Monday, November 02, 2015

Book Review - Crimson City by Madhulika Liddle

You invariably breathe a sigh of relief, as you come to the end of Crimson City, the last addition to the Muzaffar Jang Mysteries, by Madhulika Liddle, for at long last, having run the entire length of the book, the last few pages being literally a hundred meter sprint, finally the serial killer in Shahjahanabad is nabbed, thanks to the timely intervention of Shireen, the newly wed, very intellectual bride of Muzaffar Jang, our 17th Century detective of the Mughal period, in Dilli. Allah be praised!

A rather long detective novel no doubt, but beautifully laced with description of Shahjahanabad, old Dilli, of now, with all its lanes and gallis, havelis, gardens and hamaams, the reader is taken on leisurely walk around, albeit constantly in doubt of every character he encounters along the way, for it is not just one murder, the killer of which is at large, but several killings, all within days, probably only a week, and mostly in and around the same haveli.
At first, the kotwal of Dilli, Khan Sahib is loath to allow his brother-in-law, the brilliant detective by habit, Muzaffar Jang, whom the reader has encountered in all the Muzaffar Jang stories, four in all, in the past, to interfere and poke his nose in matters of this serial killings in Shahjahanabad, but, the young nobleman, with his just married wife, Shireen, find it hard to stay away from the goings on and tend to go on their own quest for the killer, all of which helps to nab the culprit finally.

Not an easy story this one, because of the multiple murders, one after another, with no trace of any apparent motive, nor any tell-tale signs left behind, a maze of happenings, all seeming to connect and yet, totally unconnected, till one comes to the last few pages and in quite a surprising end, the motive and the killer is revealed, which the reader didn’t get a whiff of throughout the novel.

So then, is it okay to read the first few pages of Crimson City and rush to the last few, if one is an impatient reader? Quite obviously no! Such an error would invariably make the reader, lose track of the nail-biting build up and the many frustrations, as one travels along with Muzaffar Jang and Shireen, hurrying here and scurrying there to zero down on the killer, and participating in the gossip of men and women inside the haveli, all making a juicy read, to savour in leisure and abandon of yesteryear, when it was not a compulsion to complete reading within minutes. The author has woven stories inside stories with such adept mastery of story-telling, the reader would be lost, if the entire story with the big surprise at the end, was not read completely.

Of all the Muzaffar Jung series, this book is for keeps. The reason is simple – Liddle has poured her ink thickly on the pages and details of Shahjahanabad, are finely woven into the text. It is a masterpiece of good writing in English by an Indian author, who has made her mark among period detective novel writers worldwide. You may check her out in Wikipedia.  In Crimson City, which is a very apt title for this the last of the Muzaffar Jang Stories, the author’s thoughts around issues of religion and communities are expertly delivered in the lines, so that for the conscious reader, a few nuggets of ideology are for keeps as well.

The book suffers from a few drawbacks though. The first being, there are too many characters and one must then have a notebook around to jot down who is related to whom. Second, even at the last, our kotwal sahib’s insistence of his brother-in-laws interference in finding out the killer, is not explained, although it is Muzaffar Jang and his wife’s diligent study and snooping around which finally lead to the killer. Third, one really could not understand why the Hindu element was woven into the tale, and to what purpose? Fourth, was it not possible to have a tighter manuscript, even if that meant, losing out of a purani Dilli, Shahjahanabad experience, of leisure and time in hand? Last, but not the least, the reference to Jesus Christ, in pg 208, needs verification to find out by what name he was called in Shahjahanabad. Or his reference replaced?

However, one must be totally satisfied with this fact, that even if one has never read a Muzaffar Jang story before, this is a standalone book and is a must read, and one to keep forever, as I will. The last finale of the Muzaffar Jang Mysteries, placed in the spring of 1657, left me in tears when I read the last words, in Acknowledgements – 

“......And last but not the least, my family, without whose unwavering support and love (even if often biased and blind beyond belief) this book might never have got written.”

Doesn’t that sum up what is in many of our hearts, too?

