Friday, April 29, 2011

I visited ‘The Garden of Solitude’ and thought Siddhartha must be thanked!

There was one Siddhartha who saw the human sufferings and unable to bear it left his palace willingly, in order to find the meaning of life and as a result became the ‘Enlightened one’. The Buddha. The most wise and revered one whose teachings continue to guide men and women around the world to lead a life of peace and joy.
Recently, I encountered his namesake. Another Siddhartha. Coincidently, he also left his beautiful home. But the difference is he did not choose to leave it. Instead, he had no other options but to leave his beautiful abode. Unwillingly, he became a Migrant. And not only him, but many others like him were compelled to leave their homes and ended sharing the same fate. They were once the proud Pundits. The well respected. The well read. The well lived. And the much envied by many as they lived in ‘Heaven’. The heaven called Kashmir.
But most of them were uprooted and thrown out ruthlessly with some managing to carry barely the very basics. Their own beautiful homes were left vacant or uncared for indefinitely, while they suffered humiliation, pain and social exclusion. Anyways I can go on and on… to describe their state of affairs and still not be able to bring out the extreme sufferings, the low life conditions and the struggle they must have gone through and are still experiencing just because they are Kashmiri Pundits. Frankly speaking, had I not read Siddhartha’s book, I would have never known about the kind of torturous existence the people of my own land went/going through just because of the damaging ‘man- made’ turmoil that refuses to die away. Just because no one is much bothered about humanity and the illogical and unjust sacrifice that is being asked of it. Just because voices are suppressed. Just because not many care. And maybe even just because we the masses or the ‘mainlanders’ have not experienced the tremendous pains and sufferings of the peripheral states, (like Jammu and Kashmir).
But let me commend the man who succeeded very well in portraying the exact state of affairs of the people of Kashmir, especially the migrant Pundits. His work literally brought tears to my eyes at several places when I went through his ‘Garden of Solitude’.
Sridar (the main protagonist) touched me with his relentless efforts and undying spirit to bring out the facts, the real stories, the good old days, the deep love between two culturally and traditionally different communities that lived in harmony before the trouble in Kashmir began and most of all the human spirit that still hopes for peace and happiness to return to the valley.
I thank Siddhartha for ‘enlightening’ me and many other readers like me. And wish him all the best for all that he is doing in order to spread knowledge, happiness and peace.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Legally Lovingly Yours!

Another love story as most can make out from the title. So what is so different about this one? I did not know and was neither too keen to find out, (I mean, I had tons of other things that needed my complete attention), until the author sent me a request to take a look at the FB page of the book. I could not say ‘No’.
So I did as he asked me to. I scanned through the page. Clicked on the ‘Like it’ sign. Said a few motivating words. Wished him all the best and then promptly forgot all about it!

But he did not. Nor did he let me. He kept me in the loop about its various stages of development and even managed to make me give a serious thought to the question of reviewing his book. I did not initially like the idea of reviewing his (or for that matter anyone’s book) but later his request acted as a stimulus for the inception of ‘figuratively speaking – don’t take me literally’.

So, here I am with his ‘just finished’ book by my side and my deft fingers typing away my immediate reflections on the book (and its writer). The first thing that crosses my mind is – Wow! Young India is into writing big time, (and being published by some of the best names in the industry).

I mean sample this – A would be lawyer whose waking hours must go into mugging up the Indian constitution, the various laws & by laws of the country, make sense out of it all and use it to his advantage when he goes to court….err... I mean sits for his exams, actually starts writing a romantic fiction, (can you beat that – A lawyer writing on matters of the heart instead of the mind), while in his third year of College. And that is only the beginning. He then sets out to get it published by a reputed publisher and manages to do it successfully as he enters into his final year.

I am awestruck by his grit and attitude. Sounds like he managed a mini -miracle. Miracle, coz I was hardly that focused, persistent and smart at his age. The only focus was – Finish studies somehow. Earn lots of money. Look Beautiful. Fall (or rise – as I like to call it now) in love and live life happily ever after.
MY reactions to him since have changed. There is a new respect for the writer. I would like to know more about him. How did he do it? What is it that he has in him that I lacked, at that age? How did he find the time? What kept him going? But hold on. I am straying from the main focus of ‘Figuratively speaking’. Let me talk now about the book he has written. Maybe I will get few answers to the questions I posed as above.
Legally, lovingly yours, herein after referred to as LLY, (pun intended), is the story of Abhishek Banerjee, an 18 year old student of the premiere private Law School – Animus. He is simple hearted, serious minded, intelligent and helpful boy. But despite the above qualities he is jinxed in love. All he wants is to make the ‘Girl of his dreams’ fall for him. But the very beautiful and sought after Lavanya Singhania, not only ignores his genuine feelings; she detests him for some or the other reason from Day One of their ‘accidental’ meeting. (He bumps into her and falls flat on his back). Of course, matters are made worse by Anshul Khera, his once upon a time class mate from School who joins the same college as him and falls for the same girl. And Anshul is the exact opposite of the simple hearted Abhi. He is cunning, boozes uncontrollably and lies through his teeth. He is also the popular one amongst his classmates and manages to conquer the heart of the most sought after girl of their College. (I tell you, some people are born lucky).

