February Ramblings : 19 – Journaling

I have quite a few acquaintances who are religious diary writers. They jot down the happenings of their day at the end of their day, and their thoughts on them, if any. I have not snooped into any of their accounts, so I wouldn’t know exactly what goes into the content; but I guess this would be a fairly accurate guess.

Journaling differs from diary writing. It is intermittent, and has a theme to it. A diary can be used as a base for a journal.

I had taken a course on Writer’s Village, which had Leaving a Trace as a course material. It is a comprehensive book on different types of journaling. I love how the author gives examples of people who wrote to document a particular phase of their life, or to log casual happenings and their ‘works’ were found by unsuspecting descendants who were transported to the time of their ancestors.

Anne Frank’s diary remains one of my favorite reads in memoirs. Memoirs are a collection of interesting accounts taken from a diary and rewritten to form a chronological journal.

Often times, the candidness of autobiographical writing has bothered me.

While Frank would never see the reactions her work amassed, she did have an idea that she would someday want to publish it. Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography on the other hand, was published during his lifetime, and in it he has delved into such personal details! I wonder how he would have prepared for the reception. And if he would have felt the need to prepare, at all.

Coming back to journaling, it can be for one’s own ‘personal’ purpose or to publish. A journal written for the former, and then turned into a finished work for the latter purpose would be more candid, I suppose.

That brings me a thought which has loomed large in my subconscious. (And that I forgot *just* now! Yikes! Let me jog my memory a bit… aah yes… read on read on!)

What use do ordinary people living uneventful lives have for a journal?

I might attract a volley of disapproving *SMH* kind of murmurs and even shouts from some of you. To that I say, hang on…let me finish…

We, as a society, are quick to judge. I belong to the foremost ranks of those who do so. And hence, till this day I do hold the belief that a life full of mundanes is not a full life.

That those who stress on adhering to a routine set in stone do lead uneventful lives OR those who do not have frequent events that would evoke a more than casual interest from the listeners of ‘how was their day’ OR simply those who wish to live a ‘normal’ life would not have anything to document daily. (Okay, I might have exaggerated a bit there. I am by no means condescending nor do I feel so deeply. Perhaps what I mean to say is – unless someone sees ‘magic’ in the ‘mundane’, he or she would not be motivated to write about it.)

It heartens me to say that I have found that ordinary people in fact, have the most use for a journal and their journals make for the most interesting of discoveries about human nature. How?

  1. They give one an idea of what life in the day of a citizen was (or is), in that period.
  2. The popular general notions about political inclinations and societal norms are disclosed.
  3. Their journals are proof of the depth of thought that one spends (however philosophically inclined or not) on a given subject – be it on world politics or the list of grocery to be purchased for the next week.
  4. Humans have immense inner strength. While it may go unnoticed by the exterior appearance they put up in difficult times, the written word gives us a glimpse of how the individual citizen deals with the vagaries of his everyday subsistence that keeps him from delving deeper into the hows and whys of existence.
  5. Anecdotal narration comes naturally to most of us. Journals are treasure troves of stories that would mean the world to their immediate family, thus building a sense of belonging to a larger scheme of things in the future generations.

Let me know if the above reasons to write a journal make sense to you.

I’ll leave you with this parting thought – my great-grandmother (a woman of strong character, who loved reading and would always stress upon me the value of education) and Ayn Rand (the author, of course) were both born in 1905. How different their journals would be!

Journaling thus serves to enrich the world with collective experiences of an entire generation belonging to a particular time frame – because they vary in nature beyond our wildest dreams. And however ordinary they may seem to us, our lives are worth leaving a trace! 🙂

 

Book Review : The Winner’s Curse by Dee Walker

The Winner's Curse by Dee Walker
The Winner’s Curse by Dee Walker
Paperback 288 pages
Publisher Srishti Publishers; 1 edition (24 December 2014)
Language English
ISBN-10 9382665242
ISBN-13 978-9382665243

WHY I READ THE BOOK

One fine day last month, I was going over my notes taken at the #WIN conference by Blogadda in Feb 2014. In his opening address, Mr.Ravi Subramanian had mentioned that Mr.Yatin Gupta helped him setup an author blog and got him initiated into blogging.

Life seems to have an almost impossible line-up of coincidences in store for me. The very same morning, a mail from Mr.Yatin Gupta himself was waiting for me in my inbox when I opened my Gmail on reaching office. It was about a review copy upon expressing interest.

