Archive for August, 2011

Secret of the Nagas

Posted in Pai-Book-Review on August 24, 2011 by prajwalpai

Simplicity is beautiful but complication in the right way is wonderful. The sequel to ‘Immortals of Meluha’ gets complicated. While I was reading this, I felt nostalgic of the Harry Potter series when I used to finish each book and relish an year waiting for next book. This book raises more questions and has set up a grand premise for the final installment, ‘The Oath of the Vayuputras.’

I started this book almost immediately as I finished the first book and hence I didnt feel that I read two separate books. I was so much absorbed into the story and so curious about the plots that I didn’t even notice the mundane narration. This book is more of an adventure ride than the first book. Shiva takes up a voyage and lot of things happen while he is on that.The fight sequences have been amazingly well described and with a little bit of imagination, I could visualize every sequence. The book continues on its message that a change of perspective can make villains to be seen as heros. The plot thickens in this book with flashbacks on Sati and her first born. The heros of the first book have now come close to being villains. The so called evils people are now the trusted allies. The so called pure evils of the first book have now become Heros. By the end of the book, we dont have any known villains and a mystery is created. There is a new concept of ‘attachment to evil’ which is explained in riddles and we are forced to wait for the next book for more answers. The ending was a bit of a let down but still manages to keep us hooked.

The book again doesnt just stop at entertainment and thrill. This book too like its predecessor has its share of thought provoking messages.

  • The opposite of Love is not hate but apathy
  • There are no good and bad people but just strong and weak people
  • Forgiveness is greater than vengeance
  • We are blinded by our prejudice by the limited facts that are told to us
  • Evil is as necessary for the existence as is everything else

This book has many beautiful thoughts and gives a context to think. We see so many things around us and form our opinions which might be completely incorrect. This book surpassed my expectations and I just hope and pray that the last book lives up to the expectations. A lot of loose ends exists and I hope its not further tangled more but rather neatly tied up in the final book.

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Hallelujah – The Immortals of Meluha

Posted in Pai-Book-Review on August 16, 2011 by prajwalpai

“Lord Rama was playing Krodith Pakshi on his iPad.”  This would be the kind of lines that you will encounter in ‘The Immortals of Meluha’. Lets dissect this sentence into parts as if it were some food item and check its ingredients. Lord Rama gives the sentence a Mythological and divine flavour. Krodith pakshi sounds like a Sanskrit word and give the sentence a more Indianised flavour. iPad suddenly shocks you and makes you turn back the pages and actually see if this story is indeed set in 1900BC as iPad provides a flavour of current times. The meaning conveyed by the entire sentence is that ‘Rama dude was playing angry birds on his iPad’, This somehow sounds too much casual tone for a mythological narration and also makes Lord Rama more human and less divine.  This book is a work of fiction and you need to get into that mode before you start appreciating the idea. Before you even ask, This book has no reference to any Apple product nor does it have any reference to any electronic gadgets. I just wanted to pack the feel of entire book in a single sentence and hence taking a bit of liberty in exaggeration.

I am not at all saying that this is not a good book but this is definitely not a great book. The author lacks the attention to details is what I felt. The language and the narration style is way too modern and casual. For example, at one point Lord Shiva says,”the same joker from Brahma temple”. Now.. if you think with a bit of common sense, This story is set in some 1900BC and Shiva is a from a tribe of few ppl who fight for survival. I am pretty sure that they didn’t have a concept of any Joker. There are many swear words and concepts which make you feel that this is a modern story played by mythological characters. It feels like this is a modern take on some old story modified to suit the current times. The book is more like a Hindi Masala movie giving its audience everything they are looking for. It also has its share of ‘inspirations’. The blue throat (Neel kant) is very much like our Harry Potter lightning scar as it brings out the ‘its him! The chosen one’ response from anyone who sees that. It also has a story similar to 300, the spartan movie also battle formations used by Alexander and all.

I have saved the good part for the end. This is a book which takes you on a roller coaster ride. The narration is gripping and does entice you not to put it down. This book indeed has the best recipe for a good Masala movie. This has the mystical chosen one-Neelkant. This book has the good old love story. This book has many unexpected twists and turns. This book has the conflict of thoughts inside the main characters.Our hero has a back-story adding a nice flashback. This book has the bad guy. This book has an epic battle towards the climax.  What more do you want? a Dance number!? Sure! This book has dance numbers too( yes!no kidding). The best part of this book was that it has a profound message wrapped in a wonderful thriller.