Book details:

Title: Crimson City
Author: Madhulika Liddle
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 326
Price: Rs 296 (in October) 

To buy this book Click HERE

Also read: Madhulika Liddle's Blog

Blast from the past: Madhulika Liddle: Engraved in Stone Interview With The Author

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Beef Vindaloo at Bombay Meri Jaan!


Guess who were my best friends in Mumbai? Indeed, how would you know!

They were Cookie, Dina, Oscar, Anu and Rinky.

All of them lived very near my home and during the school days, I visited them often. 

You might now like to ask me the reason?

Ask any foodie like me, and the reason can be only be one, that being exotic lunches:

Good Times – wine, music and merriment which went on through the year, reaching feverish pitch just before Christmas and peaking on January 1st every year.

Check out more Beef Vindaloo on Twitter. Click HERE

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Probe - The Ranbaxy–Fortis–Raligare-Radha Swami Beas Quadriangle

So why am I not surprised at the news that Fortis Healthcare Executive Vice Chairman, Shivender Mohan Singh is giving up his role to join the Radha Swami Beas movement in Beas, near Amritsar?

In reports found on this website  it is reported that the present Guru of Radha Swami Beas, Gurinder Singh Dhillon has made $ 254 million and the owner of Logos Holding Company which acquired 19.53% of Raligare Enterprises in 2010.

"The capital market regulator has granted exemption to Logos Holding Company from making an open offer to the shareholders of Religare Enterprises for its acquisition of 19.53% stake in the company. Logos Holding is an investment arm of the Gurinder Singh Dhillon family.
Gurinder Singh is the current head of one of India's largest religious sect – Radha Soami Satsang Beas. At Thursday's closing price of Rs 460.95, the value of Logos Holding's stake is about Rs 1,163 crore. The Dhillons had acquired the shares at just over Rs 13 crore in 2006. - See HERE  

The said share holders of Raligare Enterprises are none other than, the two brothers, Shivender Mohan Singh and his elder brother, Mavinder Mohan Singh.

Singh and older brother Malvinder Mohan Singh, 43, own about 71% of the company. The Singh family's stake in Fortis Healthcare is worth Rs 5,636 crore while its holding in Religare Enterprises is valued at Rs 2,693 crore based on current market cap.”


So now, when the Guru owns 19.53% stake in Raligare Enterprises, it is like coming home to where the business has always been. If Fortis was all about profits, then, going to Beas may not totally be for ‘seva’ only, in the light of the fact that Radha Swami Beas has come up with its own hospital at Beas and is actively urging followers to donate organs after death.

So is there a new business coming up then, for organs to be sold at exorbitant prices, within India and abroad?

The honourable father of the Singh brothers Ranbir Singh, left a legacy of shame, the world of medicine will loathe to forget. Thankfully, Wikipedia comes handy. Sample this:

Issues [faced by Ranbaxy]

During 2004–2005, Dinesh Thakur and Rajinder Kumar, two Indian employees of Ranbaxy, blew the whistle on Ranbaxy's fabrication of drug test reports. Thakur's office computer was soon found tampered with. Ranbaxy then accused Thakur of visiting graphic websites using his office computer, forcing him to resign in 2005. Thakur escaped from India to the USA and contacted the Food and Drug Administration which started investigating his claims.

As a result, on 16 September 2008, the Food and Drug Administration issued two warning letters to Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. and an Import Alert for generic drugs produced by two manufacturing plants in India. By 25 February 2009 the US Food and Drug Administration said it halted reviews of all drug applications including data developed at Ranbaxy's Paonta Sahib plant in India because of a practice of falsified data and test results in approved and pending drug applications.

On 8 February 2012, three batches of the proton-pump inhibitor Pantoprazole were recalled in the Netherlands due to the presence of impurities.

On 9 November 2012, Ranbaxy halted production and recalled forty-one lots of atorvastatin due to glass particles being found in some bottles. Also in 2012, an apparent dosage mistake was reported in which 20 mg tablets were found in a bottle of atorvastatin labeled as containing 10 mg tablets; this led in 2014 to the voluntary recall in the United States of some 64,000 bottles.

