The book, as the name suggests, has 101 Haiku verses, carefully curated by the poet from his works. This is Raheja’s first attempt at Haiku, but his mastery over the form is quite apparent. Most of his poetry comes to him like a spontaneous burst of thought; flashes at unexpected times of the day and night, which can be lost if he does not record it at that moment. This explains why the words sound so natural and strike a chord in the reader’s heart.
Nature is undoubtedly one of the important themes around which he weaves his words. It is not only the beauty of nature that comes through, but also an innate wisdom that emanates through the lines. Mountains, seasons, fauna, animals, water bodies, islands, celestial bodies and hills and valleys- all these varied parts of nature find place in the Haiku.
Two of my favourite examples from the book…
A tree drops a leaf
Silently in a forest-
Trees don’t grieve lost leaves
Another Haiku I found particularly poignant…
Clouds empty themselves
Into seas pregnant with hope
One empties one fills
While the theme of nature is definitely important, Raheja uses the Haiku as a vehicle to comment on the current times, drawing upon themes that we all can identify with.
Take for example, the following:
Goldfish in a bowl
Opened a Facebook account
She loves the spotlight
These simple lines show so much- how social media platforms act as equalisers for expression irrespective of whether you are shy or outgoing in real life.
Some of the themes also deal with the journey of life.
take the road and find yourself….
it leads nowhere
and the following lines that echo a much-felt feeling…
I realised this
wasn’t where I wanted to be
when the road ended
Words which appear simple to understand are actually quite full of insight and meaning. The beautiful words have equally lovely illustrations to go with them. It is a book that you must read and re-read.
101 Haiku by Dinesh Raheja
Published by Om Books International
Navigating the complex world of start-ups requires a very different set of skills. Who would be more acquainted with this skill-set than those who have been there… done that? Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO of YourStory, a popular media-tech platform and T.N. Hari, adviser and mentor to numerous young entrepreneurs and start-ups, get together to provide a unique insight into the world of start-ups in the book Cut the Crap and Jargon: Lessons from the Start-up Trenches, published by Penguin.
A key aspect makes the book different from other books on management- it recognizes that sometimes hindsight analysis cannot give all solutions to prevent problems. Most books on management analyse big business giants who have either succeeded or failed. They then draw conclusions and generalise these. However, here the authors have followed a different approach. They question if such a strategy is actually useful for start-ups who have a completely different set of problems. Here is where the book actually scores.
It dives into the world of start-ups and looks for the smaller mistakes or smaller decisions that go on to have a larger impact in the journey of the start-up. This is what makes this specific book relevant for start-ups. The book caters to a global audience but there is also specific information tailored to the Indian scenario.
There are several assumptions that the book makes which works well in its handling of issues related to start-ups. For instance, the requirements of agility, necessity to pivot in some cases, constant work on a shoestring budget and so on.
For all of us interested in start-ups, the mad rush for funding and the sheer hype surrounding the funding scenario can be quite difficult to understand. One of the interesting chapters, The Funding Craze takes an unbiased look at this so called circus of funding and presents an informed picture of the scenario.
The insights on bootstrapping versus external funding are also very relevant. The book devotes substantial space to understanding the dynamics of funding and valuation of start-ups, often taking a dig at the hypes created in the process. It gives a realistic portrayal of the scenario in India as well as helpful tips to understanding this aspect.
A lot of examples make the reading very relatable. The authors use famous start-ups as examples to illustrate the case they make at different points in the book. The information is presented in a variety of ways- interviews with an expert in a particular domain, as a case study or simple narrative with examples aplenty. This makes it easier for the reader to navigate through.
Having the right team is most crucial for a start-up. The book provides an understanding into the process of hiring, leadership, communication with team members, giving feedback and well, even firing! Right from hiring correctly, scaling up after starting up, the changing role of founders as the organisation grows and key habits that entrepreneurs need to have, Cut the Crap and Jargon: Lessons from the Start-up trenches, is a guide those who are involved with start-ups.
