It is often said that a dancer embodies the true spirit of the universe as it involves no caste, colour, religion or gender. It is an artistic form of self-expression that sometimes transcends space and time as well. Author Anmol Arora explores themes of identity, love and ambition through dance in a compelling debut novel, The Last Dance, published by Speaking Tiger Publishing that carries the reader along with it till the end.
At the peak of the Kurdish-Turkey conflict in 1991, 11-year-old Ayla and her family find themselves embroiled in controversy. Her father has been accused of anti-national activities which forces them to flee their homeland and take refuge in Delhi. An offhand prediction by a fortune teller convinces Ayla’s mother that her daughter was born for the world of dance. She enrols Ayla in a Pratistha, a dance school run by Guru Chandrashekhar. Ayla develops a fascination for Bharatnatyam, and sets her sights on fame and success as a dancer.
Ayla is keen to perform her arangetram, a dancer’s first solo performance, but Chandrashekhar, traditional in his ways, refuses to let her do so until he is sure she is ready. Ayla’s frustration leads to an abrupt and unceremonious falling out and she joins Studio Anubhooti, a rival dance school run by Guru Ranmohan.
Ranmohan promises Ayla an arangetram, but what follows is a tragedy. Traumatized and disillusioned, Ayla gives up on her dreams. Destiny reunites her with Chandrashekhar years later. The ensuing journey transforms them both in fundamental ways. They begin to question their beliefs, their life-choices and assumptions, and in turn discover new possibilities. Finally, Ayla performs her arangetram—in a way she could never have imagined.
The Last Dance is written in a simple and clear manner. However, there is an underlying message of ending and beginnings and a life that always comes full circle.
Writing for the tween and teen community is always a challenge, and giving tips for teenagers, that is, presenting a self-help book (read ADVICE!), is all the more difficult. With 150 Brilliant Ideas to Keep YOUNG MINDS Fit & Fine, author Neeraa Maini Srivastav has found the perfect balance between putting forward key suggestions to this age group, without sounding preachy or talking down to them.
At a very basic level, the book is a collection of tips for teenagers…simple tips that comprehensively cover three key areas in life: the mind, body and spirit. Each tip is short, concise and to the point (with snappy titles for each tip and apt illustrations that add to the fun of reading). These thoughts seed the idea of wellness in a fun and engaging way. Moreover, they are also targeted specifically at teenagers and hence cover issues that are of primary concern to them (menstruation, sex, tattoos, technology amongst many others).
At a time in society when young people are increasingly grapping with issues related to identity and fast-changing social mores, it is important for them to have something to rely on for advice and guidance. The tips presented in this book will fulfil that role to a certain extent.
The icing on the cake is probably the list of affirmations at the end of every section. There are a set of affirmations for the body, mind and spirit, and this part of the book is probably relevant across all age groups.
Anyone who has handled teenagers knows very well that moralizing does not work at all with them. It is heartening to see that the book avoids any kind of moralizing, nor does it ‘talk down’ to the reader. At the same time, the author’s belief in metaphysics and new-age spirituality gently permeates many of the tips, adding to the overall positive feel that one gets on reading it.
I would look at the book as a simple and comprehensive ready reckoner for a teenager (or parent of a teenager!) for whom holistic development and wellness is a clear goal.
Published by Pustak Mahal, 2016
Time Management gurus have time and again reinforced basic concepts and principles that help us manage our time better. Yet, as we move into the future, with more time organising devices than ever, many of us wonder how hours and days slip by unnoticed. This is the issue that The Productivity Revolution seeks to address.
Before I started reading this book, it did occur to me for a moment, that most books on time management are about things that we already know, aren’t they? Well yes, says the author Marc Reklau. As he rightly puts it in The Productivity Revolution (Rupa Publications), “common sense is not common action! “So, the book promises an action-packed journey, after which you will hopefully have much more time on your hands!
Here’s what I liked about this book…and do scroll right down to know about some (of the several) takeaways that resonated with me….
How you can get the most out of this book? Well, here are some quick takeaways that I found useful…and I’m sure you will find many more applicable to you!
My Big Book of Kindness, edited by Geeta Dharmarajan and published by Katha books speaks about a very simple and essential, but deeply neglected quality- kindness.
What does it mean to be kind? What are the small simple actions one can do to show kindness. Here is a book that helps young readers understand one of the greatest virtues- kindness.