As apparent from my writing this review, I signed up. 🙂

What sparked my interest was
1) Mr. Gupta himself backed the book.
2) It was written using a pen name. I like pen names!
3) The blurb was interesting – it reminded me of Adhar Cards and UIDs somehow.
4) It is the author’s first book. (I have this thing for first novels 😛 )

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

It is a fast paced story for one. The techies and business folks amongst us will identify with the jargon used to explain technology and Government tenders. Parallel tracks are at a minimum, which makes the reader sit on the edge wondering what comes next. Also, if you’re an IITian, want to be one or have anyone close to you in IIT; you might wanna pick this one up. (No, it has nothing to do with campus stories or isn’t a CB kinda IIT story.)

THE PLOT

The story is about a big budget Government Telecom scheme being brought in to facilitate transparency in the Bureaucratic functioning. There are big parties involved in bidding for the tenders. The race to win the bid with hurdles like political interests of the stakeholders, corruption in importing the infrastructure and parallel deals being made to secure the contract somehow has IITians from the same batch involved. When the contract is allotted, the winner is faced with a moral dilemma – whether to go through, or not – as the not-written-in-RFP requirements if implemented, will bring an end to individual privacy, as we know today.

Although the book has a taut and almost flawless plot, rather than being story driven; it is primarily character driven.

THE CHARACTERS

I think the USP of this book will be it’s unique characters.

The focus is on IITians whose traits are reminiscent of one or more of the 10 commandments that are drilled into the genius brains of the IIT graduates.(You didn’t know IITians had a code or commandments?! Well, neither did I. 😛 ) There are other supporting characters from the non-IIT world. With about more than 10 key characters, The Winner’s Curse is a densely populated book.

I don’t know how Dee Walker has managed ZERO redundancy in the characterization. Every single character introduction takes the story forward and there is NO character which could have been dropped.

Harsh is the protagonist of the story. From the blurb, it appeared that he is a fresh pass-out (yeah yeah I know it’s wrong English but I’ll still use the term). Turns out, he is in his late 30s. He has a strong political backer in the form of the Master,whom he considers his Guru. You’ll find it difficult to categorize Harsh as plain black or white. Let’s say his heart is white, but his actions are black. (Picture Ajay Devgan’s character in Once upon a time)

ARMANI is a bio-tech genius and the possible protagonist of the sequel Dee Walker has in mind, as it appears from the Epilogue. He couldn’t get into IIT in 2 attempts!

Rocky is an IIT alumnus bureaucrat with a nagging guilt about being corrupt, but still not ready to rebel against the system. Also, he has a bad equation with Harsh since his IIT days and cannot see eye to eye with him on anything.

There are more, this was just an idea.

WHAT I LIKED

1) The narration is crisp, laced with specific details, showing that the author knows what he is talking about.
2) The scene setups come alive.(For example Harsh’s meeting with Dubai investors at the Burj.)
3) The fact that FIITJEET and UNIVQuest are perhaps real institutes. Also the author stresses in the end that IIT is not the ONLY thing which signifies one’s intelligence. Even IIT grads have to live up to their formative years at the Uni, when they come into the real world.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

1) There are one or two technical, plot related loopholes I am still pondering on.
2) The Editor has done a bad job. By bad, I do mean bad. For instance, I found an entire sentence printed twice in adjacent paras. Don’t even talk about small typos.
3) I think mentions of illicit relationships and steamy affairs are added just because of the common perception that it makes the book spicier.There is a gay relationship for business benefits – which is more of a ploy to draw readers.
4) Lot of cursing. It should not be a problem with most of the readers, as Tarantino and closer home Anurag Kashyap, have made it a necessary ingredient in gritty realistic stories.

IN A NUTSHELL

Since I started with the mention of Mr.Ravi Subramanian’s address at #WIN, let me end with it too. He said, one of the reviews of his debut book said ‘It was a steaming pile of manure.’ Although the audience doubled over with laughter, I wonder how he’d have felt when he was not a household name yet.

Now I, as a reviewer (and a wannabe author 😛 ), have a natural tendency to try and tear apart a book from the first page. I tried to curb the instinct and started with the book, only to find that after the initial 2-3 pages, I was transformed into an unbiased ordinary reader just wanting to know ‘what happens next’!

If a book can do that, it is surely worth a read. I’d sum up by saying :

“The Winner’s Curse is brilliant in parts, with a strong message of staying true to your ideals; which is brought about quite effectively in the end.”

I would rate The Winner’s Curse a decent 3.5 on a scale of 5.