In May 2013 the US fined the company US$500 million after it was found guilty of misrepresenting clinical generic drug data and selling adulterated drugs to the United States.

In September 2013, further problems were reported, including apparent human hair in a tablet, oil spots on other tablets, toilet facilities without running water, and a failure to instruct employees to wash their hands after using the toilet.[17][18] Ranbaxy is prohibited from manufacturing FDA-regulated drugs at the Mohali facility until the company complies with U.S. drug manufacturing requirements.

Ranbaxy has cleared some regulatory approval hurdles with approval for production at various facilities. Its Gurgaon based plant & Romania R&D centres got FDA approval. Also in March, Ranbaxy's Paonta Sahib plant in Himachal Pradesh, which has faced a US regulatory ban since 2008, was also cleared in a joint inspection by five global drug regulatory agencies of the UK, Canada, the WHO and Singapore. (Credit Wikipedia )


In June 2008, Daiichi-Sankyo acquired a 34.8% stake in Ranbaxy,for a value $2.4 billion. In November 2008, Daiichi-Sankyo completed the takeover of the company from the founding Singh family in a deal worth $4.6 billion by acquiring a 63.92% stake in Ranbaxy. Ranbaxy's Malvinder Singh remained as CEO after the transaction. (Credit Wikipedia )

It is believed that Daiichi-Sankyo were duped and were not aware of the liability they would have to bear in the US market. As soon as they had paid off the liability, they took the best step forward. For Daiichi, Ranbaxy was more of a liability, than a profit making venture. 

"On 7 April 2014 India based Sun Pharmaceutical and Japan based Daiichi Sankyo jointly announced the sale of entire 63.4% share from Daiichi Sankyo to Sun Pharma in a $4 billion all share deal. Under these agreements, shareholders of Ranbaxy, will receive 0.8 share of Sun Pharmaceutical for each share of Ranbaxy. After this acquisition, the partner Daiichi-Sankyo will hold a stake of 9% in Sun Pharmaceutical. The combination of Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy creates the fifth-largest specialty generics company in the world and the largest pharmaceutical company in India.” (Credit Wikipedia )

It certainly is time to move on to the next “seva” venture, Mr Shivender Mohan Singh! Especially, when you come to think of who are the millions of followers who throng the dera in Beas – mostly the poor, the Dalits of Punjab and those who trust Guru Gurinder Singh explicitly.

Read more: HERE

About Radha Swami Beas Hospitals: Click HERE 

Ranbaxy Brothers fined $400 million Click HERE

Monday, September 21, 2015

Train on schedule but train not started!

(Why Indian Railways needs to be privatized)

A background

Twice this month, September 2015, traveling to Mumbai and later from Beas to New Delhi, I have witnessed a new phenomenon with the Indian Railways.

In the first instance, I was traveling to Mumbai, by a superfast train with only 5 stops in between. However, the train was late by 4 hours, arriving in Mumbai at an hour which completely ruined the entire days work, scheduled in advance.

It was not known to me, nor any announcement made on Internet, 139 Tollfree Indian Railways line, on newspapers or any other communication medium, that due to faulty lines and subsequent repair thereof, all trains travelling to Delhi or outside, running through Ballabgarh would be delayed by 3 – 4 hours for a period of a week. Had this been broadcasted, many passengers like myself would choose another route/or travel means to arrive at our destination, having cancelled our ticket, albeit late.

Further, the train scheduled to start at 8.30 pm, finally was rescheduled to 11.55 pm. Indeed, it did not start till, 11.58 pm and then went ahead and got stuck at Ballabhgadh for the next 4 hours!

How Railways make their money

Taking the above mentioned example, jJust look at the roughish Indian Railways – had the train started at 12 midnight, then it would have been mandatory for the railways to refund the entire ticket amount to each and every passenger on the train, because the ticket would have automatically been cancelled due to train not starting on the day it was booked for.

Second, that the train was late was not announced, till, the hour of scheduled departure, so passengers were left with no choice, except to wait for the train to leave at its rescheduled time. Or forgo the entire ticket money and return home. This would in turn leave empty berths which the Ticket Collector on the train could sell to people who board the train without reservation, rampant in India, still.