Cut the Crap and Jargon: Lessons from the Start-up Trenches
Penguin Random House India (1 October 2017)
As children, all of us have indulged in colouring activities. Well, growing up and colouring books apparently did not go well together for many years, until recently when the market saw a surge in colouring books for adults. Suddenly a whole new world opened up. Adults found the therapeutic benefits of simple colour pencils and intricate drawings. Gods and Goddesses of India by Kanika Gupta adds to this exciting world of colouring books for adults.
Bangalore based illustrator, Kanika Gupta, has explored a very novel idea in the genre of colouring books for adults. This eye-catching therapeutic colouring book – Gods and Goddesses of India, captures the essence of deities worshipped in Hindu mythology.
Kanika Gupta’s expertise in doodling and detailing simply adds on to its beauty. Rest assured, getting your hands on this creative piece won’t just give you an insight into the oldest religion of the world, but the vibrant colours and mesmerizing patterns will help you connect with your divine self!
Detailing is my addiction! I can’t stop once I start drawing, so that’s a style that I have developed. The process was tricky, as it’s a little sensitive to go all imaginative with the Gods. I felt a little restricted at the same time. However, here there are no limitations as well. These Gods have 100 hands, 10 heads and so on, which makes drawing them a fun process! The process was first to shortlist the Gods, as there are so many and each is very interesting. I found shortlisting them the most challenging thing!
Hence, I took to a sequence, with Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. With Vishnu, I made the ‘Dashavtar’. Along with these three Gods were the corresponding Goddesses. I ended with Hanuman as he is said to be immortal, sort of depicting that creativity doesn’t die.
With a couple of references, I drew basic skeleton figures. Once stratified, the inking starts which gets tough to control. I had to tell myself stop the detailing and make it a little simpler for colouring!
I have always seen my mom write “Ram” as part of her meditation practice. This made me think: Why not do a colouring book on this theme? If you can write the Gods name, why can’t you colour his forms?
It’s nice to know a little about what you colouring!
They definitely heal a certain part in you. I run a colouring club on Sunday in a blissful park in Bangalore. people who come to colour there definately feel at ease and relaxed. You are so engrossed in making something beautiful , you are one pointed ..that is mediation
It’s sort of a compliment and a feedback- many have said the book is so pretty that we don’t feel like colouring it and spoiling it! What touched me was that an old client of mine has ordered books for her mother who is 70+ and her friends, and they have been colouring diligently with all the details!
I guess it’s the need. Anything that destresses is popular as in today’s world everyone is so stressed. A lot of people have been focusing on physical health which is good. But now, they do realize its time to give some attention to your mental health as well!
This colouring book for adults is Kanika Gupta’s second colouring book. Well, it’s never too late to experience the healing and creatively motivating effects of colouring.
Gods and Goddesses of India by Kanika Gupta
Published by Bloomsbury
For those of you who are familiar with this very famous form of artistic expression, this is certainly a book you should pick up and read. Those of you, who are also fans of art or artists, should definitely read this soul searching book, which is itself a work of art. B.A. Shapiro has merged the tale of the evolving of Abstract Expressionism, with the tale of Alizée Benoit, whose family is stuck in France due to problem of getting visas to America. They want to flee France, their homeland, because they are Jews, and believe that Hitler will take over France. The family of Alizée Benoit, flees France with a impressive number of other Jewish refugees, most of them innocent children, on the ship SS St. Louis, to Cuba and from there to the USA. However, once the ship reaches the shores of America, they are not allowed to dock, and are literally and metaphorically turned back to Europe, to their death, or as Alfred Lord Tennyson would put it, into the Valley of Death. This happened, because the US President and his Assistant Secretary of State Long, felt that that their applications for visas were not acceptable. They did not wish to take on the responsibility of housing refugees, especially Jewish refugees, for they wanted no part of the war in Europe, they did not trust the refugees, and lastly, they were most concerned that these refugees would take up all the jobs in the US, which rightfully belonged to the American citizens. (Now, where have I heard that before???)
