Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Crossed & Knotted - India's First Composite Novel

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Disclaimer: This review has not been commissioned by the Author even though I wish it was :D But Amazon! You have killed my profession.

India's first composite novel
Sounds very cool yet at the same time I had a slight doubt when I first got this from the publisher Readomania for reviewing. Cool, due to the fact that we are notching up the genres that we present out to the world. On one side if we have embraced the nocturnal creatures and on the other hand, we have Titles to showcase along with The Arabian Nights and The Canterbury Tales. So presenting to the world of 'composite novel' we too have a book on that shelf - Crossed & Knotted. 

And this is exactly where my doubts came in. Are our writers equipped to spin tales which are connected to each other and yet autonomous in their own rights? And that too not one but 14 authors together. That must have been some herculean task. Moreover I was very eager to find out what was the thread that bound the 14 authors together. What made them declare this new venture as a "composite novel"?

The Story:

All the 14 short stories are bound together by their characters. I found that very interesting. As a writer, we often suppress the secondary characters in our stories, limiting ourselves to the POV of our protag. Imagine here. All your secondary character take a life of their own. In short, a small world by itself. 

The Characters:

Keeping in with the true essence of a composite novel, one can truly say that every protag of the short stories has stood out on their own yet merged subtly in the other stories. The novel starts with A Curious Dalliance of Sutapa Basu where we are introduced to Sudip Roy. A simpleton, who wanted to lead a simple,middle class, married life. But when life teaches him about the survival of the fittest, he learns it fast. As an introduction, Sutapa Basu was impactful in drawing the attention of the readers into the novel. 

Sudip's daughter Shivi takes the story further in The Diary of Josheph Varughese by Ayan Pal and the theme of the seemingly perfect murder continues. A character, which a reader had caught the glimpse of comes in front of you in the consecutive chapters. Interesting. 

Reality Bites:

Another fact I noticed in all the stories are the reality bites. From the plane crash in Kotteswaran   (Web of Life by Sanchita Sen Das) to the German Bakery Blast in Mumbai  (For a Speck of a Moment by Amrit Sinha), all the incidents created the backdrop of the stories. Brought back many memories we want to erase yet kept me as reader submerged to the stories. 

Few Mentions:
Since it is an anthology, some are hits and some are misses. That does not reflect on the writers here since all the stories are very well written and equally well edited. ( In today's literary world, a rare phenomena) But here I have to mention one story. Deepti Menon's The Dragon Lady. While all the stories told tales of heart wrenching situations and equally  'crime parfaits', The Dragon Lady, aptly named Kamu, took away the tension that was building up till then. 

"Punishments had no effect on her and she would stride out of the classroom emitting fire through her nostrils."

A very pleasant break from the myriad of crime and punishments. Rightly placed midway of the composite novel as Chapter 9. Kudos to the compiler.Gives the reader the right kind of break to read the upcoming fascinating stories. 

Was it true to the genre?

To a large extent, I would say yes. But one character perplexed me. Binoy, the youngest son of Kamu , the Dragon Lady. He carries two stories on his shoulders, after making an appearance in The Dragon Lady. 'For a Speck Of A Moment' by Amrit Sinha and 'To Ma & Ma, Con Amore!' by Monika Nair. The thread broke for a moment. Binoy got married twice? And if Binita is his first love, why is there no residue of the grief in the second innings? A line or two mentioning his previous love in the story by Monika Nair would have been a great continuity. Especially after a tragedy of such a magnitude had touched his life. A memory will prevail and cannot be ignored.

A very same situation with Meena has been handled very well in the stories 'Look Beyond' by Amar Lakshya Pawar and 'Dawn at Dusk' by Bhuwaneshwari Shankar. That is what a reader would expect for Binoy too. 