Not an exception but a rule

Indeed, the pattern is the same with all trains. There is no announcement that warns the passenger in time that the train is later, until the eleventh hour.

As it happened, I faced the same predicament when after a tiresome tour of Punjab, I waited to board the Swarn Shatabdi at Beas. Again, no announcement was made, till the scheduled departure time, that the train was late. When I checked the internet, it said, train on schedule time, but train not started. When I called 139, the Tollfree number, it said, the train is late by 2 hours! Again the passenger is left with no choice, but to wait.

Most people argue that the Railways in India is doing a great job. I beg to differ.

Given the fact that it is a Service Oriented industry, there are no excuses for poor quality food on trains, frequent delays of trains, lack of proper intimation to passengers on delays, exorbitantly priced tickets with no ROI.

Indeed, it is far better to travel by plane, but for the traveler who enjoys the train journey, to catch up on sleep, reading, relaxing, talking to fellow passengers, I guess the time has come to say, Goodbye, dear traveler! Our paths may never cross again….  

Until the private sector take over Indian Railways, which is a monopoly, ailing, diseased and dying on a sick bed.  

Picture: From the net

Friday, September 11, 2015

Pussy Love and the Subconscious

Doctors recommend a pet if you are alone or depressed. They say having pets is good for the heart. There is a constant yearning among humans to share love and affection, to become a provider and a nurturer to life, whether they come in the form of animals, plants, trees, dogs or cats.

I once had such a friend who was passing through some really bad time. Her dachshund filled her every moment of life with his constant presence. Like her, he was alone, never allowed to have a mate, never let out in the open without her leading him on the leash. He even went to work with her as she was self-employed.

As many stories you want to hear about animals and their human bonding, that many stories and more are available for you.

But I was interested in Freud and his interpretation of cats in relation to man and women.
It is not surprising that dogs seem to be a man’s best friend and status symbol, as a cat may be a woman’s best choice.

Looking up straigtdopedotcom HERE  I came across some very interesting answers. Let me quote in Dogs VS Cats – A Freudian Theory.

Spoke said: “I have this theory that women tend to prefer cats as pets because cats exhibit "typical" or "stereotypical" male behavior: emotionally detached, independent to the point of being distant, cuddly - but only when they want to be, etc. etc. Similarly, I think men prefer dogs as pets because we see in dogs various "female" (or idealized female) traits: nurturing (always there for you when you need 'em), unconditionally loving, plus they will fetch things for you! 

Now maybe I'm wrong about my basic premise, that women (with exceptions) tend to prefer cats, and men (again with exceptions) tend to prefer dogs. But just based upon my own observations that seem to be the trend.”

Cher3 said: “I think statistics would probably bear out your observation about preferences, but you could just as well argue that women like cats because they are graceful and fastidious ("feminine" traits)and men like dogs because they are hierarchical animals who like to hang around in packs ("masculine" traits). Of course, it's typical of Freudian explanations for things that you can twist them to come out anyway you want.”

Further Cher3 continues: “I think statistics would probably bear out your observation about preferences, but you could just as well argue that women like cats because they are graceful and fastidious ("feminine" traits)and men like dogs because they are hierarchical animals who like to hang around in packs ("masculine" traits). Of course, it's typical of Freudian explanations for things that you can twist them to come out anyway you want.”

Mangeorge argues: “I think it may be simpler than that. Continuing the generalities; Dogs do as they're told. Men like that, women don't care. Cats are peaceful. Women like that, men don't care. Peace!”


But really where the cat deification came from was Egypt. Freud might have got his inspiration from there, with four daughters of his own too.

Check this video

Photo Credit HERE

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Daddy - A Living History of Brahmapur.


Before you download this book on your Kindle, click on Nargis Natarajan  to get to know who the author is. 

As a personal story, and a dedication to her father, the book gives the reader a full view of ‘a now happy – now sad’, big Indian joint family with many characters, children and pets. And of course a good laugh almost all the way.