Book Review : Private India

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WHY I READ THE BOOK

I have read Mr. Sanghi’s Rosabal Line, Chanakya’s Chant and Krishna Key. They were all thrillers with a story comparing past Indian mythology with characters in the present. I still have to find a name for this genre. For the time being, I call it the Indian version of Dan Brown. I am so glad it exists because I remember wanting someone to draw parallels from Indian mythology and write a Da Vinci Code like book.

Naturally, when Mr.Sanghi digressed from his comfort zone into a pure mystery one, that too in collaboration, I was intrigued. I was mulling over whether I should buy it from Crossword or order it online, when I caught it up on review at Blogadda. I was still secretly hoping that there would be some similarity to his older books.

The ONE reason above all that I picked it up is – I wanted to know how two authors can come up with a book. If it were me, the book would be shelved because of creative differences however well I know my co-author. I also wanted to see if I can pick up parts which were written by Mr. Sanghi and parts which were written by James Patterson.

( Alas, that was not to be. I now think the whole book was written by Mr. Sanghi, with James Patterson only giving his creative inputs for the structuring of Private India (the agency) and its boss (who’s a foreigner)).

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

If you are an avid Indian fiction fan, you might already be familiar with Mr. Sanghi’s works. You won’t need a reason 🙂

If you are not, then you might want to pick it up for an engrossing read on a train journey or a replacement for weekend afternoon siesta. It’s almost like watching a movie! Another, if you are a Mumbai-ite, you are sure to feel as if you are A PART OF the investigation team as the book takes you through the nooks and corners of the very familiar localities – read CST, Dharavi, etc.

(I always thought how New Yorkers might be feeling watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S or Little Manhattan. THAT – you’d feel!)

THE BOOK

Let me tell you, Random House has done a pretty good job at the paper quality and print size. That is the first thing that attracts me to a book.

The cover has Mumbai’s landmarks – The Taj and Gateway of India – giving one the feel that something chilly is inside the book, as the eye falls on a man running for his life – below the Bandra-Worli sea-link.

I can tell that it’s a winner from the fact that the better half (who is a non-reader) picked it up and read the first 5 chapters before I had even started!

THE PLOT

The plot is character driven, with the story being nothing more than a serial killer on the loose and investigators hot on his trail.

I was at a disadvantage here; I have not read James Patterson’s works – and the investigating agency, Private India – happens to be an Indian Wing of a global(?) organization ‘Private’.

Since it is a character driven story with the killer’s motives set deep in his own past life, it is very difficult to hold the suspense till the end. I, for example, had identified the killer almost instantly when he was revealed first in the flow. The alternatives and their possible motives are not sufficiently expanded. I feel the story was fit for a 2 book version or a larger page count.

The parallel tracks are distracting – what with the personal ghosts-from-the-past of the agency’s local boss and the forensic expert, the terrorist attack plan (I still have to figure out WHY that track was introduced at all).

It is almost as if they were introduced because the main plot was too thin.

The narrative style is what we are used to these days – COP side, KILLER side and PARALLEL happenings in different chapters.

THE CHARACTERS

This agency, Private India, has local people as employees – a drunk but intelligent and experienced ex-cop, a quintessential brainy babe, a geeky computer whiz, and an NRI medical/forensic expert returned from the US. I found them all stereotypes except the computer whiz – whose character was painfully left unexplained in the end.

Private India’s global boss is a middle-aged ex-CIA agent Jack Morgan. James Pattersons’ readers might know more about him.

One of the most interesting characters is an cop who is in charge of the interrogation officially. He and the local head of Private India (the ex-cop) are at logger heads, with a hint of previous friendship gone sour.

The other characters and possible suspects are interesting – an attorney general, a hair stylist and a Yoga trainer. ( I tried to rule out all imaginations about her looking like Rujuta Divekar, as per the popular the line in movie disclaimers “All characters are fictional and resemblance to living individuals is purely unintentional.”)

The victims are as diverse as they can be and one is at a loss to find SOME connection between them. However, the way they are all introduced spells out that they are going to be the next ones. I wish that was done differently.

There is a local Don-cum-drug network owner and some ISI people planning a terrorist attack in parallel.

WHAT I LIKED

1. I liked a strong woman investigator as a key character.
2. I liked the mention of the book “Confessions of a Thug” – I had read it’s Gujrati version from our local library about 16 years ago and I thought nobody in the world would’ve read it. (Now it know it’s famous :|)]
3. I liked how the locations of Mumbai are mentioned as if the world knows the famous suburbs. If we are expected to know ‘their’ New Yorks and and Houstons and Bostons and Washington D.Cs, even they should know ‘our’ Mumbai!