However, to compensate for her, Abhi has DU – no not Delhi University, it is ‘Diversity Unified’. The flock consists of Anshudhar, Amit, Chetan, Deepesh, Muddassar, Nihar and Pranay (wow! that is a long list). The group mostly sticks together, especially when there is a difficult assignment to finish and is also his support system during his ‘lows’.
Anyways, College life is back breaking with Presentations to be made, Moot Courts to be conducted (This is the first time I heard this about something called ‘Moot Courts’), seminars to be attended (on topics like – Ethics in corporate communications: concept and practices), high CGPA points to be scored (whatever that might be),the list is endless. (My Gosh, how much do these law students study?). As a distraction to the above, all these poor students have is the Fresher’s party, few outings and a couple of Birthday celebrations.
Yet, diligently Abhi faces all challenges of his College life and triumphs over each hurdle with his intelligence, sincere efforts and help of his ‘DU’ friends. But when it comes to his love life, he remains a complete failure.

He suffers silently as he sees his beloved in the arm of another day after day. But, he never loses hope. He keeps on putting his best and earnest foot forward in order to win over his love. Finally ‘Lady Fortune’ smiles on him and Lavanya realizes that Anshul was all wrong for her. It was Abhi who loved her deeply and had all the qualities she wanted to see in her boy friend. The story that Abhi narrates to a coaxing Lavanya for the umpteenth time (in the Preamble), on their annual convocation day, comes to a happy ending along with the five impactful years of their College life.
Now, as the readers may observe, this is a simple story of a student. A law student. There are no major twists and turns. It depicts a student’s life as it is. The challenges, the concerns, the sorrows and the joys are all related and revolve around the College life including the experience of falling in love for the first time. And therein lay its appeal. The author with his simple and precise style (maybe the lawyer effect) of writing effortlessly creates a picture of the College life. One can easily associate her/himself with the characters of the book and their concerns. We ourselves might be a helpful Chetan, or an ever questioning Anshudhar, an energetic Amit, or an intelligent and lovable Abhi who never gives up and shows the way to others. Even Lavanya, Priyanka, Anandita can be anyone amongst us who have dreams and aspirations, work hard and party harder. So, we connect with these characters on the basis of their appeal as someone ‘we know’ or ’we are’.
Abhishek , has also tried to portray his idea of true love in the book (and has succeeded to an extent). A love that does not expect anything in return. That is blind to everything else. That gives self lessly without expecting anything in return. A love that in the end is victorious, despite all odds.
But what attracted me to the book throughout the story was the ‘Never give up, never say die’ spirit of the main protagonist Abhishek. It was he who won me over with his simple yet honest and sincere efforts towards everything, be it his love for Lavanya, his concern for his friends, his dedication towards his studies or even giving his best to the fresher’s party.
The author has just embarked on this journey and there will be many bends he will have to maneuver but I am sure if he maintains the strong spirit of his protagonist (who goes by the same name, I guess deliberately), he will reach his destination successfully and happily.

All my best wishes to you Abhishek. Keep smiling!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chanakya's Chant - I am chanting it Mr. Sanghi!

Just  finished the chant. I mean the book - 'Chanakya's chant' by Ashwin Sanghi.

For this book, I am lost for words. How do I describe the myriad of emotions and feelings I went through while reading it. From extreme curiosity to grief, anger, dumbfoundedness, joy, amazement and complete admiration for the way the writer has weaved the story and brought to us the powerful character of Gangasagar Mishra, (the cunning, calculative, cruel, unforgivable and yet admired and unforgettable political strategist of present times...), I have experienced it all!

And as if that is not enough.....alongside (or simultaneously), I am taken into the glorious past of  Bharat when 'the Great Chanakya had just started becoming what he is known today as (although the author maintains that the narrative in the book about Chanakya and Chadragupta are fictitious)- A brilliant 'king maker' who unified the ancient nation under Chanragupta Maurya and brought stability, strength, wealth and peace to the sacred land. A time that the future generations would know as 'The Golden age of India'.

How, Why and What went into making Chanakya the way he became is portrayed through a spellbinding narrative. The style of writing is like the smooth flow of a river, very eloquent, overcoming barriers. But I am sure to make a complicated and to some 'boring histroy' into an extremely engaging and intelligent read in a simplified manner must have been a humongous task, which the writer seemed to have managed very well.
He goes back and forth from the antics of present day Gangasagar to the planning, plotting and strategising moves of the historical Chanakya with the ease of a child playing his favourite computer game for the umpteenth time.

 The author also shows his deep knowledge on various subjects and issues from history, politics to ancient warfare, different cultures, geography and most of all on Women. Power of women. The great potential women possess is accurately depicted through his story.(If you leave aside the manipulations that were made by Gangasagar in order to prove the point).

The only minor distractions at places were some heavy words and sometimes lengthy paragraphs to describe either the characters or their environment, which I wanted to skip in order to quickly continue with the main storyline and the happenings therein.

But I must say, as a reader I loved his work. And as a writer I am in admiration of him! Also, I look forward to reading his other works!