The story, which is gripping and intense, gives us a glimpse of the USA of the late 1930s and early 1940s, as well as the story of Danielle in 2015, who is trying ways and means to find out what happened to her family, the Benoit’s, during World War II, and how Alizée Benoit had a major role to play in Abstract Expressionism of the ‘30s and ’40s. The novel is racy but a tearjerker in parts. The characters are more than real, and the plot is tight with no loop holes.
The Muralist by B. A. Shapiro, speaks to the readers soul, and shows us that at times, we are, or find ourselves, so helpless to save our loved ones, that even something as small as a painting or a mural is used to tell the deaf, mute, and blind world, about pain, grief, and death — meaningless death. Alizée is a very strong character in this novel, and for those readers who love strong female characters in their books, this is the book for you.
I am an Indian, born in the late ‘80s, so I am technically not so familiar with contemporary World War II and American History, and the heroes and villains of this part of history. Nevertheless, B. A. Shapiro’s explanation in the form of a fiction novel is so easy to comprehend, that I began to appreciate many people I came across in this book, especially people like Varian Fry and Eleanor Roosevelt.
You must read this book as soul tonic. Watch out for Shapiro’s depiction of Eleanor Roosevelt, as you are definitely going to love it. It goes without saying, that if you as a reader are interested in a different and unique novel, which is part non-fiction, set in the time of World War II, then this is a book you should read.
For those of you who have been and are being persecuted for your beliefs, beliefs which do not harm anyone, then this book is soul curry for you, to know that you are not alone. The Muralist is evocative and mesmerizing. The book poses a lot of questions to us, questions that are uncomfortable and need to be answered, questions about morals and ethics versus politics and selfishness. One question cut me to the core: Do innocent refugee children, who have come to seek shelter in your country, look like political spies to you? I had to cry, because I am proud of my country, India, who is definitely like a Mother, for she accepts everyone who comes to her for help. There is a saying in India, that you will find a duplicate of everything, except a duplicate of Mother India. We have given shelter over the ages, and over centuries, to Jews, Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, etc., and now they are as much a part of India, as the original Harappan people were. I am proud of my country — Are you?
All these questions can be answered in The Muralist, through its characters, and history and art behind its evolution into a work of perfection. Though I have read a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the Holocaust and World War II, this was the only one to bring a lump to my throat, as it dealt with something that is part of the horrible present. Alizée, Henri, Danielle, Babette, and others, come alive to you through the pen of the master literary artist B. A. Shapiro. It questions, it entertains, and it paints — most importantly, it paints.
The Muralist is a must read for everyone, but especially for those writers, artists, poets, journalists, etc., who are being persecuted for expressing their right – their right to freedom of expression. I loved this book. Buy it. NOW!
This story first appeared on www.insaneowl.com
All those of us who love Ruskin Bond know one thing for sure- nature is omnipresent in all his works. His books, short stories, musings and non-fiction features all exude an inherent love for nature. Words From The Hills captures the essence of a lifetime of great writing, and crystallizes it into few interspersed sentences. These appear on the exquisitely illustrated pages of this journal.
What immediately entices the reader are the lyrical watercolour paintings and illustrations by Ahlawat Gunjan that appear throughout this journal. Again centred around the theme of nature, they are mesmerizing to say the least. The falling of leaves from deodar trees, moments of love and loss, beautiful flowers, gentle skies, few isolated objects and shapes, buzzing dragonflies, stained and torn pages of forgotten notebooks…these are just some of the multifarious pictures that you will see in the journal. Amidst these images are simple but deeply meaningful lines and musings from Bond- in true Bond-style! Words From The Hills consists of many blank lined pages for the reader to fill in.
Prolific is a term that describes Ruskin Bond well. He has written over 500 short stories and articles. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1992, the Padma Shri in 1999 and the Padma Bhushan in 2014. He just celebrated his 83rd birthday this May and still has something exceptional to offer each time!
Developed around the life, works and philosophy of Ruskin Bond, Words From The Hills is one collector’s piece you cannot miss!
Words From The Hills by Ruskin Bond
Illustrated by Ahlawat Gunjan
Published by Penguin Random House India, 2017.
