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.