When I downloaded the book, I thought I would have a glimpse into a traditional Indian family which almost built Berhampur, also known as Brahmapur (Wikipedia) from scratch.  But what I fell upon is a modern, progressive family which was headed by a great visionary, a patriot, educated and progressive doctor, Dr Firoz Ali and the story of his large family and his contribution to a city he loved so much- Brahmapur. It is sad that he lives in every space we see today in Brahmapur, although his name has become unknown to most.  Daddy, A Bouquet of Memories is a history of his work as a Social Worker, a dedicated doctor, a poet and nation builder, as told by his daughter. It is the story of the man for whom, his Brahmapur was his life and light.

Better known as ‘the poor man’s doctor’ Dr Firoz Ali, gave up his Government Medical job to serve the people of Brahmapur. A freedom fighter, proud of his country and his city, Dr Firoz Ali contributed in each and every way to build the city, although if you google his name today, all you find is one or two references. Considering that at one time, the Brahmapur Railway Station was named after him, it is sad how names, persons are deleted from our histories as if they never existed at all.

Some mention:

In Arun Bhatt's blog

"I went towards Dr. Firoz Ali’s residence. A three storey building now stands there. There is nothing imperial about it other than the name “Imperial College.”

And Here

“It may be noted that due to untiring efforts of well-known social worker Dr. Feroz Ali, the long-cherished dream of Brahmapur citizens for an auditorium became a reality in 1977.”

History is built around people we want to remember, or what someone, somewhere thinks is worth remembering and passing on. Living histories are wiped out which is why, reviving old memories, writing facts that will stay forever, has becoming so important.

I would put Daddy, A Bouquet of Memories, as not only a memory but a living history of Brahmapur, facts, one does not get to read in the text book, Wikipedia or any other book about a place or city.

We in India, choose to remember a Gandhi, a Nehru and forget, even, try to wipe out people who we do not want our children to remember as builders of this nation.

Welcome then, to a Nehru look alike and a Gandhi at heart, a generous, kind and benevolent man, called Dr Firoze Ali, The Daddy you may certainly never forget, not if you are from Brahmapur, Orissa. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Book Review Anusual

What goes around comes around.

Starting from Social work in Delhi, Anu Aggarwal’s journey to tinsel town in Mumbai in the late 1980 saw her rise to stardom and super model quite by chance.

In 1990, she became a rave across India and the world - Aashiqui, 1990, with Mahesh Bhatt as Director, turned her into the heart’s desire, both for men, and women. Her nubile body, damsel-in-distress looks pulled the heart strings in every heart and sooner than later, Anu Aggarwal became the actress made to travel across the globe with her stardom. And suddenly from the name on everyone’s lips, she was lost in oblivion. From who’s that girl, she became, where’s that girl? And then people stopped to ask about her any more.

But the famous in the world, don’t make a quiet retreat. Suddenly, out of the blue, she came back from the dead. Indeed, the word dead here, is for real. In a near fatal accident, Anu Aggarwal almost lost her life, breathing in coma for nearly a month! She had multiple fractures when she came to and after many months of healing and repair, she is back again, this time with a Book.

Anusual – Memoir of a Girl Who Came Back from the Dead recounts her life from Delhi as a Social Worker to becoming a glamour super model in Mumbai to becoming a super star in Bollywood, followed by Hollywood and French films too. But it is not only the story of a celebrity film star of the ‘90s, but what does take the reader by surprise is Anu Aggarwal’s engagement with the spiritual. Giving up a life of fame, fags, faqs and fans, she dissolved into a life of absolute abstinence, strict discipline by taking up Yoga at a more than rigorous Ashram in the Himalayas. She spent many years there and then returned to Mumbai, only to be wrecked by an accident that nearly took her life. She emerged from there and went back to where she began – a life working with the less fortunate in the slums of Mumbai, teaching Yoga to a vast many.

What goes around comes around.

The book is written in a matter-of-fact manner with an ample dose of what she was most desired for by both men and women alike, her sensuality and lost looks of a little child, the innocence in her eyes, that drove men and women to fantacise about her; indeed, there is an overdose of sex with men in her book. It carefully conceals what many believe she was a lover of women too.