Salman Rushdie’s latest novel was a much awaited one. The Golden House is about Nero Golden and his three sons who escape a secret past in an unnamed city, later revealed to be ‘Bombay’, and occupy a mansion, the Golden House, in New York. The story follows their lives as they try to come to terms with their past. The initial chapters all build up a kind of suspense as to what exactly have they escaped from, which of course emerges as the story flows.
Are they able to really start afresh or do the ghosts of the past continue to haunt them? How does life play out for them? Central to the story is the narrator, René Unterlinden, a young upcoming filmmaker who finds his muse in the Golden family. He sees in them and their mysterious lives, ‘scoop’ for a story. However, he is quite deftly drawn into the very tale he narrates and he becomes an inseparable part of it. The narrator who starts off as a passive observer, thus grows to be a key character himself.
Rene is a filmmaker in the novel and Rushdie cleverly uses this fact to experiment with storytelling. There are sections that break into screenplay format. The uncensored honesty and hints of irreverence add to the pleasure of reading.
When it comes to Rushdie’s fiction we can’t always separate the personal and the political. The political material is there, though played out in a sense as the background. His characters are not isolated individuals whose lives play out independently of what is happening in the world. In fact, their lives are intricately connected to the social and political realities of the time.
The Golden House starts with the election of Barack Obama. It ends eight years later on the eve of an election in which the lead contender refers to himself as “the Joker”. The issues of “identity” that find expression in today’s times also find a central place in the key characters. Identity issues is one of the big themes of this novel. It thus touches upon modern existential crisis.
Though India, and more specifically Mumbai is central to the novel, it is New York which is at the core. In that sense, one could say that The Golden House is the grand New York novel of our times!
Published by Penguin Random House India, 2017
Orhan Pamuk’s latest novel comes with a beautiful cover depicting a braided bun of a woman with vibrant red hair. The fact that the woman’s face is unseen adds to the mystery the title evokes. In spite of the mysterious ‘red-haired woman’ in the novel, this is by far the simplest narrative by Pamuk. The novel spans across 334 pages of linear narration and makes for an engaging weekend read.
The setting of The Red-Haired Woman is in Istanbul and it’s neighbouring town Oregon. The characters are middle-class Turks with no particularly distinguishing characteristics. However, it is the premise of the narration that sets forth a chain of actions and reactions, and therein lies the entire drama.
To be honest, I was a bit flummoxed by the quotes from Oedipus Rex at the opening. These quotes, as the title and the cover image were shrouded in mystery. As the story unfolded, the strained relationship between the hero/narrator Cem and his father came to fore. The father is involved in leftist politics and is often arrested. It is also quite clear that he is seeing other women. Naturally my mind stressed on making the necessary connections with Oedipus. But there was no possibility of physical combat between father and son or even a hint of incest between mother and son. So, I waited patiently and read on.
Enter the ‘red-haired woman’ accompanied by the most fantastic premise for a story that I have come across in recent times. Cem gets a ‘summer job’ to apprentice with a well-digger. He aims to save money for his college studies as by this time his father had abandoned him and his mother. Master Mahmut is a veteran well-digger who is much sought after for his skills at digging deep wells and predicting the presence of underground water.
A wealthy man in Oregon officiates him with the task of digging a well on his land to enable him to set up a factory. Once the story moves on from Istanbul and takes Cem to Oregon, it can be divided into three sections – Cem’s experiences during the well-digging work, his life after it and the narrative of the red-haired woman.
Cem’s relationship with Master Mahmut takes on the form of a father-son relationship. Master Mahmut regards Cem as a young man with potential and tries to pass on his knowledge to him – through his work he teaches him about well-digging and through his stories he teaches him about life. Cem goes through a gamut of emotions regarding Master Mahmut. From reverence to anger, from subservience to jealousy and from treating him like a master/father to punishing him for wielding authority over him. The high point of this section of the novel comes when Master Mahmut is inside the 20-metre well, digging deeper and deeper, when an accident befalls him. Cem, the only person to help him then, runs off on a whim, leaving his master to a terrible fate.
