Book Reviews by a Pioneer: Saat by Abhimanyu Jamwal

This is a collection of seven short stories. As you read one story after another, you move in a fantasy land of myriad emotions – ambition, passion, jealousy, love, anger, and many others.
And then it hits you, it is not a land of fantasies, the author is writing about our society, our lives.

A pigeon woos a hen with a solution to the Kashmir problem, a jilted lover would go to any length for revenge, an orator instigates his followers through poems, a writer gets her opening inspiration through blood and gore, a woman becomes a killing machine in her hallucinations in a Delhi of future – instigated by a charismatic leader, sibling bonding and envy, time travel for two minutes to realise your dreams.

The blurb of the book says it all – there is a thin line between reality and fantasy.

The review is by Sanjay Chandra, author of The Gymnast, and The Life and Times of a Common Man.

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Book Reviews by a Pioneer: Vadh by Satadal Lahiri and Sonam Malik

A distraught Arjun blames Lord Krishna for Abhimanyu’s death in the battle at Kurukshetra. The Lord tells him that the death was the result of Arjuna’s ambition for his son to be remembered as a great warrior when the youngster was not even fully trained, and had many attributes other than of a warrior, where he could have excelled… and lived. The God goes on to explain that such deaths would continue if parents insist on their ambitions to be projected on their wards.

This opening chapter is a prologue to the short stories that follow which are set in the current times. Death is only a metaphor – even the death of an ambition or a passion is an end. One can relate to each of the stories as the characters are either within us or around us. Except the last story, which was more of a psychological thriller, but interesting.

The book requires a bit of editorial inputs.

The review is by Sanjay Chandra, author of The Gymnast, and The Life and Times of a Common Man.

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Book Reviews by a Pioneer: Snippets of Life Music by Ramesh Chandra Tiwari

We gather snippets of wisdom as we grow older. We also want the younger generation to gain from our experiences and not commit blunders or follies that we fell to. That brings in a tendency to be repetitive and often preachy. But each generation has its own challenges, and would love to learn from its mistakes. That is what life is about.

The title of the anthology is apt. Each of the short stories in the book is about different facets of relationships, and life itself, but most of them relate to incidents in the lives of the lower middle-class. Quite a few of these snippets may not be even relevant to the fast paced technology driven upper middle class upward generation.

I have mentioned in one of my earlier reviews also, an author has to walk a tightrope while delivering message – it has to be subtle. The book suffers from an in your face sermonising. It also needs improvement in grammar.

The book is an attempt at character building in the younger generation.

The review is by Sanjay Chandra, author of The Gymnast.

Book Reviews by a Pioneer: Chandausi Junction by Shankar and Preeti Sahay

All of us have grown up listening to tales narrated by our parents or grandparents. If we were not children, we might have discerned a certain fondness, a certain longing, in their tone while telling these stories. But mostly these made us smile or chuckle or laugh heartily with our elders. These were not just stories for them – they were either anecdotes from their own childhood or stories handed down to them by their elders.

Chandausi Junction is a collection of 25 such fables from the lives of the author couple. These span a timeline from before independence till the mid-eighties. All the stories are narratives from the rural, semi-urban and urban India, across different social strata. The beauty of the stories is that they are timeless. Each reader would have gone through similar incidents from at least one story. I certainly felt a sense of déjà vu while reading some of the tales.

My review would not be complete without a special mention of the excellent cover. I believe, and I hope that I am right, the sepia tone of the picture is original and not photo shopped. This certainly would be an old photograph from the albums of those years.

This anthology would appeal to readers across different age groups.

The review is by Sanjay Chandra, author of The Gymnast.

Book Reviews by a Pioneer: A Handful of Marbles by Patanjali Patnaik

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.

Book Reviews by a Pioneer: Under the Mistletoe and other stories by Manali Desai

There is something about festivals which we look forward to. All festivals are a celebration of life; there is a cheerful spirit all around. These are times to meet family and friends, or make new friends, or look forward to meeting your soulmate. One such festival in the year is Christmas.

This book of short stories and poems by Manali is a celebration of the spirit of Christmas. You may feel lonely, but there is someone out there whom you are destined to meet. You may be destitute, yet even you can bring cheer to somebody less fortunate than you. There is a friend or a lover waiting for you somewhere, to bring sparkle in your eyes, to bring colour to your cheeks, and to bring a smile on your lips – and above all to kindle love in your heart.

I loved the stories and the verses.