Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Land of Presents: A Guest Post

Source: Wiki

What do you call a person who has taken the blogging world by a storm? What do you say of a writer whose name is synonymous with fiction writing?  How do you describe a blogger who not only goes out of the way to help his fellow mates but also steers their ship in the right direction?...There are many who try their hand at Fiction but only a handful truly master the art of narration and dot the I’s and cross the t’s not just once, but every single time. Among that handful, the ability to sustain this talent and make their creativity flourish lies with a select few. And even then, not all can boast of a perfect diction as much as this person can.

A brilliant weaver of words, the textures he creates and the nuances he brings in makes not just me but everyone applaud; Yes, each and every time. Because every time he picks his pen, only magic flows.
You would have guessed it by now, he can only be SidBalachandran; the man behind ‘I Wrote Those’ and a dear friend that I have found in this virtual world. Though we had known each other as fellow bloggers, only when we discovered a common love for Fiction did we really get talking, and went on to build a friendship cemented by that very passion.

A person whose blog is one of the most popular ones in the 'Blogosphere' today, writing a guest post for it was a thought that overwhelmed me beyond measure. But a few days back when he asked if I could write a post and sent across one of his Project365’s daily prompts, he had me fall for it hook, line and sinker. Who other than a good friend would know that if there was a way to make me sit up and take notice, then it was a way through books?

The prompt asked me if after spending time with a group of people, I felt energized and ready for anything or did I want to hide in the corner with a good book. I really didn't have to think hard on this one; I knew the only way I could do justice to the Fiction King’s prompt was by writing a small piece of Fiction.

Here is a snippet of what lies ahead :)

“Cindy! I am so glad you could make it. It is always a pleasure to see you” exclaimed Rita brushing her cheeks and kissing the air near them, religiously following the rules from left to right. But then she was always the type to play by the book, thought Cindy batting her eyelids and flashing a pearly white smile as she hugged her back. Dressed in a low cut little black dress with her eyes intensified with kohl, large drops of diamonds twirling below her ears and a stunning red accentuating her notorious pout, Rita seemed dressed to kill she thought, rather than just host the cocktail party she had thrown to celebrate her birthday.  Glancing down at her own lacy peasant girl top paired with a turquoise blue short skirt, she wondered if she was under dressed for the party.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: 'Happily Murdered' by Rasleen Syal

Source: www.amazon.in

Revenge might be a dish best served cold but it only tastes mouth-watering if a dash of jealousy or protectiveness and a sprinkle of animosity and rivalry are added to it. This is a delicacy served by many across the world but few manage to nail the quality and turn it into a gourmet dish with a serving of murder on the side.  We have devoured it with a hunger known only to us avid Mystery readers, feeling satiated only when served by the likes of Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark or P.D James. So when a young Indian Author decided to make a foray into this Genre and make an attempt at rubbing shoulders with the who’s who of this world, it made me sit up, smack my lips in anticipation and eagerly take a headlong dive into what I hoped would be India’s epicurean response to the world of mystery writing. And no, I wasn't disappointed. Not really.

‘Happily Murdered’ is debutante Author Rasleen Syal’s first offering in a virtually untouched genre by Indian Authors. This is the first aspect that makes this book different. Set in the serene and picturesque foothills of the Himalayas is the fictitious town Ratnagiri in Uttaranchal. Gulab Sarin, the newly wed daughter-in-law of the affluent Mehta family is found dead dressed in her bridal finery on her wedding night. Despite obvious clues left around that point to one particular individual, the jealousy, strife, animosity, rivalry, manipulative behaviour and the history to the victim’s relationship with her new husband add different angles to the investigation that make the Police believe this to be an inside job.

The matter complicates with the different shades of grey that each and every family member bring to the table, be it the ruthlessly business minded father in law, the crafty mother in law, traitorous brother in law, love struck ex-fiancees or the infidel and debt ridden husband. Everyone seems to have a tale to tell and a story to hide. The abstruseness of the matter and the urge to save the family name from any disgrace gives birth to nine sleuths, each wanting to protect their loved one even if it means sending an innocent to the Guillotine. What would mean a regular day in every household is full of intrusion, frantic room searches, framing and blame games in the Mehta Palace. A family full of malice and deception and a death in the middle of the night, the Mehtas and their relatives, the Dullas form the ingredients of a beautiful recipe for murder.