A little poem with fun illustrations; A Japanese folk tale; A short message from Mother Teresa, illustrated beautifully with a painting by M.F. Hussain; an inspiring story about a hummingbird, who did the best she could despite her size; the true story of Prakash Amte and Mandakini, doctors who treated tribals in remote Maharashtra; a little point wise list on how children can be kind to animals and the inspiring story of a young boy called Ajay Gopi who changed the lives of farmers for the better…All these make up this lovely picture book.
Of course, as with all Katha books, there is also a gentle call to action, delicately interwoven in the pages. Towards the end, there are simple tips on how a child can be kind. There are some easily implementable ideas such as maintaining a kindness journal, being kind to tress, being kind to the planet and encouraging others around us to be kind.
The book will resonate well with the 2-6-year age group. A must-addition to your child’s personal library!
Look out for other Katha Books that also talk about kindness in a sense, albeit in a different manner…
The Earth Carer’s Guide to Climate Change talks about kindness to the earth, and the impact of climate change. Kindness can be towards trees too, and this beautifully illustrated book, a tree! a Poem by Klara Kottner-Benigni, is a call of a tree for survival, which is heard quite sensitively by a child. My Big Book of Dogs may be about dogs, but it does touch upon the gentle nature of kindness. With My Big Book of Kindness, Katha Books adds one more gem to the child’s library.
Suhas Inamdar’s latest novel, My Friend Genie is the story of a simple middle-class man and how a magic ring changes his life forever. At the very inception, the book establishes the uneventful and predictable life of Arun Deshpande and his family. They are living a sober and almost mundane existence. However, destiny has something else in store for them, which is sure to change their lives forever. By a twist of fate, Arun ends up buying a ring though which he has access to a Genie who is capable of fulfilling all his wishes.
Now, wouldn’t this be the most ideal situation to be in? The novel attempts to answer this question. Fiction is often a psychological study in itself. The author has brought out the emotions, feelings and challenges that Arun encounters when he actually has all the power a person can wish for! Can the ability to know the future and resolve all problems with an almost divine intervention ever be harmful to a person? What is the fine line between taking help that you need and yet not giving in to greed? Arun is essentially a good hearted person. The novel follows Arun through the entire process of discovering the Genie and his magic. Arun uses the ‘power’ for good, and never lets it corrupt him. But, even with all the good intentions, is it advisable to interfere with destiny?
The twists and turns that occur in the plot increase in the latter half of the book, pacing the action forward, leading towards a very apt climax! Inamdar beautifully fleshes out the simple middle-class mentality and vibes through the characters he has crafted. Of course, Arun takes away a chunk of the novel as the protagonist, but one can really connect with his wife Anita, and the other ancillary characters as well, especiailly Dhananjay Naik from the Police force.
As the events in the story unfold, the book illustrates how sometimes having power can still render you powerless! But it also shows how not having any outside power, does not mean you are powerless! Power to change your destiny has to come from within!
My Friend Genie is Suhas Inamdar’s seventh work of fiction. True to his philosophy of writing books that make a difference to the reader’s life, this one, like all his other books, has a lot that the reader can takeaway. The elements of fantasy that are a very integral part of the narrative, just add to the pleasure of reading My Friend Genie.
In Bullet Proof – A journalist’s notebook on reporting conflict by Teresa Rehman, the journalist lays bare her own vulnerability as a reporter focusing on conflict areas.
The book recounts her experiences as a reporter working in a conflict zone in North East India. It highlights the human side of conflicts, going beyond mere facts and delving into emotional impact of conflicts.
She also chronicles the deep and far reaching impact of conflicts on common people, especially women and children. Very often, in desensitized TV reportages we fail to see a whole picture, and we definitely fail to see the human picture!
Bookedforlife in conversation with author Teresa Rehman……
You have very honestly talked about the emotional and psychological impact that your work has had on you, and you have been open about seeking professional help. What is your advice to reporters (and other professionals) who often unknowingly internalize emotional impact caused due to their professions?
Yes, this book is also a story about my evolution as a journalist covering conflict. Reporting from a conflict zone has a fear factor that is real. In order to report from a conflict-zone, we journalists tend to become ‘bulletproof’ ourselves — internalizing emotional trauma without realizing its impact on our psyche. And the physical risks are not to be discounted. And, reporting from one of the most under-reported regions of the world i.e. Northeast India, with practically no support system for journalists is like walking on a tightrope. We journalists never seem to talk about our vulnerabilities and apprehensions. I had to muster courage to visit a psychiatrist for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
But it took me years to openly talk and write about it. It was much later that I came to know of courses like Hostile Environment and First Aid Training (HEFAT) organised by organisations like the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) that trains journalists from various backgrounds, mediums, and levels of experience. A decade ago, I was ignorant of the fact that I could get some training in areas like emergency first aid, digital security, civil unrest/demonstrations, situational awareness, reaction under gunfire etc.
