Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair

I had heard about renowned writer Anita Nair but to meet her  and read her book was an all together different experience. She spins tales with such eloquence. The stories flow seamlessly from one to the other weaving a rich tapestry of words and fictional tales.

I started with her acclaimed book ‘Ladies Coupe’ and liked the story of Akhilandeshwari, Akhila for short and her incredible train journey in the ladies coupe. She meets fellow travelers Janaki, Margaret Shanti, Prabha Devi, Sheela and Marikolanthu from whom she discovers life hearing their incredible personal journeys in life along with her interactions with Katherine who introduced her to the ‘egg’.  Akhila discovers life outside her rigid Brahmin life…

You are transported into the individual worlds of these travelers, giving a glimpse of their lives from the past and continue to live it accepting things for what they are as status quo…often trying to cope with it… and when not satisfied fighting for their share of warmth in the sun.

Can a woman stay single and be happy, or does a woman need a man to feel complete? This was the question that bothered Akhila day in and night as she played the role of a provider, sister, aunt and daughter to its hilt neglecting her inner desires and passions.

“Anita Nair’s tale is light enough to relieve the tedium of a long journey yet filled with the incantatory power to burn up the tracks to seek a new destination, to challenge” – India Today.

At the Penguins Book celebration of the 10th anniversary of ‘Ladies Coupe’ at Page Turners there was a Panel discussion with Shiney Antony, Vijay Nair and Suresh Menon acclaimed authors in their own rights.

Excerpts:

AN: “I didn’t think the book would make it this far. It became a success. I am still soaking up the feeling. It must have struck a chord with the readers in India.”

Suresh Menon: What as a writer do you think has the universal appeal 10 years later?

AN: The reason is the questions I raised in the book which are probably the questions readers are grappling with even 10 years later in India

Vijay Nair: I re-read the book and must admit it is a compelling read. There is so much music in the lines bringing out the poet in you.

AN: It is a bleak story of a woman grappling with her life and I had to make it more lyrical and less tedious. Hence the poetic intonations in it.

“It is a character that vexed me a lot. ‘Get a grip on yourself and move on’ is what comes to my mind and I use it very often too on my colleagues,” said Anita Nair.

I liked the book. I happened to meet Anita Nair again at a Kathakali performance and discovered her passion for Kathakali. That reflects in her next book Mistress which I started reading and  am enjoying reading it.

Both Ladies Coupe and Mistress are recommended…

Anita Nair with Shiney Antony, Suresh Menon & Vijay Nair at the Panel Discussion  during the 10th anniversary of Ladies Coupe

River of Smoke- Amitav Ghosh

‘River of Smoke’ has finally hit the stores. The much awaited sequel to the ‘Sea of Poppies’ form Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy promises its readers a very engrossing journey on land and sea leading up to the Opium wars.

I finally got a chance to meet one of my favourite writers Amitav Ghosh. Coincidentally, I was in the midst of enjoying ‘The Hungry Tide’, lost in the jungles of Sunderbans. Being a voracious reader, Ghosh’s writings have satiated me with the fictional world that he spins out with such eloquence.

Book Launch at Reliance Timeout store, Bangalore

The ‘Sea of Poppies’ led Ghosh on a voyage of discovery to China leaving him fascinated with the country and that reflects in his books.

My Autographed copy

Amitav Ghosh has so many gems on his book shelf that it is hard to pick which of them is the best.

The Hungry Tide

The Glass Palace

The Hungry Chromosome

The Shadow Lines

The Circle Of Reason

Sea of Poppies

River of Smoke

Amitav Ghosh was recently in Bangalore to launch his book’ River of Smoke’ in Reliance Time Out Store on June 28th. He engaged the audience with a splendid Q & A session answering patiently all the questions the audience had.

Amitav Ghosh looked dapper and was charming as he fielded questions from the readers in the audience regarding his book writing journey, his inspirations, aspirations and the future of publishing in India. A sore throat did not deter him from addressing the questions.

A few excerpts from the Q & A session:

You are often using time-travel as a concept. Is it a literary device in your stories?

Writing a novel gives you the freedom of time travel. Time and space fascinate me and that is evident in my writings. Each story has its moment in time with the characters in the story drawing out a story around them. It is important to do a lot of research on the characters and subject to make it more authentic. The human aspect is important.

Your books have a great degree of details, even with traveling as a subject. Do you do a lot of research?

