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Posts Tagged ‘Mumbai’


If Truth Be Told: A Monk Memoir
Om Swami | Harper Element | Rs 499

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.56.54 PMAmit Sharma grew up in Patiala and flew to Australia to study and eventually work in the IT software industry. Then one day, he decided to renounce his family, wealth (including a Porsche) and friends in Sydney to embark on a spiritual journey because he says, he “wanted to devote his life to the search of Truth”. He returned to India, sought out Kashi, gurus, tantric yoga and wisdom. He says he attained “enlightenment” in a forest and that ‘tantra’ is not about tantric sex but realizing the self. Today, he runs an ashram in Uttaranchal and seeks followers.

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Item Girl
Richa Lakhera | Rupa| Rs 195

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.56.39 PMThe story hidden between the pages of this thriller – set in the underbelly of Bollywood studios – zeros on rape, blackmail and ‘ma-behen’ invectives to paint what the blurb at the back of the book announces as “the dark side of showbiz”. It’s a tedious read – the ramble, the hectoring, the sloth of thought and the language of tired clichés (the plants were rotting alive; feet sounding brittle and hard on scratchy shabby grass; her first film turned out to be a stellar hit). Rupa needs to tighten its editing skills and Lakhera her story telling abilities.

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For Tibet, With Love
Isabel Losada | Bloomsbury | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.56.25 PMIsabel Losada, a journalist from Battersea, England, travels to China, India and London to decipher how Tibet can win autonomy from Chinese rule. Along the way, she learns that world can’t be changed by staging world concerts or by calling the Chinese evil. Aptly subtitled as a “beginners guide for changing the world”, Losada in this book finally reaches out to Dalai Lama asking him what she and others who felt like her could do? He tells her to continue writing, learn from Gandhi’s ‘constructive determination’ and accept the ‘humanism’ of the Tibetan culture. Wise.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 15 February 2015)

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The Last Love Letter
Minty Tejpal | Hachette| Rs 395

“Somewhere, the fairytale romance of marriage wore off and the female character wanted her own identity. Female empowerment is good, but it has its issues,” says Tejpal of his debut book, The Last Love Letter. He’s not fibbing. He is in every page of the book, his own man. Written in a first person narrative, the thinly veiled autobiography, takes the reader through his two divorces and the twists his career took. Women in the book are an addiction and a necessity. But rarely equal. In the end, Tejpal comes across as a man who wanted things on his terms. When that did not happen, things fell apart.

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Once Upon A Hill
Kalpish Ratna | Harper Collins | Rs 499

The story of Andheri’s Gilbert Hill is somewhat akin to the story of Delhi’s Aravali Range. Where there were hills once, we have modern townships and garbage. In Kalpish Ratna, Mumbai’s geological feature – a stand-alone hill once part of a range that stretched from Andheri to Versova – get’s a voice. In a topography that has been completely erased by relentless quarrying, the consequences are there for everyone to experience. Change in rainfall patterns and flooding, is just one part of the story. “Gilbert Hill is the still point in the flux of opportunism and greed,” says Kalpana Swaminathan and Ishrat Sayed aka  Kalpish Ratna. We agree.

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The Fix
Damian Thompson | Collins | Rs 399

In The Fix, Thompson looks at the modern world through the prism of Aldous Huxley’s ‘negative utopia’ – where everyone takes a state produced drug called ‘soma’ that produces intervals of perfect spiritual pleasure. Rest of the time they’re mostly shopping or having recreational sex. “The awkward truth is that acceleration of technological progress can’t be divorced from the fast production of addictive substances and experiences,” says Thompson, arguing that it is not the experience of pleasure, but experience of desire that continues to tantalize us. In other words, there is an addict in each one of us.  What’s your fix? Food, binge drinking or sugar?

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 16 September 2012)

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Mumbai Noir
Ed. by Altaf Tyrewala| Harper Collins | Rs 350

As in the first book, Delhi Noir edited by Hirsh Sawhney that took Delhi under its microscope, Mumbai Noir tells the story of the underbelly of Maximum City. The book is divided by places, events and notions that have shaped its hidden yet, palpable neurosis. Employing the devices of crime fiction and film noir, the stories in the book are divided into three sections: ‘Bomb-ay’, which looks at impact of bomb blasts and crime that scars its body politic; ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, that charts the relationship between the living dead and the newly arrived; and, ‘An Island Unto Itself’ that unspools the dream city. Incisive, heart-wrenching and dark.

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In the Orchard of Swallows
Peter Hobbs | Faber and Faber |Rs 450

Hobbs is a gifted storyteller. In this slim novel, his third after The Short Day Dying and I Could Ride All Day in My Cold Blue Train, he sets a story of love and power in the modern day Swat Valley in Pakistan. The tale is brutal, yet timeless and as beautiful as the garden of life that it seeks to inhabit. A young boy, merely 14 falls in love with a daughter of a local politician. The boy ends up in prison to emerge 15 years later. Life beats to a different drum now, except for the swallows that fly – like dreams – unfettered.

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Two Pronouns and a Verb
Kiran Khalap | Amaryllis| Rs 295

Khalap is a brand consultant who by his own admission enjoys ‘writing, rock climbing and spiritual evolution’. His first novel was Halfway Up the Mountain. This is his second. In it he spins a yarn around three protagonists, Arjun a poet and photographer, Dhruv a social activist working among tribals and an Osho Ashram visitor, a German girl, Eva. The story is set in a Pune wada but moves effortlessly at one point to Goa at another to Mumbai and yet another, tribal hamlet of Nagpur. The three places provide the backdrop to a rather mundane, insipid and uninspiring love-triangle.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 6 May 2011)

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Ganesha on the Dashboard
V. Raghunathan & M.A. Eswaran| Penguin| Rs 299

Aisa lagta hai ki Indra devta hamse naraaz hai,” [It seems Lord Indira (rain god) is unhappy with us] said Delhi’s CM Sheila Dixit, replying to the delay in preparations for the Common Wealth Games in 2010. There is something wrong with Indians, say the authors of this book, when people accept that appealing to god is perfectly justified for the government. Could this be because Indians lack a scientific temper? Raghunathan, a banker, who writes a column for a daily economics newspaper, and Eswaran, a retired nuclear physicist, come together to collate their responses to our nation’s obsession with gods and god men, astrology, numerology, rituals etc. Especially readable is Eswaran’s ruminations on science’s relationship with god.

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The Magic
Thonda Byrne| Simon & Schuster| Rs 399

Fifteen years ago, Rhonda Byrne, suggested in her book The Secret that simply thinking about a thing one can manifest its existence. Therefore, positive thinking, she argued, created a positive life. Her subsequent two books, The Power and now, The Magic has taken the argument to the moral plane. In The Power Byrne argued that change could only be powered by thought and now in the latest book,  The Magic she says that magic is powered by gratitude. In the words of science, one’s existence is a factual reality. The thoughts and emotions that guide you, spring from the moral universe that surrounds you. In other words, divinity is a matter of faith.

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Fish in a Dwindling Lake
Ambai| Penguin| Rs 250

Fish in a Dwindling Lake is Ambai aka Dr. C. S. Lakshmi’s third collection of short stories to appear in English. In these stories, the writer uses the female body as tool to make sense of love, longing and life among Mumbai’s Tamil community. “The only reality is the body…,” she tells her translator Lakshmi Holmstrom, “We exist, because the body exists.” Ambai, who writes in Tamil, is known for her criticism of 1970s Tamil literature that focused on “male angst and alienation”. As a feminist, her interest has been to bring the woman, as an independent powerful entity, back into contemporary Tamil narrative.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 11 March 2012)

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