The last chapter 'The Last Act' by Arpita Banerjee gave the novel a closure. The novel ended with the character it had started with. I liked the concept of the "full circle" but there were two things that did not work with me here. Firstly, monologue of the man on a 'deathbed; and the duplicity of the doctor. It felt too contrived. Specially with Pragya being a doctor. Moreover, it appeared unethical and did not gell well with the character of the doctor. 

Would I recommend the book ?

Yes. Most definitely. Don't expect it to be a one time read or a light read. You will be drawn into the stories and will often find yourself going back and forth, to find out who appeared in which story. Sort of like an actor in a  special appearance in a movie and you will soon find yourself cheering when one of the characters in a previous story, who had left a mark on you, reappearing again. Powerful. 

Line that Stayed with me ...

Her soul gave up a silent prayer: May all the victims of the Kotteswaran air tragedy, at least, find loving families and happy peaceful lives in this this birth.
The Web of Life by Sanchita Sen Das
Amen to that! Lets wish the same for the  victims of Nepal Earthquake Tragedy.  


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

24 League Under The -err--- Pool?

Sigh! Could have been me :(
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If anyone dares to laugh at me, you will be sued. And with that banderole firmly placed in my heart, I decided to learn how to swim.

Not a big deal I know but then, you all don't know me. I have a vivid imagination. *Snicker. Well, my imagination stems from Jaws I.II. and III. Ah yes- also Moby Dick. Capish?

It does not matter how deep the water is. The gurgling, bubbling sounds triggers all sorts of motion pictures in my mind. Believe me, none of them, is good for my heart.

And to that my swimming instructor was a Dutch lady. My tryst with a language is yet another tale to tell. But for now, let me tell you, I can speak fluently in Dutch, especially with those who have no understanding of the language.Capish?

So with my very limited knowledge of the language and absolutely no knowledge regarding the mysteries lurking under the water, I plunged in.

Wrong move. 

I felt the frenzy world under the water closing upon me. Claiming me. Restricting me.


I thrashed. I grabbed a piece of a golden rope floating in front of me and felt the heavy weight of doom taking me down.

A very thrashing, threatening and vocal doom.

My swimming instructor's tresses the clutched in my hands and she was a no happy Rapunzel.

Strong arms grabbed me from behind and even in my worst nightmare, I knew I was the damsel in distress who was just about to meet another Prince Charming. Sigh! What more could the lady who was just on the verge of  buying  her first 'Menopause for Dummies' really want?


"Mevrouw! Je bent stom?" The angry, gruff voices sounded above me.


Strong, masculine palms had started pumping heavily on my chest. This makes me wonder – has anyone ever asked the victim receiving CPR how they actually feel? Sorry PJ. But since I am dying, I am allowed one  PJ. 

"Mevrouw? Can you hear me?"

A tune started gathering momentum in my head. Let me share that with you. 

I fluttered my eyelids. Kajol would have been green with envy if she had seen me there. Anyways, to carry the story further, I gripped his hands. Warm. Strong. Fluttered my eyelids again and shyly opened my eyes to meet a set of thick lashed, grey with tinges of silver, very beautiful feminine eyes. 

The song changed. 

Another dream came crashing down. Clutching the remnants of my dignity, I got up and then decided to - err.. faint. Don't judge me. I  literally had no choice. My instructor was glaring at me from across the pool, her one palm massaging the scalp. Every kid, who had come to learn swimming in that pool along with their parents were openly giggling. Now you tell me what would be better? Walking past them or using the health insurance and calling the ambulance. 

Keeping my eyes tightly shut I let the paramedics escort me out of the swimming area. *smirking. 

3 Years Later...

"Hi, My name is Ina. Do you have a slot for adult swim lesson?" 


Disclaimer : All your best wishes under this post will act as my float. And also keep my instructor in your prayers. Fingers crossed. She will have strong. long hair.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lemon Girl by Jyoti Arora

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Disclaimer: This review has not been commissioned by the Author even though I wish it was :D But Amazon! You have killed my profession.