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

This list is a little longer (and the reason I delayed the review)

1. I wanted more. This is not a bad reason, but I felt there were still loose ends in the end.
2. I felt that the story had too many abrupt breaks and parallel tracks to remember. Perhaps the reason I read it in breaks is why I might’ve felt that way.
3. I did not like the parallel tracks at all, as they had no connection with the actual story.

Spoiler Alert(skip if still to read)
4. The computer whiz guy is still a mystery. Who was he talking to and why was he fleeing the country?
5. The woman investigator’s back story didn’t quite sum up. So didn’t the attorney general’s.
6. Some characters, like the Baba are just mentioned – not expanded even if they play a major role in the killer’s motives.
Spoilers Over(skip if still to read)

IN A NUTSHELL

In a nutshell, I was certain I disliked the book, but as I write this review, I think actually liked it. I don’t have any solid reasons for not liking it.

That said – I stand by the fact that it is confusing and too much to take in at once and it still leaves a large room for character expansion. For me, it was like my view of Haider, intriguing first half – disappointing second half.

Reviewer’s rating   3/5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Author Interview : J K Sachin of The PM’s Wishlist

16th May, a day when the destiny of the largest democracy will be sealed for the next 5 years. A major change in power is expected. What better a time to post the author interview of Mr J K Sachin! The man who dreamed of writing a political story of a dynamic PM and his wishlist and wrote it so wonderfully.

His latest offering, the PM’s wishlist is available on Kindle at Amazon.
I was interested in the book for 2 reasons :

1) I heard about it from Anita Menon, who I know has a penchant for dishing out (literally) and fishing out the most peculiar of stories.

2) I have a political plot of mine 😉 and I envy, admire and research all political fiction books I can find.

The book was a great read, albeit lengthy – but then it does get lengthy when one is trying to fit 5 years of a drastic image shift of a nation the size and stature of India.

Without much ado, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Mr J K Sachin.

You have desisted from describing the Prime Minister’s appearance, background (religious/educational/financial) and rise from the grassroot level. How did you picture him while writing? Did you see yourself in him?

I was sensitive to the fact that people had very fixed perceptions about who they would like to see as their PM. I did not want to take the uphill route of trying to replace the persona in people’s mind with a character from my imagination. I deliberately chose to avoid describing the PM. Fans of Mr. Modi, Mr Gandhi and Mr. Kejriwal or other leaders are free to imagine their leader as the PM in the book. Besides improving acceptability of the character, it makes people’s perceptions stronger. However I did not imagine myself at all. It would be too preposterous though I did have a fancy of becoming a PM in my schooling days.

Was the novel strategically released during the election frenzy? What was the total time you worked on the draft? How important is it to promote the book, after its release, according to you?

I had been working over weekends for almost two years but decided to pack the research into a book to coincide with elections. Promotion is important. A book is a product and like any product has to be marketed and promoted.

What is your take on the current Indian fiction scenario? Do you admire any of the current Indian authors? Can you please share their names and the reason for which you admire them?

I find the scene too fractured and no specific authors have the kind of brand recall in my mind unfortunately. I did like Ravi Subramaniam’s The Incredible Banker though.

Can you please give us a sneak-peek into the books that are in queue from your pen?

I am working on a book on Start-ups in India and on the Customer experience scene in India. I am not sure of the completion date since a lot of research is being compiled currently.

For whom should an author write – audience or himself? Today, everyone wants to be an author. I am not being judgmental, however one spots a truck-load of mushy campus stories and books that surround a one-line story when browsing book stores. What would you advise a first time author such that he is encouraged to write and still does not churn out a similar run-of-the-mill work?

An author should write a book if he sincerely and passionately believes that the book will inform, entertain or educate the reader and add value. It’s a responsibility when a reader picks your book because he or she expects you to make it worthwhile. If the book does not contribute to the thoughts, inform, make people pause and think or provoke an argument the author should not waste his or her time and that of his readers. I am not suggesting that every book needs to start a movement but if the author is not passionate about the need to share his or her thoughts with the audience for their benefit, not his, a book should not be attempted.

Thank you Mr Sachin for your valuable time, we are pleased to host you at Wordcoiner!

