Biblio-rants, Uncategorized

Visiting modern Classics: The Legends of Khasak by OV Vijayan

Now, I am nobody to review a masterpiece as this; especially one of the most best-selling novels in South Asia. So let me put that as a disclaimer as I Khasak5begin to rant over how beautiful a piece of literature The Legends of Khasak is in its full glory.

I had my apprehensions about reading the English version of it first. So I did venture out to read Malayalam first, but somehow it never happened. And, the one day I stumbled across the English version and decided that this was to be. Just a few pages in I realized that Chethali and Koomankavu seem just beautifully native to the English language. Allah Picha Mullaka, Kunjamina, Kunjinooru, Nizam Ali, Appukkili are just as familiar to me in English as they would have been in Malayalam, maybe- I don’t know!

2005033106451101A writer and English professor himself, O V Vijayan wrote ‘Khasakinte ithihasam’ in Malayalam, in 1969, and then wrote the English translation of it himself in 1994. He had lived in a village called Thasarak near Palakkad, Kerala during a sabbatical he took from work. His sister, O V Shanta had been appointed as a teaching faculty at a government-aided school at the time and his family had shifted to accompany her. He had found the topography and demography of Thasarak to suit his aching social conscience. So, it had taken him 12 long years to pen down his story, basing many of his characters after the locals and some from his imagination.

For more than one reasons this book and its narrative are very special to me. One, this is by far my mother’s favorite novels in Malayalam. She would often quote chunks and portions of the book which she has memorized over the years. So when I read it in English I felt like I was re-reading the novel. But it did not miss me that the beauty of the prose had not faded inspite of it not being in its native language.

If you ask me what this book is about I don’t think a one-liner is in order. This novel is about sin, penance, salvation, and restoration. It is broadly about the circle of life and about the infinite clash of myth and reality. It is also for everyone who thirsts for a countryside life. And it is as real and raw as they come.

Without a doubt, The Legends of  Khasak is one of the most overlooked pieces of English literature from India. The rhythmic prose with its crests and troughs, ebb and flow and gravity would have won home numerous laurels if it were published at a better time.  The abstract plot of the story stands out days, months and years after it’s read haunting the psyche of any reader.

Book Review, Indian authors

Sita Warrior of Mithila : Book 2 of Ram Chandra Series by Amish

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati suvrata|

Abhyuttthanamadharmasya tada prakritisambhavah||

O keeper of righteous vows, remember this,

Whenever dharma is in decline, Or there is an upsurge of adharma:

The Sacred Feminine will incarnate.

Amish’s Ram Chandra series had its debut with The Scion of Ikshvaku 2 years ago. Fans have been waiting for the release of Sita Warrior of Mithila since then. I do not claim fealty to Sita_Warrior_of_Mithila_coverthe fandom, let me confess, I haven’t read The Scion of Ikshvaku beyond a few chapters. I left it alone since I found it dragging in a manner familiar to me from Amish’s The Oath of the Vayuputras from the Shiva Trilogy (don’t get me wrong, I liked the book, the climax even). The slow place was acceptable to me there because it was the end of a series I had so dearly followed. Besides the characters in the narrative had all felt fresh and real. The Scion of Ikshvaku felt like it was merely riding on the fame and anticipation the Shiva Trilogy has caused in its splendor. However, the trailer and the cover of this book did not fail to appeal to my senses. Inspite of that, I began reading Sita Warrior of Mithila with ample apprehension and timidity. And then, the first chapter of the book happened!

After the first chapter I literally closed the book and said, “Amish, you have me hook line and sinker!” In here Sita is a badass! She is a warrior worth her salt. She is intelligent, smart and pragmatic. And yes, she means business! The story revolves around her cause and the means she adopts for it. She constantly reminds you of a modern working woman who has to balance her work and personal life, albeit with a very supportive and understanding partner who shares her goal. It’s a relationship in perfect harmony. *sigh* The story here has a pace, quite comfortable to any reader. The language is simple and comprehensible. But, that’s the thing with Amish! His works are known for the freshness of the plot than decorative language. Though in this case, the language is also overly descriptive and screenplay-ish, which is quite possibly intentional given his eye for detail.

