Human relationships are complex. They would always have dilemmas. It is these dilemmas that the author explores in her debut fiction work.
The story is set in the backdrop of the 1947 Indo-Pak partition till the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. Is the partition only a line drawn on the map? What happens if the son does not want to migrate with his family for his love? What would happen if two people who were friends just the other day look at each other through the sights of their rifles on the battlefield? What would happen to the conflicts in a mother for the love of her son and her responsibilities towards her family? How would a son react when he has to take his father a prisoner of war? Are the relationships also casualties of that line drawn on the map?
You feel the pain of all the protagonists – every one is a protagonist in his life. In the end you realise that there are no winners in this battle. This is a war that each one has to fight in own way.
A beautifully written story that would make you smile, that would also make you cry. Short chapters make reading a treat. I would look forward to more stories from this young author.
The review is by Sanjay Chandra, author of The Gymnast.
I was not sure what to expect when I first picked up the book. The cover was attractive, the blurb was interesting.
Tribin, a writer, working against a deadline to submit his manuscript, lands up in an isolated property somewhere in the Kerala mountains.
Out on a morning walk, he hears a scream from the estate next door. The lady is Sayali, a renowned badminton player. She was amongst the top 10 in international ranking till sometime back. But then she slumped. She is trying to rediscover her top self.
Tempers are frayed – at least those of the lady. Tribin… Well he does not know what has hit him. He just wants to help the young woman… With just a rudimentary knowledge of the game. Unthinkable… Will this lead to something beyond a professional relationship?
This is the beauty of this novel. It makes you believe in the improbable. The storytelling never flags. The language is fluid. Once I started, I did not want to put the book down.
There was a time during my professional life when I travelled extensively to Kashmir. The Hindi diction of the local people is a little different – it is almost sing-song. As I picked up the book by Prashant, I wondered why it was titled ‘Jehlum’ when we know the river as ‘Jhelum’. The author clarifies this right at the beginning – this is how Kashmiris pronounce the name.
Nishant and Mudassir are two childhood friends born and brought up in Kashmir. Fateful events of January 1990 force Nishant and his family to migrate to a refugee camp in Jammu. He does not give up on hope. He realises that the only way out for him to move out of this squalor is to study and work hard. He succeeds in moving to America.
Mudassir on the other hand is manipulated and ends up in a training camp in Pakistan, and then as a labourer in Karachi.
The plot till almost 80% of the story is relatable and storytelling is compelling. It narrates the events leading up to the exodus, life in the camps, Nishant’s hard work, and then his moving to USA. The unfortunate circumstances are not heavy with sentimentality, but are backdrops for the principled and ethical man that Nishant turns into.
It is in the last part of the book when Nishant practically becomes a single man army or more appropriately a superhero that the story felt as if I was watching a Bollywood movie. But I am not complaining. Having brought up on the Amitabh Bachchan movies of the 1970s and 1980s, it was enjoyable.
An enjoyable fast paced read if you have also loved the Bollywood movies of yesteryears.
When the rains come to Malwa, it is as if the slopes and valleys and the river begin decking themselves up for wedding festivities. These opening lines by Malathi, and I prepared myself for another lyrically written historical fiction.
I had visited Mandu a long time back and heard about the legendary romance of Baz Bahadur and beautiful Roopmati, a girl from farming family. The story held a certain mysterious charm, and I wanted to know more. I was not disappointed as the author has narrated an engrossing tale set in 16th century India around the legend.
This is a story of two unlikely young people, coming from different strata of society, bonding over a common love for classical music. This bonding leads to the two gradually falling in love with each other. But their love is doomed from the beginning as their lives are drawn into court intrigues. Eventually, sultan Baz goes out to fight a loosing battle against the might of the Mughal emperor, Akbar. Roopmati consumes poison to save herself from the lecherous eyes of Adham Khan, milk brother of Akbar. Yet again a love that was not meant to be.
A simple story, narrated beautifully, that keeps you engrossed till the end. Words are expertly woven – be it to describe the beauty of the region, or that of Roopmati, or even that of love itself. It would have been difficult to narrate a story that only exists as a legend – Malathi does not falter even a bit.
Yet, I could not but feel a little disappointed. Not by the storytelling – which is excellent – but by the fact that Baz Bahadur comes across as a weak sultan, immersed in songs and dances and his love. He fails to protect his principality, his people, and above all the woman he truly loved against the marauders. Maybe he indeed was a weak sultan, but for the positive influence of the woman who he fell in love with. It is the beauty of storytelling that makes us believe in events that are not recorded anywhere.