Book Review : The Bankster

Publisher Rupa Publications India
Publication Year 2012
ISBN-13 9788129120489
ISBN-10 8129120488
Language English
Binding Paperback
Number of Pages 364 Page

Source : Flipkart

WHY I READ THE BOOK

I have reviewed 5 books from Blogadda and this is the 6th in the Blogadda Book Reviews series. I got this copy through a tweet asking if readers wanted an instant copy of ‘The Bankster’ for review. And believe me it was instant! I got it within a week of applying.

I picked this book randomly as this was a genre I had not read from an Indian author. It differed from the books from Blogadda I read earlier – a drama (All and nothing), Chanakya’s chant (Political/Historical fiction), Mafia Queens (crime documentary), The Wednesday Soul (Comedy), You can sell (Self-help). This one was a fictional thriller written by an IIM alumnus. Also the name Ravi Subramaniam rang a bell, which turned out to be a mix-up with Ravi Venu.

One fine day, after Diwali, I read the book and believe me, I kept running back to finish it every now and then.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

  1. You like CID and CSI alike.
  2. You are skeptical of Indian authors and want a book that challenges your brain.
  3. You want to read a book that when translated to movies would be worthy of a watch. (picture Angels and Demons)
  4. You are into Apple products 😛
  5. Because I say it is worth a read! *ducks n runs*

THE BOOK

At 364 pages, the Bankster makes a delightfully long and fast paced read. I would advise skipping the blurb on the back to make it more interesting while figuring out the mystery. Our generation has grown on the staple diet of shows like Lie to Me, Bones, Castle, the Mentalist which figure prominent cop/investigator duos. The book has one of the Indianized versions of them. There is a certain kind of believability in the story which is very essential to a very elaborate and high profile thriller.

As far as I know, the situations and scenes are original in context and provide a novelty to the ‘whodunnit’ angle. The book is far more than a murder mystery or a thriller. It makes one sit back and think of the dark intricasies of the wheelings and dealings that go on in the banking and political sector.

THE PLOT

The plot is story driven. A welcome deviation from the books I have read recently. There are 3 parallel tracks and the convergence is well depicted in the end. The story starts in Africa, the scenes very reminiscent of Blood Diamond and Casino Royale – still original in writing. The main chunk of the plot takes place in amchi Mumbai – with lots of stuff that every Mumbaite will enjoy and relate to. A parallel track runs in South India where a nuclear power project is being thought of. Money scam appears to be the main theme of the book when the reader suddenly finds out that it is more than just a Hawala scam.

At certain points, the story seems to switch tracks abruptly and start with one of the 3 parallel tracks. In that case I did what I always do – read the continuation chapter first 😛

THE CHARACTERS

There are many characters and each well etched in the whole story. One keeps flitting from a character to another trying to put him/her in the cross-hairs – even I did the same. And just when I thought I had the book figured out, there was a sharp twist. ( IIM people do have a devious brain, don’t they? Kidding :P) Mumbai police has been given its due credit and I loved the fact that the PSI in charge was a sincere young officer. The FBI people were true to their stereotype. There is one more international police squad in picture – again an intriguing read. The characters in the banking sector Vikram, Indrani, Raymond (I could almost picture this portly fellow), Harshita  and others could be found anywhere around you.  The characters from the nuclear power plant can be found in any agitation/movement be it the Lokpal, Narmada Dam or our very own nuclear power project coming up in Jaitapur. (On a side note, I hate the this track because I wanted to base my novel on the Jaitapur project. Anyhow, if I do write it – please note that I really had the idea in mind before I read The Bankster 😛 )

WHAT I LIKED

I liked the fact that there are cool gadgets (read iPads and iPhones) at play – that way I could flaunt my relevance to the smartphone industry. Again, I really appreciate the last twist which makes the book a very worthwhile read – because I had figured out rest of the plot almost in the middle of the book.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

The book could have been a little tightly edited and carefully proofread. I did not like the fact that Kaavya, the lady from the amateur investigator duo – did not have much to do and was reduced to a mere showpiece. On the whole, I did find all the female characters a bit slow in grasping the situation. Anyway, since I do not consider myself a feminist, I would like to appreciate the well written book and not focus on the need for gender equality.

IN A NUTSHELL

In a nutshell, pick up the book anytime during transit and enjoy a wonderful read. Coming from an Indian author utilizing everyday settings from Mumbai for a global thriller, this one deserves a read. Skip the Rowdy Rathores and Salman movies for once and try a desi thriller book instead!

Reviewer’s rating   3.5/5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!