The story comes first for me. I pick a moment in time and make it concrete and grounding. I do a lot of research on the topics before I embark on a subject. I studied about ships and their workings during that period. I also did ample research on trade, life in China and sea navigation before I started writing it.

Which among your books is your favorite or most challenging to write?

Sea of Poppies was a very challenging book to write emotionally and drained me out. When I started ‘River of Smoke I was wondering about my huge undertaking. But it worked out to my satisfaction.

What are your thoughts on the current publishing industry in India?

The publishing industry in India is very alive and doing brisk business. When I wrote my first book I couldn’t get so much attention or publicity. Now with these new book stores, book launches and social networking it is easier for writers to get the word out. Writers currently are in a good position with all this.

To our delight the Bengali sweet ‘saundesh’ was served along with sweet Tea in small earthen pots. The evening got even better after Ghosh autographed my book.

For more details you can go to http://www.amitavghosh.com/

My Article in “Citizen Matters” about the Book Launch

http://bangalore.citizenmatters.in/articles/view/3151-river-of-smoke-launched-when-amitav-ghosh-time-traveled-to-bengaluru

The Hungry Tide

Author: Amitav Ghosh

Recommended for reading.

Love In The Time of Cholera

Author- Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Sylvia Plath- Unabridged Journals

  

Letters To A Young Poet

Author- Rainer Maria Rilke

 

All And Nothing – Book Review

Author: Raksha Bharadia

A captivating story of five individuals, their marriages, travails, passions, their journeys and their fight to let go off chains holding them down. A story about the intricacies of relationships that sustain life and often times drives people to the brink.

 A mysterious letter summons each one of them to a remote farmhouse in Mahabaleshwar, where the story of their life is revealed, one at a time.

 Stories of Tina, Aditya, Antara, Upasana, Kriya, Poorvi, Manas, Gayathri interweave taking the reader through the intricate plots that unravel slowly, revealing the pathos and other existential angst’s faced by these individuals.

Tina’s struggle with the ghosts of Aditya’s past relationships that haunt her marriage, stealing her husband away from her.  Her subsequent alcoholism and recovery from its debilitating effects, painted vividly, beguiling the reader to hurry through the pages, wanting to know the aftermath.

 Words that paint an imagery of a troubled soul brought out very well here and elsewhere:

 “I went up to our terrace, only conscious of the mantra “No me”!

 The night was not a malignant black hole; it was benignly beckoning me to immerse myself in its soothing shroud.

 The air on the terrace was cool and fresh. I loved the way my hair responded to the sea breeze, dancing at its whim. I inhaled deeply; to live every second of what was left was important.

 My mind kept playing, “No me!’ I went to the edge and looked down. The bright neon lights invited me to join them.

 ‘A few more seconds please,” I pleaded…”

Several such beautiful lines capture the imagination as one progress through the story.

Upasana’s secret- the domestic violence that had killed her spirits a long time back. Kriya battling with an image that she cannot hold on to, desperately in need of a makeover in life. Manas struggles with memories of Gayathri unable to let go. How these individuals resolve the issues and move on is trigggered by the arrival of the mysterious letter. Loose ends are tied up and a new chapter begins; significant changes occur in their lives, heralding a new beginning as the story ends leaving you ruminating over the characters that touched you most. 

A book I would  recommend to readers; stories which might resonate with someone out there, along the way.

——

Raksha Bharadia is a freelance writer who has composed features for The Times of India, Femina, Gurlz and Life Positive. She is the author of Me: A handbook for Life and has co-authored the Chicken Soup series. Her latest work is Roots and Wings: A Handbook for Parents.

 Raksha has followed her passions and dreams. She is also learning Kathak  in addition she teaches English in a street school run by the NGO Manav Sadhna. She is currently based in Ahmedabad.

 Published by Rupa & Co:http://www.rupapublications.co.in/client/Book/ALL-AND-NOTHING.aspx

 http://www.facebook.com/rakshabharadia

RIPPLES- Book Launch

Book of Short Stories by 26 Indian women writers

Available at Reliance TimeOut Stores & Oxford Book Stores

 A book of short stories compiled by Prashant Karhade & APK Publishers had their book launch in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore & Chennai. The short stories are written by 26 women writers from all over India and from the US.

A wonderful collection and a good coffee table book for light reading. Prashant did a wonderful job co-ordinating all of us writers to make this dream come true. The stories are evocative with each one written in a different style that is the trademark of the individual writer. The book has been received well and gained some publicity too over a few days.