When Vasant ritu comes to Malwa, they say the river brings new life to her valley… But wait… hark! Is that a snatch of a distant song on the air? Or is it only the moaning of winds in the ravines of Malwa? Who knows … This is how the story ends.
I am sure to remember these closing lines and probably hear that song on the air from the distant past when I visit Mandu next.
As I had mentioned in my previous review also, the writing is almost lyrical. It is a beautifully woven tale of two people who loved and lost. The storytelling keeps you immersed in the story till the end.
They say the desert is ageless, timeless. That it was never born and will never die. They say it has no form either… its shifting sands take one shape today and another tomorrow. These were the opening lines of this historical novel set in Rajasthan. I was mesmerised.
I remained engrossed in the story till I reached the end. …for what is truer than love is true love… across the desert rides he who is yours… to meet, to hold, to never let go… for who can keep apart those whose lives are fused for eternity…
The novel is inspired by certain events from 200 years back. 80+ villages of Paliwal Brahmins in the Thar desert of Jaisalmer were abandoned overnight. This is a historical fact. What is not known is the reason why this sudden exodus happened on a single night. There are folklores around it.
One reason is attributed to the exorbitant taxes demanded by Saalim Ali, the Diwan of the kingdom ruled by Rawals. Another is that these villagers left to save their honour, as the debauched Diwan chanced upon the beautiful young daughter of the headman of Kuldhara, one of the villages, and demanded that the maiden be handed over to enter his harem.
Nobody knows the truth. The abandoned ruins of Kuldhara still exist, and the place is considered haunted. Malathi has woven a heart wrenching tale of what might have happened. The story is that of two strong women whose destinies are interlinked with that of the Diwan.
Pari from Kuldhara falls in love with Dharam, a young man from another village, during the flight. Unknown to the two, different villages have decided to split and move in separate directions to escape the pursuing soldiers. A single night of passion; and the next morning Dharam has already left the camp with his village folk. Nobody knows where. Pari realises that she is pregnant.
Parvati is an older women who had also been taken in Saalim Ali’s harem. She has borne him a son and still waits for her husband’s infrequent visits to the conjugal bed when it pleases him. She is unhappy with her life, but this is the only life that she has known. She still wants to remain that favourite wife of her husband.
Eventually the two women face each other. The young unwed mother is saved from the Diwan by Parvati. Pari returns back to an abandoned Kuldhara to wait for her daughter’s father, hopeful that one day they shall unite.
I had only heard about lyrical prose. This was the first time that I read one. It is an expertly woven haunting tale of love, despair, and hope. The storytelling keeps you immersed in the story – page after page, word after word.
Blessed are those who have a house which they can call their Abana (home in Sindhi). A house is only a physical structure, but it is our loved ones, and our memories with them, that truly make this structure a home – a place where we can return after a hard day’s work. Do we ever pause and even think about a scenario where our home is snatched from us overnight? All that we are left with is an ache, a longing, to reclaim our lost hearth. Would we go to any extent to take back what was rightfully ours?
Paari, the central character of this novel by Lata, is a Sindhi, who lost her home in Pakistan during partition. She lives in squalor in the refugee camp in Ulhasnagar, dreaming of the day when she would reclaim her home. She does not know how, only that she would.
She is lured into smuggling gold jewellery from Dubai to India, which might one day change her life for the better. From smuggling jewellery to smuggling guns to Afghanistan via Pakistan for an unknown boss is only a short step. Travelling to Pakistan rekindles her urge to reclaim her Abana. She is certain that she would take her house back.
A chance encounter with Virmal, her childhood sweetheart, makes her start dreaming of a life with her lover in her own home. She is willing to go to any extent, even running the guns herself through dangerous terrain, or shooting a man.
This is a story of love and betrayal, but in the end it is the story of a quest to get the home back, at any cost.
A beautifully written book, which has emotions aplenty, but never gets overboard with sentimentality. It makes you take a pause and reflect – what would we do if our home was snatched from us?
‘I‘ is the persona, the face that is seen by the world – my family, my friends, my acquaintances. But is that the ‘Me‘. Or the real Me is someone lurking behind the I – afraid of the insecurities of life and relationships, or someone taking life headlong.