As a reporter you spent days on the ground and in the interiors of conflict-ridden areas, in the midst of danger. At the same time, you are a mother of two girls, often taking them on assignments with you! How did you balance these two vastly different facets of your life?
I was juggling too many roles. Not just being a mother to two daughters, I was also taking care of my terminally ill mother. There were occasions when I took my daughters with me on my assignments. I made them sit near me. They were part of my accessories along with my notepad and pen! And I was also working full-time when I was expecting my second child. I never thought motherhood was a burden. Being the first journalist in the family, I had nobody to guide me either. Since, I was passionate about my work, I tried to multi-task. Many a times I worked on the kitchen table while cooking dinner for the family. And my children learnt to cope with their busy, hardworking and absent-minded mother!
You talk about the rehabilitation of women in conflict areas, and of economic empowerment that is brought about by certain organisations working with them. How important are these measures to make positive changes in the scenario?
I always believed in going beyond mere statistics and the very masculine reportage of conflict, about arms, artillery and dead bodies. For me the real stories were the stories beyond the conflict – of women and children. In any kind of conflict situation, they are the most marginalised and the worst affected. And any kind of rehabilitation measures for them is like a silver lining. I feel good reporting about such subtle changes that bring about happiness in people who have seen decades of violent conflict. For me, reporting this kind of positive stories is like a catharsis and a hope for peace.
You have written about the hospitality that you received on your visits to militant camps. At the same time, you have also chronicled the heart wrenching impact of conflicts on common people. On the other hand, they are viewed differently by the government. From your experience, what role can media play in this scenario?
The publicity wing of any militant organisation is one of their most important wings. They understand the power of the media and probably that is why they had been hospitable to me. And being a journalist in a conflict zone is like walking on a tightrope as a journalist can incur the wrath of both the state and the non-state actors. It is the job of a journalist to maintain a precarious balance and report objectively and if possible, look beyond the mere statistics and press releases. The job of a journalist is to get the real stories of men, women and children trapped in such a situation.
How do you remain non-judgemental in this field of work, where what is right and wrong is often so complex to decide for yourself!
I have learnt to understand the nuances of the social milieu and the conditions that perpetuate the conflict. I avoid being judgmental and just report and state facts. I don’t think it is the journalist’s job to decide what is right or what is wrong. It is the journalist’s job to sensitively and sensibly tell the human stories in a very complex situation.
It is a strange coincidence that as we write about your book, the issue of the inadequacies of the NRC list has flamed many segments of people. What is your take on this?
What do you want readers to take away from Bulletproof?
Bulletproof is the story of a ‘female’ journalist reporting from a conflict zone. It is not just my story. It is the story of many journalists like me who are constantly flirting with danger and reporting from regions that are out of the radar of the so-called ‘national’ media and considered inaccessible, unsafe and unimportant.
Bullet Proof – A journalist’s notebook on reporting conflict is indeed not only very interesting to read, but highly inspirational! It is a great guide for reporters, but on a deeper level I believe it is inspirational for working women, for journalists working in conflict situations as well as mothers across society! It really talks to all these diverse groups at the same time! There are two aspects to the book- first, there is a reporter’s diary, which provides behind-the-scenes look at a reporter reporting for a zone of conflict. Being a woman, and a mother adds another unique dimension to this. The other aspect is the personal emotional journey of a human being, who happens to be a woman and a mother, who tries to look at her work with new eyes.
Interested in reading books written by Indian women journalists? Click here.
“‘You have to sacrifice something to gain something else’ my father had told me. This was a piece of fatherly advice I never took seriously. I want everything in life, not one thing at the cost of another. In my opinion, compromising on something to get something in return is not good management,” says Binod Chaudhary, one of Asia’s most prominent businessmen and the President of the Chaudhary Group, in his memoir, Making it Big.
Published by Penguin, this autobiography is as much a manual to success as it is the story of Binod’s journey. Today, the Chaudhary Group based in Nepal is a big business conglomerate. But, it’s very humble origins and the ethos behind its success is what the book talks about.
After an impactful introduction that talks about a near death experience after an earthquake, Binod Chaudhary leads the reader right into the core of the story of his life. It is fascinating to read about the stories of his struggle, and that of his predecessors. Though based in Nepal, the family has origins in India and the book starts off with this background. His brave grandfather left Rajasthan and set shop in Nepal on the invitation of the king of Nepal. The savvy Marwari spirit shines through as he continues the story of the growth of this family business.
