Love has its Various Ways.

You can check out Divya Kapoor’s blog, check out the book blurb on Gooodreads, and click to buy it here. Check here for more details and the You Tube channel.




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Book Review: KJO’s An Unsuitable Boy bare it all, is honest and triumphs with style

Book Review: An Unsuitable Boy


Karan Johar with Poonam Saxena

Publisher: Penguin

Released in 2017

Rating: Four stars,204,203,200_.jpg


Karan Johar is a brand name for success in the movie industry and it’s no secret that he is a man with the Midas touch, having a strong business acumen on the winning formula at the box office. There are very few people in the industry who are ready to make open revelations on what goes behind the curtain or bed sheet, giving an insight into his private life, paid sex or the different power games or the relationships balance that gives fillip to our minds. KJO has a larger than life personality and like his movies and chat show Koffee with Karan, An Unsuitable Boy offers a king size adventure not only in the life of the filmmaker but his growing up days, film-making journey, taking the mantle of Dharma Productions, Bombay days and grappling with sexuality. An Unsuitable Boy is similar to Karan’s movies, the ups, and downs faced in both his career and personal life but at the end of the day, triumphs with style.


The book starts with his growing up years in this building called Acropolis in Malabar Hill in Bombay and according to the film-maker, finance was a real struggle at home. Now, that’s quite a revelation when Karan says that his Dad, producer Yash Johar was able to make both ends meet by profits earned through the family export firm. The only hit in Johar senior’s two decades old career before Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was the Amitabh Bachchan-Shatrughan Sinha starrer Dostana so much that Karan as a young boy was discouraged to get into films.

The book traces his interesting journey, right from assisting Aditya Chopra on DDLJ, to write sequences in the film, the story-teller quality that was always inherently present in him, to be clueless on the first day of shoot, striking a close friendship with Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol to ultimately making Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (KKHH). It’s quite hilarious to read about the film’s premiere when the new film-maker received death threats and was confined inside Liberty theatre while all he wanted during all these years was to see Shammi Kapoor walk out of his Mercedes to see his premiere. He did.  It was his moment of fame and glory but was soon sent back inside the room where two body guards played darban.

The book is honest to the core, right from taking over Dharma Productions to bringing back his college friend Apoorva Mehta from London to see things over and Anil Ambani handing him a chit that contained investment, bank account, and go-to-people details. Of course, Karan confesses on what went behind the scenes during the shooting of Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna which is based on extra marital relations. How many film makers would open tell that most of his actors, right from Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta, except Abhishek playing the wronged guy, whined about the subject-matter? That’s quite a confession to make because as a creative person, there is a certain ego to justify your work but here is a man saying how he hated KANK and the reality behind the whole saga.

He provides a sharp, bare it all and insightful take on marriage and extra relationships that most of us prefer to hide:

‘You find me one marriage that has opportunity and hasn’t succumbed in it. They experience it at home, brush it under the carpet and move on. There is a huge latent hypocrisy in our society…sometimes you do love your spouse but you’re not necessarily turned on by them after two decades of marriage. So they come back with a guilt and a present…Is this the reality of our times? Where is that old school resilience? Is divorce the new marriage?’

How interesting! The questions asked by the film-maker are not something many of us are comfortable to face but we wilfully run away from. It’s the reality in today’s times. The confession of joining an online dating service, unrequited love in the past and the nerve-racking experience of paying for sex deserves respect for the filmmaker choose to come out in the open in a brazenly honest manner. He openly confesses of seeing a counselor after facing depression and the need for medication to calm him or experimenting with popping a pill in Goa that did nothing to him ecstasy wise but went to sleep. There is a certain fun in the seriousness that KJO injects in the book. It will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

KJO is not shy in speaking about the fall out he had with close friend Kajol following Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, gently broaching on his sexuality, an entire chapter devoted to his association with Shah Rukh Khan whom he consider as a brother or his closeness to Gauri and the kids.

Of course, being a celebrity in the age of social media is no easy task where you are subjected to all forms of ludicrous public scrutiny. It’s something that he assesses in a competent manner on how the younger kids are too worried about failure or too careful to take risks. Compare it to the Khans who hold a controlled megalomania but the people feel close to them because of their relatable quotient and endearing quality. Or, Amitabh Bachchan is an exception where no one knows what goes inside his head but there lies a certain mysticism and silence that makes him relevant and so loved even in today’s times.

What’s Not!

Karan Johar should have been more open about his sexual orientation taking into account that he speaks about the lack of relatable factor when it comes to the younger brigade of stars. Perhaps, that would have broken the ice and make his personality more endearing that people could have related more to him. But, then, it’s his personal calling and something that we should respect. The book is an odd 216 pages which give the feeling that it’s quite short on the enigma that Karan Johar is becoming in the film industry. Salacious and juicy, something which I feel is somehow missing in parts.

Final Words:

‘There is no nepotism any longer. Film-makers are bringing in new cultures with their own style of film-making…Hindi cinema is actually not an invasion, it’s an inclusion. A new kind of content is being made and appreciated.’

An Unsuitable Boy is not just a book but a vivid journey tracing the life of one of the most successful film makers in the Hindi film industry. It’s a bold account. The best thing about the book is that he touches the various issues with a certain raw reality and credit goes to him for saying how Indian cinema will become more relevant globally with the kind of experimental movies being made. I have always been against this commercial versus art debate for it’s my firm belief as a film critic and passionate cinema goer that either you make a good or bad product. Casting aside the whole nepotism fracas, An Unsuitable Boy gets so real and whether you adore or abhor KJO, this book is a compelling read and a page turner so much that you will laud the man for the courage shown. It’s the book’s USP for it lays bare everything under the sun. A must read in the world of glitz, glamor but also what lies behind the curtains.