A lot of things help simmer the dish, adding the necessary spice spite in the right amounts. The flavour that stands out the most is the narration style, what could add the punch to the final product if not having Gulab narrate the past that ties each character to each other in more ways than one? That for me was the second aspect that made this book different. If that wasn't enough, the third and most important aspect that made this book tick for me was the language Rasleen uses to weave words together into meanings that make the reader thing more than once about the conclusions he has conjured in his mind while leafing through the pages. In a world, where sprinkling generous doses of Hindi and using colloquial lingo has become the order of the day, Rasleen Syal makes an entry much like a cool breeze on a hot summery day.

While the dish was getting prepared, it does seem to have gone through a few minor misadventures along the way. A few conflicting tenses during the narration and some factual discrepancies (e.g. cigarette smoke on a flight or Vikram’s age and how long his parents have been married) make you re-read a few paragraphs but they do not necessarily impede the pace at which the story moves. What also stands out every now and then are minor typographical errors and the occasional omission of a word, making one feel the copy editing team could have done with one last eyeballing exercise. None of these however stop the dish from being cooked to serve as the dish is always served-cold.

When you sample the dish, the flavours hit your taste buds and make you want to relish it more, one page at a time. As you enjoy every bite, there are times when you sense what the end will be like from the flavours Rasleen tries to imbibe through the narration style she adopts. But despite the inkling you get, when you reach the end of the meal, you don’t mind scraping the leftovers from the plate and licking it clean but once you are done and you look back you realize a few ingredients might have been missed out which could have helped the Author perfect the dish.

For a mystery that needs to be solved within a fortnight and the urgency the police show initially, they are surprisingly missing from most of the story. Apart from a reactive action to information provided, there is no sign of them pursuing their investigation. One of the amateur sleuth’s finally hits dirt by piecing the puzzle together however how he joins the pieces and arrives at the final conclusion is not explained entirely. What also becomes noticeable is the absence of perspective and involvement into the self-made investigations of some of the family members, instead the focus being on a select few. The first few pages disclose the characters involved, often leaving you confused on the relationships between them and making you feel a family tree would have come handy but that feeling does tend to disappear as you progress through and the characters become more familiar.

Despite these slight flavours that you tend to wonder about, Rasleen presents “Happily Murdered” as a delicious dish, one that you enjoy and savour. Her idol’s influence is also evident from the finale she ensembles which has a typical Agatha Christie-ish feel to it. Given this is her debut book, Rasleen impresses and makes you wonder if she will invent newer recipes which will define India’s own version of crime based fiction in the coming years.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014


Source: www.chippingin.wordpress.com

She checked the shocking pink on her finger nails, carefully examining if the brush had done justice to each; slowly she shifted her attention to her phone lying next to the coffee mug on the table. Making herself look busy she did nothing but stare at the screen and check the time every time it ticked a second more. 4:00 PM, the clock didn't seem to move an inch. Then she twirled her coffee cup and watched the cream dance out of the lovely leaf that it once was, giving a peek of the fragrant caffeine that lay beneath. Slowly she stole a glance towards the chair opposite and watched him make the white in his cup jiggle with the brown just as she had done a minute before. He smiled down at the cup; the same mischief spreading over his face as it had a decade ago. A decade since they had met…a decade since they had been friends.

Silence had replaced the chatter and proximity had met its match with stiffness. What was once called openness was now redefining itself as hesitation. She inquired about his family and he her’s. A lot of vacuum in their lives had been filled but a few old spaces had remained empty.

Time flew back and she reminisced the old days. The afternoon lectures perked up with the exchange of silent notes and the pinches and tickles that saved many a snoozing days. Birthdays turning bumpier every year and exams fluttering every nerve. Crying over crushes and laughing over gossip. Getting drunk over heartbreaks and celebrating over job offers. They had been through it all. Right from the thick to the thin, tiding over every hurdle holding hands that were glued together with the strongest adhesive that was around – Friendship. Could a guy and girl just be friends? she had been asked. Look at us and you will know how, she had said.