Chaudhary was not born with a silver spoon, but his early experiences honed his business skills. In an amusing anecdote he narrates an entrepreneurial venture he did at school. “I do not see any real difference between the business I do these days and the business I did back then at school. Only the scale is different,” he writes.
The book is quite detailed and has a lot of information packed into it. He talks not only about himself and his business, but also the world around him. He talks about his interests in films, music and cars. The books also describes in detail his interactions with numerous personalities from all walks of life. I found these instances quite interesting, especially when he talked about his interactions with various Bollywood personalities. His tryst with politics and politicians gets good mention as well. For me, reading about his experiences with Narendra Modi was really insightful.
The manner by which the book weaves in political and social scenarios in Nepal with his own personal familial and business situation, makes the book quite broad in outlook.
What can a reader take away from Making it Big? I think that a reader, especially someone who is an entrepreneur looking at growing big, can take a lot from the instances and the lessons described herein. Binod has shared specific case studies of professional battles, chronicled the challenges in transforming the business and talked about how he navigated varied obstacles on the path.
The last part of the book, where he outlines his mantras for success is also quite revelatory. Of course, after having read about the specific challenges he has faced, one is able to relate better to the last chapter. He has been quite honest and also included a chapter on self-assessment where he talks about areas that he can improve on. He has thus been very self-reflective, and evaluated his weakness.
Making it Big – The inspiring story of Nepal’s first billionaire in his own words is a thick and detailed tome. However, Binod Chaudhary’s simple language, honest and forthright approach makes it a great read for entrepreneurs at different stages in their journeys!
“KNOW THAT FATE HAS A WAY TO MAKE YOU BEND TO ITS WILL“…. This hard- hitting dialogue from Sohan S Koonar’s novel, Paper Lions, published by Speaking Tiger Publications, is the perfect manifestation of this book. The story, spanning four decades in Punjab from pre to post Independent India, covers every twist that fate can possibly throw at the characters be it familial, casteism, political, modernization or even personal agony.
This saga is based on two main families – a Zaildar family which comes from old wealth and upholds its responsibility to the people and one which rises to political heights from nothing due to a reluctantly corrupt son in the army. Apart from Zaildar Ajit Singh and Minister Bikram Singh, the third character from whose point of view the book is presented is Bajigarni Basanti. Bajigars are colourful nomads who gradually settle down in the region. The phrase ‘paper lion’ means a person who appears to have power but is really ineffectual. Paper Lions is about the journey and personalities of the characters who are all paper lions before fate.
Good and bad characters might be strong but ‘grey’ characters are real! All of them have gone through their personal struggles, have faults or secrets and atone for their errors and fight their personal demons. Karma brings everyone to their knees. People live on but not without internal scars and heartache.
Does this mean that the book is depressing or sad? Not at all! There are happy moments and dreams but what resonates with the reader is that we are all paper lions in the end. We feel that we have power and control over our lives and others but it is just an illusion. We could all be Ajit Singh, Bikram Singh or Basanti – bowing down before family pressure, overcome by circumstances or giving in to temptation.
Paper Lions reflects the ingenuity of the author. It sinks its hooks into the reader from the first page and does not let go till the end. The vivid description that form a part of the narrative, help one mentally visualize and feel the being of the people instead of only reading about them. They feel like acquaintances and not strangers. We rejoice with them and feel their pain.
What is most invigorating about this book though is that you can change the era or setting but if the essence of the human personalities like greed, corruption, learning to live with what fate has doled out, relations based on love and not blood, sacrifice, heartache and overcoming odds is kept intact, it will be still be an exhilarating read with any background!
Read it and find out which character you most identify with…. don’t be surprised if it is more than one! That’s Paper Lions for you!
Perhaps the greatest legacy of Lord Krishna is the Bhagavad Gita, often called upon as the epitome of the perfect guide to life. Through the story of the Mahabharata, we also know a little about the story of Krishna. But a lot remains untold, and Supercop of Aryavrat by Mithilesh Kumar takes on the massive challenge of narrating the events that spanned Krishna’s life.
Our rich Indian mythological heritage is replete with literary gems both from the ancient times to modern texts, interpretations and translations. Mithilesh Kumar has dipped into this treasure trove of information and facts to flesh out stories of the man who handled the greatest wars with panache. We hear the story of the master strategist whose lessons still hold true centuries later.