This book teaches us that there is an expiry date for everything. There is no good or bad but just the perspective that we see thinks makes us believe what we want to believe. It teaches us that every knowledge has a context, Our opinions are formed only by the facts we know. It teaches us that the something which isn’t good need not be evil/bad. It teaches us that there is no perfect society. The rama rajya setup by the Suryavanshi’s is not even close to perfect. I have tried real hard not to give any spoilers as I recommend this book to be read by you guys. I do leave you guys with the small conversation in the book which I loved the most. The gist of the conversation goes like this.

———- ◊ ———-

The pandith started, ‘Every knowledge has a context, without the context we may not get the point. So tell me what is the color of that leaf?’

‘Its green’, said Shiva

Is it?

Isnt it?

Why do you think that it appears green to you?

‘Because’ said Shiva, ‘It  IS  green!’

‘How does the eye see?’

The white sunlight falls on that leaf.The leaf’s physical properties are such that it absorbs the colors violet,indigo,blue,yellow,orange and red. It doesn’t absorb the color green which is reflected back to my eyes. Hence I see the leaf as green.

‘Exactly’ beamed the pandit.’So think about the color of that leaf from the perspective of that leaf itself. What color it absorbs and what it rejects.Is its color green? Or is it every single color in the world, except green?

Shiva was stunned by the simplicity of the argument presented to him.

‘There are many realities. There are many versions of what may appear obvious, Whatever appears as the unshakable truth, the exact opposite might also be true in another context. It is the context or perspective that you are looking from that moulds which particular reality you see.’

———- ———-

Life is what you make it

Posted in Pai-Book-Review on August 10, 2011 by prajwalpai

A human life can be extremely unpredictable. One day, You can be on cloud number 9 on a peak of a mountain telling yourself that life can’t get better than this and within a span of few days you can find yourself unable to muster enough emotional strength to get up off the bed  telling yourself that life cannot get worse than this. Such is life and such is its beauty.

The book “Life is what you make it”, as per author is a story of love, hope and how determination can overcome even destiny.  I truly don’t agree with author that this book achieves that. I don’t highly recommend this read and hence this blog is gonna have spoilers. If you have any intention of reading this book which in unlikely, Please close the window.

This book is about a small town girl called Ankita. She is an academic achiever with a penchant in painting and arts. She is in love with one guy but a second guy comes and sweeps her off her feet. She ditches the guy citing her career aspirations and education  while the guy commits suicide.  She takes this guy off her life overnight as if  he never existed and one fine day things fall apart. Despite of doing very well academically, She ends up being a drop out and as her past starts haunting her, She starts fainting regularly, she goes into severe depression. She starts questioning her self-worth and loses her self-respect to the extent of not able to face herself in mirror. She feels like punishing herself and even goes suicidal and ends up in a psychiatric hospital after being diagnosed of Bipolar Disorder.

If the book was about how she fights back to a so-called normal life , then the title would have been deserving. By the time all this happens, it’s almost the end of the book. Only couple of chapters dedicated on how she recovers which talks more of her routine and less about her mental strength and even less about her determination. She recovers and excels in life which is as predictable as ending of any Hindi movie.

The part of the book which i liked the most was when the author talks about Bipolar Disorder. How it can be so severely crippling that it can result in damaged relationships and sudden change in decisions and severe depression. Its associated with creativity. People with this disorder experience intense emotional states which alternate between a ‘High episode’ called manic episode and is followed by a ‘low episode’ called depressive episode. During a manic state, the person feels overly happy,outgoing and bursting with high energy. There is a huge increase in goal directed activities and the person is restless and on their toes. In contrast, during low period, there is increasing feeling of worthlessness or emptiness which is hard to describe. The person feels exhausted and has trouble concentrating , making decisions and filled with negative thoughts.

It’s very appalling that Mental health issues are still a big taboo in india. In the west there is so much of awareness on this but in India, People still prefer not to talk about it and even if anybody suffers, its hushed up. I remember recently asking somebody to get a professional opinion but it was received in a way as if I was insinuating that the person is crazy. I still don’t understand, How the so-called forward thinking people who have got so much influenced by western lifestyle still have this Indian mentality of thinking that only ‘crazy’ ppl approach a psychiatrist. When people have a toothache, they go to dentist, when they have a severe thought disorder, they go to psychiatrist, as simple as that!