 The Mumbai launch with writers Irene Dhar Malik, Smita Sahay, Parvin Saket, Dagny Samrock along with Prashant Karhade, Actor Sanjay Suri, Sooni (scriptwriter-photographer-director) & Onir ( editor-scriptwriter-director)

The Bangalore launch with contributing writers Sudha H Sharma, Asha Francis, Suja Sukumaran, Prashant , Susheela Ravi, Anita Satyajit , Monideepa Sahu & Sharada Balasubramaniam.

The Chennai Launch with Fehmida Zakeer, Jayati Dasgupta, Actor Revathi, Prashant, Sharada Balasubramaniam and Suchitra

 

 

 

 

Ripples Fan Page on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ripples-by-APK-Publishers/105591689505110

The Book is available at Flipkart & Indiaplaza & at APK Publishers:

 http://www.flipkart.com/ripples-prashant-karhade-short-stories-book-819109181x

 http://www.indiaplaza.in/books/

http://apkpublishers.com/books/fiction/ripples_compiled_by_prashant_karhade.html

RIPPLES as E-book now:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/31124

Press reviews-Links:

 http://www.thehindu.com/arts/books/article850845.ece

http://www.indiaprwire.com/pressrelease/books/2010102566357.htm

http://www.asiawrites.org/2010/10/new-book-ripples-anthology-of-short.html

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9590239-ripples-short-stories-by-indian-woman-writers

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/bengaluru/25-women-set-cause-%E2%80%98ripples%E2%80%99-141

http://www.techgoss.com/Story/424S12-Techie-Publisher-launches-Ripples.aspx

http://writespace4iw.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/book-lover-ripples-short-stories-by-indian-women-writers-by-nadi/

Books2BRead

I bought myself a bunch of books from Amazon. Nothing like good books at cheap prizes. More treasures added on to my existing collection. I intend to read all these over time and write reviews here.

The Birth of Tragedy : Friedrich Nietzsche

Kafka on the Shore : Haruki Murakami

Blow-Up and other stories: Julio Cortazar

Gilead : Marilynne Robinson

The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh: edited by Mark Roskill

A Time of Changes: Robert Silverberg                   

The Hungry Tide : Amitav Ghosh

The unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Collected Fictions: Jorge Luis Borges

The Metamorphosis and other stories : Franz Kafka

My Story (Ente Katha) By Kamala Das

 

Kamala Das /  Kamala Suraiya / Madhavikutty


If there is one autobiography that has withstood the test of time and speaks with so much conviction and honesty regarding a woman’s  life, its solitude and  her trials and tribulations, it would be this one. There is no other. The sheer poetry and magic of words speaking a language that was alien at the time it was written is proof enough of the latent talent of the writer. The book was controversial and outspoken and had her critics gunning her after it was published in 1973; often shocking her readers with her disregard for conventions and expression of her opinions on subjects in society- more often on the hypocrisy of it. Her tumultous life seeking eternal love and the vagaries of lust drew the ire of the purists and fundamentalists alike. Eventually it became such a cult classic among the literary circles that there are very few who do not recognize her outside Kerala.

Kamala Das was born in 1934 and the author of several novels, poetry and collections of short stories.   She wrote in Malayalam under the pen name Madhavikutty. Some of her works in English include the novel  Alphabet of Lust, Padmavathi the Harlot and other stories. Her Poetry included Summer in Calcutta, The descendents, The old playhouse and other poems… and has been translated into several languages.

She was nominated for the Noble Prize for Literature in 1984 and received the Ezhutachan award by the Kerala Govt. She is also the winner of the Sahitya Academi award and the PEN Poetry series.

At the age of 75 she passed away in Pune in 2009 with leukemia.

Sedation…

Madness is a country

Just around the corner

Whose shores are never lit

But if you go there

Ferried by despair

The sentries would ask you to strip

At first the clothes, then the flesh

And later of course your bones

Their only rule is freedom

Why, thy even eat bits of your soul

When in hunger,

But when you reach that shore

That unlit shore

Do not return, please do not return …

CLOSURE

–Some poems and a conversation between Kamala Das & Suresh Kohli

This book of poetry brings together two disparate voices of friends who met and conversed over many years in different cities both of whom turned to poetry in moments of anxious and happy.

A pleasure to wade through the verses of two strong personalities who had their own striking style of writing regarding all that was emotional or disturbing in the world and the lives around them

The conversation between both is light-hearted and interesting, matching each other’s wit and talent often resorting to ‘walks down memory lanes’.