The novel begins with Krishna musing over the past, with a tinge of regret. Cautionary words from his brother Balrama flash across his mind- Do you think you are the SuperCop of Aryavrat? This supposed jibe opens up the floodgates of the past and the reader is led into the story of Krishna. Through narrations and flashbacks Krishna views his life, right from the events surrounding his birth and the imprisonment of his parents by Kansa, his maternal uncle, to the happenings of the war of Kurukshetra, through his involvement in the various historical events that occurred. The narrative is a mix of the first-person narrative by Krishna himself, and the third person narrator, who fills in the background information. Together, both these narratives take the story forward.
What I appreciate about this book is the point of view. Most of us know about the story of the Mahabharata. However, hearing the tale from the point of view of Krishna gives another perspective.
We live in a world where we have started to look for voices that represent multiple truths and different perspectives. So far, mythological stories have fed us with a one dimensional viewpoint that has coloured our perceptions. It is heartening to note that writers are trying to seek out how the same story would have been told from another person’s point of view. Being an ardent fan of the genre, I have read other books that talk about the Mahabharata from different perspectives. However, this is the first time that we are shown events from Krishna’s point of view.
If you are familiar with the story, the book will really tease you into opening up your mind to different possibilities. Was Yudhishthira really the gem he was made out to be? Was Pootana the demoness that we are told she is? All the ‘magical’ explanations given for some events, could there have been alternative explanations for the same? Could Krishna have avoided the war? How did his strategy work in determining the events that preceded the war of Kurukshetra?
The author has been true to the storyline in terms of the actual events that occurred and the chronology of the same. But the change comes in the reasoning behind the same. What actually happens to cause these events may not necessarily coincide with our version of things! For example, when Arjun wins Draupadi’s hand in marriage and the Pandavas fool Kunti by telling her they have got bhiksha, she asks the brothers to divide it amongst themselves. Hence the sharing of Draupadi between the Pandavas. However, was there an ulterior motive of Yudhishthira behind this? This is just one example but the book is filled with numerous instances where explanations behind events are completely turned over.
Krishna is portrayed as a master strategist which is true! His thinking and planning and his creative strategizing add another element of interest to the book.
An additional feature that really comes across very strongly in the book is what I would call, painting the picture of Krishna as a wonderful human being and not a divine god. This is a key achievement of the book. We see Krishna as a thinking breathing soul who uses his sharp mind to maneuver through life.
For those who do not have any background knowledge on the Mahabharata, this book will still be interesting to read. The author has a firm grip on the narrative and the story flows smoothly and crisply into a saga filled with all the elements of an interesting novel.
The book ends with the Great War of Kurukshetra of course. However, the focus is on the life of Krishna and the actual war (including the parts that constitute the Bhagavad Gita) is but a mere chapter. This is a refreshing take on the life of Krishna and a powerful novel that puts its own spin on of the most popular epics in the world! SuperCop of Aryavrat by Mithilesh Kumar dips into ancient tales to flesh out a saga that is relevant in the contemporary context!
If you wish to read this book on kindle, please click here.
Paint like Franz Marc by Geeta Dharmarajan (published by Katha) introduces a much-loved artist to children. There is something about Franz Marc’s paintings that completely draws children in. It could be the amazing bright and vibrant colours that just make the paintings come alive. Or maybe, it could be the fact that a lot of his work depicts animals, and as we all know, this resonates a lot with children. Perhaps, it could be the sheer delight that they experience when they see animals in unexpected hues and poses that they do not associate with them!
Geeta Dharmarajan introduces the concepts of art appreciation in a very simple manner, that children will find quite relatable. She poses simple questions about the paintings that have been depicted in the book. Well, these may be simple one-liners, but it will lead the child to look carefully at the artwork in the book. Questions such as “Can you see the tiger’s eye?”, or “how many gazelles can you find?”, make children look at the work in question more deeply.
However, the questions go one level deeper as the book progresses. For example, in a painting depicting a yellow cow, she poses the question, “Can a yellow cow give milk”? The book takes the child on a beautiful journey right into the works of Franz Marc.
Towards the end of the book there are short snippets of information about the painter, on how to paint like him, and other divergent issues linked to the themes of his paintings.
The book is a delight to read because it is so vibrant in presentation. Moreover, the text is minimal but impactful. It is a book that will appeal to children as young as three unto seven or eight years. A wonderful book to add to your collection!
Paint like Franz Marc by Geeta Dharmarajan adds to Katha’s repertoire of books that honour art and artists.
If you are interested in exploring books about introducing art to very young children, you may also want to read this.