I had completed Lemon Girl a week ago but was putting off from writing a review as I was not able to decide whether I associated with the character of Nirvi or not. I am a feminist and every female protagonist should stand up for herself, fight her battles and come out as a stronger person. Nirvi is not a black-and-white character where I can say that yes I like this about her and this is how I relate to her. She in fact reminded me a lot of Moll Flanders by Daphne du Maurier and then it striked  me- is this the reaon why I found Nirvi so different. Like Moll, Nirvi is a survivor too. The methods used by her cannot be understood and liked by many of us but that does not mean she's not a survivor. So when I could connect with her, this story opened up for me.

Lemon Girl by Jyoti Arora has all the complexities of love. Desire, want, lust, wanting the forbidden fruit and heartbreak. It's a story about a girl, Nirvi who started out as a simple girl, living with her parents in a protected environment. And then Jyoti hits us with a very poignant question, "how safe are we behind the closed doors of our home?" That unnerved me. That relationship is too close, too pious. But that does not mean we can live as ostriches burying our head in the sand. Jyoti has not overplayed on what had changed in Nirvi's life. But with a subtlety, she has drawn the gory picture of how relationships can change in the blink of an eye. It was very scary moment for me.

From that point of time, Nirvi is looking  for closures. Did she find it in the series of men she stayed with? The most prominent question would be why did she choose this path? Victim's guilt? Survival? At this point of time when Arsh enters her life she is no more the Lemon Girl he had met in the market a few years back. This not only intrigues Arsh but also me as a reader. What had happened in Nirvi's life that changed her so much? As I travel along with Arsh to understand the situation many things come in front of me which makes me question Nirvi's character. The feminist in me revolted and the woman in me understood. Conflicting emotions.

Another character which I particularly liked was that of Tiya. Strong, fighter and standing up for friendship. Her relationship with Arsh would have blossomed into something exquisite had not Arsh obsessed after another woman. I understood Arsh's conflicts but I could not understand why Nirvi would latch up to men when she had so much talent of her own? Why did she not believe in herself? Did her past shape up her character? Should she not  have hated men instead of going after them? These are the various questions that went on playing in my mind as I turned the last page of the book.

Complexities in the Characters:

I found the complexities of the characters very interesting. This is not a linear storytelling where you are rooting for the main character. She is very complex.Till the end I did not know whether I should sympathise with  Nirvi or not. Thankfully she had one saving grace which came out well at the end of the story.

A message to all the parents.

I want to use my this review as a platform to ask all parents to listen to the child. Do not play the blame game. Would Nirvi had a different life if her mother had listened to her? Would a life not been lost, if there was parental guidance? Why are we are quick to criticise, to judge and forget that in between black and white there exists a shade of grey.


Nirvi could have been stronger. She always seems to create a bad situation for herself and then run away. I found Sam snooty but his character was not bad enough for me to accept the fact how Nirvi treated him. What is stopping Nirvi from walking out at any point of time? Sam dispassionate enough not to fight for his love. To portray Nirvi as the victim, the other characters around her should have been villainous enough. This diluted the conflict in the story by small margin.

"She leaned towards Sam, crossed her arms around his neck, ending her words with an emphatic kiss. As her lips touched his, her eyes turned to look at me."
There are moments when I just was about to sympathise with Nirvi, she was introduced to us as-

"And then my mother found me a nice guy. Nice guy for a girl she herself had blamed for wanting in all that was nice and decent. Nice guy for a girl who aimed at dating every guy of her acquaintance. Nice guy for a girl whose favourite challenge had been to steal the love of her own best friend.Well, he indeed was a nice guy. Your lemon girl might have found him a dream. But Nirvi didn't."

Would you recommend this book?

This is not a  one time read. It has many shades which might make you love or hate a character at different points of time. Questions will arise which makes you ponder about the story. But a must read for those who love drama. 

Line that stayed with me:

"When it's time for you to fall in love, even a lemon can become the cause of it. In my case, there where a full dozen of them."