It is this Me in I that the poet’s 13 poems explore. The first poem is about friends, who have been there since childhood. ‘Friendship is a boon and, friends are precious… try not being fake or pretentious.‘
There is a poem to find an answer to a dilemma – ‘Why I Write?‘ Is it for fame, or for the one whom I love, or for posterity, or for something else? There are poems about lost love; truth – bitter but a saviour of conscience; tears – saline waters of the sea of emotions within – of pain, sorrow and even happiness; why am I an introvert – is it the fear of loss?
‘I have time‘, but it is not infinite. ‘I got to make the most of limited time‘, to untangle the barbed wires of ‘prejudice & pride‘. ‘If death is the destination, then I will live life. Every second, minute and hour to the fullest and die once, not multiple times’.
And the quest continues – to discover ‘The Me In I.‘
I am more of a prose person than a poetry buff. I am under the notion, probably mistaken, that it is straightforward to understand fiction; but there may be several interpretations to poetry, which may be way off to what the poet wanted to convey. It was with some apprehension that I picked up this book of poetry when it was recommended to me by a friend. I would say that I was not disappointed, though my interpretations may not be in consonance with those of the writer.
Our life is something fragile, hanging by a thread. One does not know what the next moment may bring. Our relationships are even more fragile. It is easier to break than to mend. One single spoken word may be enough to break relations of a lifetime. Life and relationships are a garden of fragility, to be nurtured to strengthen, not to be wasted away or broken.
This collection of 50 poems by Neelam is about this garden of life. The poems are a celebration of life, even death, friendship, mothers, daughters, children, parents, and most importantly about I. Yes, I am the most important person in this Garden of Fragility. Everything else is nothing without I. As the poet writes in the poem titled I – You can walk side by side with me, But don’t try to stop the flow that defines me…
We all have fond memories of our childhood, particularly the age when one is around 9-years old. I too was a 9 year old child a long time back. Those were the days when we did not even have television, nobody had heard of internet; and we were forced outdoor by our parents by the time it was 5 in the evening in summers, and 4 in winters. We also sometimes managed to sneak out during the afternoon when the elders were having their siesta. We played marbles or spun tops, flew kites, the big bad boy down the road was our role model, got into scrapes, were fond of hoarding comics, had our favourite teacher – the list is endless. But it was the most carefree period in my life – not worried about what the future held, or envious about the success of the boy next door, in having more marbles or any other pseudo currency in circulation at the time. It only goaded me to win back more of that currency.
This collection of 12 short stories, revolving around the escapades of precocious Pushkar, a 9-year old boy, living in a small town of India, came as deja vu. The setting could have been any city, big or small. Each child would have gone through something similar. Pushkar desperately wants to win marbles to achieve a target of 100 marbles, but then consciously loses a little more to a much younger child, as his conscience does not allow him to take undue advantage of a novice. He learns the art of making the most lethal manjha to win in kite flying, only to see the kites going up in smoke because of his notion of using another dangerous ingredient. He wants to hit back at the bad boys, giving them back the cuss words, but is unable to do so. He is ready to take punishment from the teacher that he has a crush on – she is her queen. And many more scrapes.
If you loved the child in you, and sometimes long for those days gone by, then this is the book for you.
Each one of us carries secrets that we are unwilling to share even with those close to us. Yet, many times we are forced by circumstances to revisit these secrets. Is it destiny or is this what life is all about?
Sivakami, the protagonist of this novella, is a professional working in Chennai. She has made two friends within the confines of her professional circle – Sowmya and Sharan. One morning Sowmya breezes into the office after a few days of absence, and shyly informs her two friends about her engagement, with an invitation for them to join her wedding ceremonies in her native village.
The village is where Siva was brought up till her adolescence, when she was forced to relocate, away from the one person whom she loved. She is excited, and scared at the same time, at the prospect of facing the one person who mattered the most in her life.
She reaches the village with her colleague and friend, Sharan – unaware that the latter secretly loves her. She comes face to face with Anandhan, who still loves her, though he is now married.
But this is not the only secret that Siva has kept away from her friends. Her world had come crumbling down when she was told the truth about her paternity 15 years back. Would she be able to overcome the trauma of her earlier years? Will she be able to accept the love of her friend from her mature years?
I loved the story and the storytelling. It was as if I was watching a television series. A fast paced read.