The author also wants to convey from the book that having a condition like Bipolar disorder does not mean the person is ‘crazy’ or ‘lunatic’ and it’s not end of the world either. With just a bit of professional help, affected people can lead a very positive and complete lives.

P.S : The last 3 para are almost verbatim versions of the contents of the book and not from my knowledge. I just mentioned it here to increase people awareness.  The author also mentions that more info can be found at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

Jaya!

Posted in Pai-Book-Review on August 6, 2011 by prajwalpai

“Mahabharata is a story” is as much as an understatement as saying that “Hubble Telescope is a big magnifying glass”. After Veda Vyasa compiled the 4 Vedas , he had this inexplicable urge to write a story it seems, A story which would convey the most abstract of Vedic Truths to the simplest of men. Vyasa called this tale ‘Jaya’,meaning the tale of victory. The story was first about an idea, the idea changed and it came to be known as ‘Vijaya’. Before long it became not about the idea but about the people and got re-titled to ‘Bharata’, The story of the Bharata clan. The expansion continued and detailed conversation on genealogy, history, astrology, geography, economics, philosophy and metaphysics were included. Even the story of Krishna’s early years were added. That is how the Bharata came to be the Mahabharata, the ‘great’ epic of India.

I am pretty sure that everybody knows of the Mahabharata and most people owe this knowledge to DD’s teleserial of the same name. Think this was one of the most viewed serial on TV in those times. I still remember the opening song, Still remember the bed of arrows of Bhishmapitamaha, The cunning smile of Nitish Bharadwaj as Shri Krishna, The fireworks during the arrow duels, these memories etched from childhood.  Now If we know everything about this story then why should one bother picking up this book called ‘Jaya’ -A retelling of Mahabharata.

Before I go on about the contents of this book, Let me just make a mention of the author. My manager mentioned of Devdutt Patnaik few months back. Devdutt Patnaik is the CBO of Future group, A leading retailer which includes Big bazaar and pantaloons. The designation of CBO which stands for, Chief Belief Officer is I believe one of a kind in this world.  I was intrigued as to what would be expected of a guy on this designation. I went through his portal and a lot of blogs and made up my mind that I should read at least one of his book.  To put it in most crude way, He tries to make sense out of mythology. To understand this in more elegant way, you guys need to pick up any of his book. I actually was thinking of reading his books from long time but didn’t find an opportunity, till Anu happened to recommend this book and even lend me her copy! Thanks Anu.

“Jaya” is a must read for any person who is remotely interested in any sort of reading and not necessarily mythology. We are familiar with some of the main stream stories involved but there are so many sub plots and so many flashbacks spanning thousands of years. Within the maze of stories flows the river of wizdom. Mahabharata is shown in a wider perspective of cosmic balance.  The flow is smooth, the language is lucid and it goes much beyond than merely telling a unidimensional story. After every chapter, The author presents to us some notes,thoughts, some folk source and some practical point of view on the story. These Tit-Bits actually get more interesting than the actual story, This is where the book wins over other books. He tries to take out the myth from the mythology and tries to give a practical spin on what would have happened. This results in a more uncensored content too. At every point we are given a back ground story which might go back by hundred of years or previous life or ancestors of the characters. The act that happened then results in something in the life of generations down the family line. We realize that Mahabharata is not a book about Dharma , It’s about the conflict and analysis of the root of conflict. We understand that everything that happens in the world happens for a reason and nobody is single-handedly responsible for anything that happens. It’s a culmination of events that happened over thousands of years and everything that happened has led to this event.

The best part of the book for which it is a must read is the chapter called Song of God. The whole Bhagawat Gita is summarised into 4 pages.  These pages have so much of profound meaning and depth in them. I could read this again and again. I plan to have a Jaya page on this blog page where I would have some stories from this book and the moral as I read them again and again.  I loved this book to the core and would highly recommend this to even the new readers who are yet to pickup a reading habit. I put an end with some words from this book,

“Have faith in the existence of the soul. Accept that nothing happens without a reason. Accept that all experiences have a purpose, Accept that the soul doesnt favour either you or your enemies, that there is a reality greater that what we perceive. Accept that infinite occurrences if the universe cannot be fathomed by the finite human mind. Surrender unconditionally, even in the absence of evidence, to the truth of the cosmos. In humility, there is faith , when there is faith, there is no fear.”