AmishThe story here has a pace, quite comfortable to any reader. The language is simple and comprehensible. But, that’s the thing with Amish! His works are known for the freshness of the plot than decorative language. Though in this case, the language is also overly descriptive and screenplay-ish, which is quite possibly intentional given his eye for detail. He subtly touches contemporary debate points like meat-eating and Jallikettu. But fails to make a decisive statement anywhere. At some places, Amish seems to be struggling to defend certain characters in alignment to how we know them from the popular epic, Ramayan. And, throughout the narrative, his politics seems to be diplomatic. I would have loved a little more bravado, but still not complaining.

Amish explains his style of narration in this series as multi-linear, i.e, the first three books will respectively be in Ram’s, Sita’s and Raavan’s perspectives. All these three books start and end at the kidnapping of Sita by Raavan. The fourth and last book in the series will be the conclusive one that’ll take the story ahead and tie everything neatly with a bow. This means that a lot many parts of the story will be repeated in all three books. So, for readers intending to read the books one after the other may be at a disadvantage. But it also means that no matter where you start reading the series, between book 1 to 3, you do not miss out on the story.

 

Verdict: It is fresh, and fast! This Sita is to watch out for. Ram Chandra series is picking up with this installment of the story. So if you are a fan of the genre, you might not want to miss this.

Continue reading “Sita Warrior of Mithila : Book 2 of Ram Chandra Series by Amish”

Book Review, Indian authors

Olympus: An Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths

Very few writers incite in me the urge to reach for their books at the devdutt_660_041113063104mere sight of their names on the cover and Devdutt Pattanaik is one of them because, according to me, he is the master of retellings. His works, Jaya and Sita have been revelations to me; and The Pregnant King is still one of my favorites. His stronghold seems to be his ability to stay subjectively objective in drawing from mythology what is relevant to the ever changing modern scenario. He is not a puritanist bogged down by the conservative traditionalist. Neither is he dismissive of the western view on Indian mythology. He understands that it is important to stand firmly grounded on the cultural nuances to understand and interpret Indian mythology. So when such a reasonable and learned man shifts his gaze to Greek mythology, and you love reading mythology, you follow suit.

olympusOlympus: The Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths comes to me in my near total ignorance of Greek Mythology, but for a few stories here and there. And, because I read from cover to cover, the Author’s note required atleast three reading of me because I believe that is the most important part of the book. It prepares you for what follows by giving you a briefing as to what Greek mythology came about geographically, politically, socially and culturally. The book is later divided into 8 books each for a Greek God and the mythical stories surrounding them.

Pattanaik, as expected of him, doesn’t stray from drawing parallels between Indian and Greek Mythologies. He finds parallels between characters, incidents, and ideologies. This book, like any good book, has worked up my curiosity about Greek mythology.

Pattanaik’s writing is simple and straightforward as always. The stories are almost journalist and to-the-point and the notes that follow are where he lets his analytical and reasoning brain at work. This is the kind of book you go back to for light reading. The stories are prophetic, pragmatic and sometimes cringe-worthy-all of what is beautifully handled by Pattanaik’s simple language that keeps him an observer and narrator, at a safe distance from all action. I would go as far as calling him a modern day Sanjaya, the commentator of the Mahabharata war to the blind King Dhritarashtra.

P.S. I would love for Devdutt Pattanaik to turn his gaze towards South Indian folklores, which otherwise seem to be largely neglected. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know his fresh and progressive views on the myths down south?

Verdict: This book is for Greek mythology neophytes and can serve as your crash course in the same.

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Book Review, Indian authors

Kindle Short Read: Bhoomija by Anand Neelakantan

The Ramayan has never ceased to invite imagination. The Kindle Short read Bhoomija is 61g1cri5UoL._SL250_yet another take on Ramayan. It takes on the premise of Ramayan without even beginning to narrate the story. It dwells with the premise of how and why Valmiki wrote the Ramayan.