Even without this horrible accident and Cem’s subsequent behaviour, it is obvious that he is not a good man. When he chances upon the red-haired woman near the theatre he becomes immediately infatuated and puts his work, his phone calls to his mother and even his safety at a second footing. In spite of knowing that she is married, he continues to woo her. He also has no qualms about sleeping with her. He watches her performance although his master had explicitly forbidden him to do so.
The red-haired woman herself is a complicated character. Although we know her name, she is referred to as the red-haired woman throughout the novel, underscoring the connotations attached to the word red. She knows who Cem is, who his father is, who Master Mahmut is and yet decides to get entangled with the teenager. As soon as Cem deserts his master, we see his infatuation for the red-haired woman lessening. In his memories she is no longer as beautiful or as charming as she had seemed at first sight. Both characters are flawed much like the pieces of jigsaw puzzle – they are flawed yet they fit.
My image of the red-haired woman came crashing down towards the end of the book, when she takes over the narrative and explains how she has dyed her hair with a special henna recipe. Everything about her appears contrived.
In the second section, Cem finishes college, marries a decent girl and has a flourishing business. They don’t have any children and Cem is reconciled with his father, too. Both husband and wife take an unnatural interest in the mythological lores of Oedipus and Sohrab and Rustom. The first one is about a son killing the father, while the second one is about the father killing the son. These intertwined tales, one from the East and one from the West, are intricately woven into the fabric of the novel. The focus is so much on father-son duos that the mothers are sadly sidelined.
The Red-Haired Woman keeps you engrossed with its mythological references. Orhan Pamuk’s prose is as elegant as ever and the translator, Ekin Oklap, has managed to bring the elegance forth.
The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk
Published by Penguin
Other Books by Orhan Pamuk: http://amzn.to/2xd67Y1
1947. The year that India and Pakistan got ‘freedom’. The year that tore us apart, and joint us as well, in a sequence of events that still continue. It is a year etched in our collective memories. The Last Vicereine is set in these turbulent times of history.
Historical fiction is a delicate genre. How much is true and how much is imagined? This is a question that readers often grapple with, as do authors. But, British writer Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang, toes the line well. The story, though fictional, is based on intensive research. There are some fictional characters, and of course, the majority are real characters.
It all starts with Letticia Wallace, the fictional narrator. She is a close friend and confidant of Edwina Mountbatten. Edwina visits Letticia, to ask her to accompany her to India, where her husband, Lord Louis Mountbatten would be posted for the transfer of power from Britain to India.
We get the sense of Edwina, that is, Lady Mountbatten right from the first chapter itself, when she comes all the way from London to Oxford on the train in very bad weather to convince her to join them in India.
Of course, Letticia Wallace accompanies the Mountbattens to India. Here sparks off the series of events that changed India forever.
She establishes the context of the social and political scenario which forms the backdrop of the story. Things were never going to be easy, and the reader gets a glimpse of this right in the beginning. This is best illustrated in the following words, which describe Letticia’s observations about the guests at the swearing in ceremony of Lord Mountbatten.
“I surveyed the diverse bunch before me, representing the Muslim League, the Indian National Congress and the princely states, and realised why it had been impossible to get any agreement on a plan for a transfer of power to India to date. Surely there were as many different visions of what India was and should be as there were conversations in this room.”
Interwoven within the story is the blossoming friendship between two key figures: Jawahar and Edwina. Their story against the backdrop of the horror of partition and the breakdown of society touches the reader. The narrator describes Lady Mountbatten’s visits to refugee camps where victims of riots were hosted, and through the eyes of Letticia, the reader also views the sheer horror of it all.
The title will lead you think that the story is about Edwina and Jawahar. It is, and the author does justify this premise. But, the story is also about the fictional Letticia and how a British woman, in the service of Lady Mountbatten finds a calling, and ultimately finds love in the unlikeliest of nations.
Towards the end, the reader’s heart will surely empathize with all the characters: imprisoned by duty…and by fate. What will also come out, is the sheer futility of violence and conflict.