Breaking away from the memories she had treasured over the decade, she sipped her coffee, the warmth seeping through her mind, making her wonder why she had let ten years just go. Seasons had come, of love, friendships, careers, marriage and jobs -Some to stay forever, some to go. They had made her forget and lose herself in the flurries and the drops that pelted down on the window of her life. But there had always been something amiss, something that added the zing to life like crispy hot pakoras on a rainy evening or hot chocolate on a cold wintry night. It had taken her ten long years to realize what had stayed away from her reach. Friendship. There were friends she had shared all those ups and downs with but ‘The’ friend had been missing all along. Taking with him that zing that would have made the defining years of her life a lot more memorable than they were today. She thought of all those albums and the pictures that captured the moments of her life. All her loved ones were in them except one.

She gave herself a shake, no longer admiring the paint on her nails. She looked at her phone, just a glance.Thirty minutes had passed by, thirty minutes of reliving those ten years that had slipped by. Thirty minutes of silence as they both fiddled with their coffee that had now gone cold. No more, she thought. She was now at a juncture where she needed her close ones with her, to look back and smile at the life they had all shared. Together.  

No longer did she steal a glance; instead she looked up, summoning the waiter. “Two more latte’s please?” she said, hearing the sigh of relief being let out across from her.

It was time to renew her friendship.

A take on the prompt 'Describe thirty minutes into the renewal of a friendship'

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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Book Review: 'The One You Cannot Have' By Preeti Shenoy

Source: www.goodreads.com

During the last few months, I have been reading quite a few Indian Authors with the sole intention of understanding where Indian writing stands today, esp. what the preferred Genre is for story telling. The more I read, the more I realized how light fiction has become the order of the day. Story lines that revolve around college, MBA, romance and the corporate are the staple. ‘The One You Cannot Have’ is once such book in this newly evolved world of Indian fiction writing.

The story begins with Aman returning to India after a two year stint in the UK. For two years he has stayed away, to get over the love of his life Shruti. The one with whom he spent the most beautiful four years of his life. The one who he had thought he would spend the rest of his life with. The one who broke away because her parents disapproved of him and her mother was suffering from breast cancer. But theirs was the perfect thing, despite spending two years away from India, his friends and Shruti, he hasn't been able to get over her. While Aman continues to live in his past, Shruti has problems of her own. She is now married to Rishabh, an alliance approved by her parents. She leads a happy life with him but yearns for what she had with Aman.

While the two hold on to their past, Anjali comes into Aman’s life and wants to take the place left vacant by Shruti. On the other hand, Rishabh discovers about Shruti’s past and begins to drift away.What happens to their relationships, which strings get snapped and which tie together is what Preeti Shenoy’s latest book is about. While the story line is not beyond the ordinary, Preeti does a good job of tightly coupling the plot together and holding on till the very end. What she also does well, is bring depth to the emotions that Aman and Shruti feel. She brings intensity into their relationship and shows why it was the most perfect, why they will always take that place in each others live, of being the one they cannot have. She also questions stereotypes esp. around societal pressure on starting families and the right age for getting married. She subtly brings about the Indian love for moral policing in the form of Anjali’s landlord and hypocrisy that exists in our society through Dipika.

The story line does not necessarily make it a gripping read, but it sure keeps you engaged while you devour down the pages. Being able to develop a firm story around a plot such that it keeps you engrossed when you leaf through is indeed an accomplishment to be appreciated. And Preeti achieves just that.

However, while I enjoyed this read, a few questions did come to mind. A great job is done in executing the perfect relationship between Aman and Shruti and the fact that neither has gotten over the other has been emphasized. On the other hand the relationship Aman shares with Anjali, is shown to be good but not as great as it had been with Shruti. The usages of words like “The more I talk about her, the more I realize how fond I am actually of her” don’t necessarily convince that Aman’s emotions are strong enough to give up on his perfect relationship esp. when it comes knocking at his door. Also, while on one hand, stereotypes and mindsets are questioned, when it comes to the climax, it seems to fall in line with those very  notions, leaving the reader wondering why, when Aman and Shruti both wanted to be together could they not be? Why, just because she is married, Shruti needs to go back to work things out with a husband who doesn't attempt to understand? Why is it necessary for people to always live with that “if only…” feeling for the rest of their lives.

Maybe this is what Preeti had in mind when she wrote ‘The One You Cannot Have’, to make her readers question  and hunt for those answers?… and if that’s the case, she sure has achieved what she set out to.

‘The One You Cannot Have’ might be one among the myriads of light fiction novels hitting the Indian market today, but it definitely rates high on that list. Purely for the execution skills Preeti brings to the table. Worth picking this book up for another of those Sunday breezy reads.

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