I was curious about this story as this comes from Anand Neelakantan, who spoke objectively about Raavan with Asura: the tale of the vanquished. I wanted to know how he would spin this. But this story speaks of the Ramayan without talking of the hero or the anti-hero. This is a non-judgemental take on Ramayan. It is a take on the premise of Ramayan and how over the many years generations have given us their own interpretations based on their judgment. This story is about Sita in her many names. It is about what she represents as the daughter of the soil. It is, beyond doubt, about Ramayan.

This story is about Sita in her many names. It is about what she represents as the daughter of the soil. It is, beyond doubt, about Ramayan. So, if ever Ramayan has mystified you this story tries to demystify and decode it to you.

(Find the short read at Amazon Kindle. Each Short Read is priced at Rs.25 and is a 30-minute read)

 

Biblio-rants, In conversation

In conversation with – Anand Neelakantan

After the success of Asura: The tale of the Vanquished and the Ajaya series Anand Neelakantan is now busy with the Baahubali : Before the beginning series.The first book in the series, The Rise of Sivagami was out on March 15th and is doing really well on the charts. I had an opportunity to talk with the author. And here’s an excerpt of the conversation-anand_neelakantan

 

How was it writing The Rise of Sivagami in 109 days?

It was maddening. I didn’t think whether it was possible or not, I just sat down and wrote. More so because I was sending my unedited rough chapter drafts to Rajamouli. Soon after each mail he would text me back asking me ‘what next?’. He said, “Not to pressurize you or anything, but I can’t sleep until I know what happens next!” Later when I went to the sets of Bahubali 2 the producer told me that I had cost him 5 days of shooting as Mr.Rajamaouli was up reading my drafts all night and couldn’t shoot the next morning. (laughs) I tell you, that’s the biggest compliment I’ve received for the book, bigger than an award!

With your books like Asura: A tale of the vanquished and the Ajaya: Epic of the Kaurava Clan series you seem to be obsessed with the anti-hero. Why is that so?

To me, they are the heroes. See, if I am to write about, say, Krishna or Rama, they are divine and the divine can do whatever they want. So there is no story there. And many people, a lot more talented than myself, have written about them. What more would I write about them? I want to write about the less spoken about.

How would you characterize your style of story telling?

I believe that fiction is a mirror. It should reflect the society and basic human nature. That’s what I keep in mind when I write. My stories have to be entertaining and at the same time make my readers think.

Coming to The Rise of Sivagami, how much of this story is S.S.Rajamouli?

We had one meeting where he gave me a list of dos and don’ts regarding the characters of Sivagami and Kattappa. He essentially gave me the two characters and asked me to write the story around them like I would write any other story. All the other characters are how I created them from my imagination. The freedom he gave me and the responsibility of staying true to the franchise was daunting.

What are the challenges you faced in writing this novel?

The first challenge was to finish plotting, planning, drafting and revising in 109. Besides this book is a prequel to an already established franchise. The magical grandiose Mr.S.S.Rajamouli has created on the screen along with the musical accompaniment of M.M Keeravani’s magic is indisputably unparalleled in Indian cinema. For me to be able to recreate that magic in words is an intimidating task. But, like I said, I didn’t stop to think. I just started writing. Also, I think the bigger and real challenge would be to keep my readers engaged and interested all through the series. And, since I like challenging myself, the challenge is accepted!

What are you reading at the moment?

I tend to read more non-fiction when I’m writing. I feel it helps in adding more reality and character to my writing. Also, I fear reading fiction while writing fiction may cause my reading to influence my writing. So at the moment, I’m reading Indica: A Deep Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent by Pranay Lal. I’m also reading Anthakaranazhi, in Malayalam. I just finished reading Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand by K.Vijay Kumar.

What are the books that you read recently and liked?

Although I read it about couple of months back, itt has to be the multi-award winning Aarachar, by K.R. Meera, Manushyanu Oru Aamukham by Subhash Chandran and The Ivory Throne by Manu.S.Pillai.