Suresh Kohli is an author of twenty books , including five volumes of Poetry, a novel and a coffee table book on Indian  films. He is also a film maker, editor, poet, translator, literary critic and an acclaimed writer.

Both these books were a treat to read and a wonderful gift from my cousin who is into Malayalam literature and such.

One Amazing Thing

 

By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I was wandering the aisles of the bookshop at a mall in Bangalore when I chanced upon this book sitting atop a shelf. The title was inviting and I reached out for it. I read the first page and wanted to read the second and the third and before I knew it I was in possession of the book. The book was good company on my flight back to the US, both engrossing and interesting.

Chitra Divakaruni is a well known author of 15 books. Her award-winning short story collection Arranged Marriage was equally interesting in addition to her wonderful books The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart. Two of her novels have been made into films and her works have been translated into 18 languages. She is the Betty and Gene McDavid professor of Creative Writing at the University of Houston.

One Amazing Thing captures the imagination as it flits through the lives of a bunch of people trapped at a consulate after an earthquake strikes. They begin to tell each other stories from their lives which are personal sharing things they have never revealed to anyone before. Their tales are magical, interesting, sometimes tragic and life-affirming, revealing what it means to be human. The reader is caught in the story; living every one of those amazing stories and making one wonder what could be that ‘one amazing’ story in our own life, that added color and stood the test of time in our memories.

I finished the book , put it down, closed my eyes and started remembering all the amazing stories that I went through too and how every one of those experiences added on a layer- beautiful like a tapestry of memories!

A short book that can keep one hooked to it until the very end, that I would  gladly recommend to other readers.

Edith’s War

By Andrew Smith

Edith’s War is a story of one woman’s personal war and triumph; a journey in which she finds herself surmounting all the trials and tribulations amidst all the chaos of the war.  

The narrative dexterously weaves between the Britain of 1940’s during WWII with the subsequent internment of Italian men in Britain and 2002 in idyllic Venice; the stories unfolding simultaneously, switching between the past and the present.

 The crisp and vivid narration follows Edith’s raw passions, her tumultuous life and motherhood during the war, slowly unraveling bits and pieces of her life. The Italian immigrant family living next door to whom she is drawn to, her subsequent involvement with Carlo, his internment, her separation, the secret she shares with her husband Joe and their reconciliation adds intrigue to the well-crafted story.

Edith’s persona comes through as an ordinary person with an extra-ordinary resolve and grit whose passions lead her away from the accepted norms of society. She succumbs willingly to true love, justifying it with the absence of any emotional attachment to an absentee husband, whose return confuses her furthermore. She despises the war and its repercussions as she watches the gory happenings around her.

 Interwoven into this story are the revelations of her adult sons Shamus and Will who are putting together the jigsaw puzzle of their life, as they wait in anticipation for the arrival of their 83-yr-old mother in Venice. Shamus confronts Edith with the truth about his paternity, eventually accepting it for what it is. The discussions between the brothers add a touch of comic interludes as the grim scenes of the war unfold in the background.

 Andrew Smith captures the raw emotions of its central characters with his vivid descriptions and seamless narration. Smith sheds  light on a hitherto lesser known facet of  the war; the internment of the Italians during WWII. After Mussolini’s declaration of war against Britain and her allies on June10, 1940, Winston Churchill issued the command to arrest and intern all Italian males living in Britain. Wartime changes in morality and the senselessness of a war which inflicts untold miseries on innocent citizens are highlights of his beautifully written book.

The war time heroes are those who go through life everyday barely getting by, in addition to the entire psychological trauma they are subjected to. The emotional nuances of the characters are described in a sensitive manner by the author deserving accolades for his efforts in portraying realistically the grimness of war, the passions and suffering, consequences of choices, love and reconciliations.

Andrew Smith’s writing has been included in the Journey Prize Anthology, has been shortlisted for the CBC Literary awards and has garnered a Western Magazine Award for travel writing. He has previously published two non-fiction books: Highlights, an illustrated history of cannabis (co-author) and Strangers in the Garden, the secret lives of our favorite flowers.

 Edith’s War is a novel I would recommend to readers and a lovely addition to any bookshelf.

For more Info go to:

http://www.edithswar.com/

(Video trailer of Book by the author)

 http://www.edithswar.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/Edithtrailer.mov 

 

 

Sophie’s Choice

By William Styron

The novel was published in 1979 by Styron.  A brilliant book that takes you on a journey by Stingo, an aspiring writer who befriends the Jewish Nathan Landau and his beautiful girlfriend Sophie who is a survivor of the holocaust. The book is largely narrated in first person by Styron and ocasionally by Sophie when she relates her experiences in Auschwitz.