As Edwina says in the book:
“I think the answer is that it is all real and unreal at the same time: war, death, suffering, joy, love, happiness. We cannot have one without the other”
But, through it all, The Last Vicereine is ultimately about hope and love! A smooth and poignant read indeed.
The Last Vicereine by Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang
Published by Penguin Random House India (2017).
This book was an ‘epic read’ as my students would have said it. In my words, it was ‘superbly awesome.’ Herman Koch’s unputdownable book simply titled Summer House with Swimming Pool is a work of art.
It’s dirty—but deep, it is poignant— but drifting, and it is disturbing, but exciting all the same. Narrated by the main protagonist who is a GP called Marc, the story flows into a rhythm of suspense and plot twists that makes the reader stare in complete awe at the masterpiece of a thriller that he is reading. The characters here make you laugh, smile, sneer, gag, hate, etc., drawing out the emotions necessary on the part of the reader to complete the story and understand its implications to perfection.
Sam Garrett translated the English version of this Dutch novel. I applaud the translator for doing such an efficient and excellent job with Herman Koch’s original masterpiece, for you feel that you are reading a Lee Child or a Patterson or a Nesser or a Baldacci.
But it’s better! Ten times better and richer! I’m so overwhelmed by this book and its master of the craft ‘synopsis’ that states the main mystery without divulging too much about the plot, which is the best thing possible where this fabulous book is concerned.
I am dying to head back to my library or the bookstore and pick up another book by Herman Koch, most probably his bestselling work, The Dinner. Summer House with Swimming Pool is a 409-page book but does not make heavy reading. There is a healthy blend of reflection and storytelling with a bit of philosophy tossed in at crucial moments.
I thought I was watching a Hollywood movie at the edge of my seat —the book was that spectacular. The climax is a complete surprise, and you will be up all night thinking about it even after the story is done and over with. This will happen because of the poignant questions asked by the writer through his protagonist, who is quite a shady character himself. If you want to be shocked and scandalised with the thrill of a perfect, viciously funny thriller, then Herman Koch is the writer for you.
All in all a perfect read by a master of the craft, Herman Koch. And, thanks once again to the translator for a job well done!
This review was first published on www.insaneowl.com
We have heard about super heroes…super women….but the buzz nowadays is all about super couples! Super couples are a different lot. Their partnership goes beyond marriage or a committed relationship and creeps into the professional realm as well. Super couples- Inspiring stories of couple-preneurs, a new book by author Prachi Garg, examines some interesting cases of couples who’ve decided to walk together in the professional realm as well.
Long gone are those days when people believed that professional and personal should be separate. There is a rising band of super couples who leverage on each other’s strengths and run business ventures together, thereby making the best of both worlds.
Prachi Garg throws some light on super couples who have started their own business ventures, thereby unravelling the answer to the question ” How do they do it all?” Through 19 stories covering a mix of start-ups and business ventures helmed by couples, she gives readers a glimpse into the secrets of how spouses manage to work together (and stay together at the end of it all)!
Each story typically begins with a little background into how the couple met and the genesis of their business venture. Garg then delves into the specifics of their working relationship and how their partnership works in context of the business.
Garg sensitively brings out the challenges that couples who run a start-up or business together face. Each couple have their own unique situation to deal with. Through detailed interviews with the duos, she elicits relevant information that throws light on various issues that these super couples often grapple with.
How did they conceptualise the idea? What specific teething issues did they face? How do they organise finances? How are they scaling up the business? How do they divide work between them? What impact does the work have on their personal lives and vice versa? With the intensity and curiosity of a journalist, Garg explores these questions and many more in the narratives, giving a comprehensive insight.
This book will definitely be of great help to couples who plan on working together or who are already doing so. Super couples are a burgeoning reality. Sharing the multifold experiences of those already in the game will provide a unique insight into the dynamics of working with your spouse, the challenges that could come up and the immense benefits of the entire experience.
However, ultimately these super couples are duos who’ve managed to create successful ventures. Their journeys and their struggles are equally relevant for solopreneurs as well.
Super couples: Inspiring stories of couple-preneurs
Author: Prachi Garg