Currently, Anand Neelakantan is busy scheduling time to promote his book The Rise of Sivagami, the first book in the Baahubali: Before the Beginning series, and working on the second book in the series. Further he also has some upcoming screen-writing commitments for Amazon Prime and Discovery Channel based on Indian history.

Book Review, Indian authors

The Rise of Sivagami: Book 1 of Baahubali – Before the Beginning by Anand Neelakantan

‘Why did Kattappa kill Baahubai?’, the most asked question in these 2 years, only begins 911wBYUAMAL.__BG0,0,0,0_FMpng_AC_UL320_SR208,320_
to gauge the wide public interest in the Baahubali franchise. While the answer to this question might evade us till the end April this year, when Baahubali 2 -The Conclusion releases, clues to it might be hidden in plain sight within the pages of The Rise of Sivagami, written by Anand Neelakantan. SS Rajamouli and Anand Neelakantan were well ahead of their game in marketing Baahubali franchise and the book by releasing Chapter 2: Kattappa ahead of the book release to pique interest. The book was up for pre-ordering on Amazon and it hit the stands on 15th of March, 2107. I caught hold of a digital copy from the Kindle store on the D-day.

The very first few pages into the book told me that it will need more than my Anand-Neelakantancursory attention. All the main characters are listed with their brief description before the story begins. This gives you an insight into what is in store for you. It also gives you a sense of the magnitude of the plot. This fictional political drama focuses on Sivagami’s story. How from young orphan she turned into the powerful bureaucrat she seems in the first movie of the franchise. The characters seem well thought out and by the end of the book you see a lot of them evolve into full bloom. The plot twists and turns tend to shock at times and sometimes get predictable. But, this book only starts to lay a ground for the plot twists and turns that could be possible in a story of this magnitude.

Anand Neelakantan had announced his arrival with his book Asura: The Tale of the Vanquished. And, in true Anand Neelakantan style, there are no black and white characters here either; every character has a gray shade, with the exception of Kattappa and Mahadeva. But, Neelakantan, a fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series himself, assures us that the plot will only thicken as the series proceeds.

Verdict: If you have enjoyed Baahubali, the movie and the mini-series on Amazon Prime, then you are definitely going to love and enjoy it. This book serves in thickening the plot and getting you further immersed into the world of Mahishmati. 

 

Continue reading “The Rise of Sivagami: Book 1 of Baahubali – Before the Beginning by Anand Neelakantan”

Skincare

My summer essentials to beat the heat

The summer is at the top of it’s game. All those smoothies and ice teas aren’t only going to help you from the heat. The AC is only going to burden the electricity bill. Nevertheless, we aren’t among those who take all that drama lying down (pun intended). So here’s a list of my summer essentials.

  • Sunscreen: I have a whole list of my recommendations for suncreen in post you can find here.
  • Face mist: Imagine you just came in from the scorching heat and your face is a fiery burnished red. You definetly want some solace from the sweat and heat. I recommend good ol’ rose water. It is both cooling and moisturizing, all in one. It works on your skin and your hair. Rosewater also doubles up as your makeup setting spray for summers. I would recommend the Kama Ayurveda Pure Rose water. But, if you are a little more adventurous you may go for Vichy Thermal Spa Water which is 100% pure and paraben-free.
  • Wipes, blotting paper or tissue : Gone are the days of hankies because they are very, very unhygienic to use and reuse. Opt for wipes, or blotting papers depending on your skin type. 
  • Water alias H2O: I know you’ve heard enough high praise for water and there’s a reason for that. H2O as water H2O in food, summer needs water in whatever form you are willing to take it. So up your water intake by including meals that have high water content.

Apart from this, if you are into make-up I would suggest tinted moisturizers or BB or CC creams. These are not heavy on the face and do a good job in the summers, especially with all the sweat. A smudge-proof Kohl and/or mascara along with a good ol’ bright matte lippy goes a long way.

These are just my ways to rock the scorching summer heat that’s out to burn us to a crisp. Let me know yours in the comments so we could brave the heat together.

Cheers n love.