The interwoven lives of Stingo, Nathan and Sophie leading to their mutual destruction along the way; the vivid descriptions of the Holocaust camps and Sophie’s experiences being a Polish-catholic suffering along with the Jews are narrated explicitly in first person by Styron. He often alludes to Stingo’s own life and up-bringing during the days of slavery in Southern America leading to angry discussions between Stingo and Nathan.

Strong powerful characters whose self-destructive lives grabs the reader by his mind, following their every word, action almost wanting to offer succor to its characters giving them a respite from their chosen paths. Ultimately Sophie’s choice which leads to her destruction. A compelling read so evocative and beautiful in it’s narration.

 The book won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1980. It was made into a movie with Meryl Streep giving a stellar performance as Sophie winning her the Academy award for it.

The Stranger

By Albert Camus

Translated from French by Stuart Gilbert

I bought a bunch of used books on sale, from the library for 5 $ and this one was one of them. A  slender book with only 154 pages to it. I opened the first page and started reading it.

 “Mother died today. Or yesterday. I can’t be sure,” was the first sentence and that got me hooked, right there. Each page got me in it’s grip and soon enough I found that I was unable to put the book down until I had finished it. And finally I did and I must say ‘it was a real cerebral treat ‘…

The book was published in 1946 but continues to be one of the most influential books to date.  An unrelenting saga of one person, an Algerian called Mersault who lives his life on his own terms, skimming though it in a very detached way, never involved with it; never succumbing to it. For him the entire world was a grand stage, with each one playing out his role and he was the observor; watching it all and taking it in- analysing it  in an unemotional way.

Mersault shoots and kills an Arab man on the beach; un-intentional yet he couldn’t stop himself from doing it. The court scenes are descriptive and walks us through the proceedings from a prisoner’s eyes. The dis-passionate look into the ‘how’, ‘why’ and everything else the court was arguing for and against him. He finds himself in a position where nothing matters to him anymore and he welcomes death, if it will offer a respite for him from the world, the way he sees it. The death sentence to him leaves him unfazed.

Several of his thoughts are poignant-

“Throughout the whole absurd life I’d lived, a dark wind had been rising toward me from somewhere deep in my future, across years that were still to come, and as it passed, this wind leveled whatever was offered to me at the time, in years no more real than the ones I was living. What did other people’s deaths or a mother’s love matter to me; what did his God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we’re all elected by the same fate?”

The last paragraph sums up his thoughts:

“With death so near, Mother must have felt like someone on the brink of freedom, ready to start life all over again. No one had a right to weep for her. And I, too felt ready to start life all over again. …I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that i’d been happy and that I was happy still…”

A book I am happy to have read and would love to read all over again another day…

Albert Camus was born in Algeria, in 1913. The stranger, The Plague, The Fall, Exile and the Kingdom, The Rebel and The Myth of Sisyphus are his notables. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. He died in 1960.

 

Dispatches From The Edge

By Anderson Cooper

 A memoir of war, disasters and survival

Anderson Cooper is synonymous with CNN as much as Christian Amanpour is. The host of Anderson Cooper 360 a regular feature and a notable watch, he has always been a hero for investigative journalism and excellence in reporting. I wasted no time in buying and lapping up his book after it hit the markets since he is my idol of sorts.

 Growing up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Cooper felt drawn to every other place. He was trying to stay one step ahead of his past, the tragic deaths of his father and brother and beyond the fame of his mother Gloria Vanderbilt.

As a reporter he has been all over the world covering Tsunamis’, the war and the pain that accompanies it, Hurricane Katrina, and other natural disasters Cooper takes us on a journey often disclosing how deeply he was affected by some of the tragedies. He allows us to see it all through his eyes a trusted, fearless and pioneering reporter. One needs a strong stomach and an empathizing spirit to follow him on his journey.

 In his words:

 “In Africa there are too many pictures, too many contrasts. You can’t catch them all. It’s like sticking your head out of a fast-moving car-you suffocate; it’s too much to take in….

Little kids run to the road, stand frozen, not sure if they should be happy or scared. They keep their weight on their heels so they can run back at the lurch of the car, the crack of a shot.”

“ One minute you’re there in it- stuck, stewing in the sadness, the loss, your shirt plastered on your back, your neck burned from the sun-then you’re gone, seatbelt buckled, cool air cascading down, ice in the glass. You are gliding above the earth, laughing…”