I have had my doubt too and I wondered if her over engagement with the male gender is her own way to prove to herself that she is not attracted to same sex.

But this, only the reader will know once they read what is concealed within the pages. 

Anusual—Memoir Of A Girl Who Came Back From The Dead: HarperCollins India, 192 pages, Rs 299

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Self Reflection

Photo of Rick Chana Chatterjee
“It must make you think of all the people you left at home,” he said, “When you put that kettle on the stove with just enough water for yourself.” – As spoken by Nabeen in the book by Amitav Ghosh, In The Antique Land.”

In the present world of internet, SmartPhones and devices to help us stay away from real human contact, relying almost at all times on virtual friends and family, the more deeply we think of ourselves as alone, we realize that more than ever before we are in a search to find someone who can mirror our needs and desires, a bank we can anchor on, all the time.

The question that arises in my mind is, are we really looking for someone, or are we simply getting over a loneliness that is gnawing at our heart. Or then, is it a search that will only bring us closer to ourselves?
If we ask someone who is in the midst of many people around them in flesh and blood, are you lonely? They will say yes, despite the family and the partner maybe, the well of loneliness is only growing deeper.
Likewise, the same predicament follows the people who are always alone, living alone. The search is unending.
Then, if it is a common to all living in these times, then, can we say that at some point the search will end, because, neither the mirror nor the self will be, because both will have dissolved?
Is the seeker then, in fact the one we seek? Then, will the quest to find the ‘other’ end with the discovery of Self?

Finally, will the mirror that reflects cease to do so, because it has thrust the Seeker back to Self?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: The Ray Synchronicity By Lata Sony

For someone, whose reading is limited to nonSci – Fi, Lata Sony’s debut novel, The Ray Synchronicity was a challenge to begin with, but within the first four chapters, I began to understand that I had something right up my street on my Kindle. The reason being, as I said elsewhere too, the book is designed to be read by people who have hope in a better future ahead, made possible by Science. I began to consume it like a hungry reader who cannot find time, even to eat, because, the book is so fulfilling.

It is not as if, there is a sermon on the Kindle waiting there for the reader to embrace, but clearly, the insights into human nature and the creation of people whom you meet on a daily basis now, on planet transformed into beings you will want to embrace, The Ray Synchronicity, is all about realizing your potential, herenow, if you want to, although the book is placed in 2039. Events are even taking place in 2550! So for the reader, it is a jump into the future even as they read today.
What I liked about the book is its flirtation with spirituality and making the ‘other-worldly’ a very worldly phenomenon. Especially in Chapter 4, I almost hoped I was a scientist myself.
I would easily put this book among the vast million books available for man’s hunger for a better world, although there is no great self-search to do, only awesome Bio-Ray guns to adopt, which convert negative to positive energy, right away! The book is replete with suspense and conflict that adds to the speed of a racy read.

In her interview with, the author reiterated that she thought that India needs more spiritual sci-fi, because India’s urban and rural are in that point of time, where the traditional and the modern are coming together.

Perhaps the solutions are deeply embedded in The Ray Synchronicity

Go for It!


Interview with the author, Lata Sony

Q 1. Thank you for speaking to me, Ms Sony. My first question to you is, how do you think the world will change/transform spiritually, going by the ideas you put forth in your book?

‘Transforming the world’ sounds very grand and ambitious and I don’t think any book can do that by itself. What a book may do is give words to a reader’s personal experiences and feelings, provide an explanation or confirmation and that may click for someone who is ripe for transformation.

However, to the question if there was a spiritual motive behind the story, then yes there was. Several, in fact. The first objective was to let readers know that there are energies beyond our knowledge and imagination and our physical vision. Like me many have experienced these energies. Some who have had near-death-experiences have even seen their entire physical body (and other bodies) as an energy matrix.

The second objective was to help readers imagine how cosmic energies might work to shape your life. I have put this in a very simplified form by personifying energies and Time. The logic being that the powers that control human emotions and traits could very well be just as good and bad as humans. Our creations reflect us after all.

The third objective was to help readers see how the essence of any religion may be interpreted in terms of energies. This is the common platform where the foundation for real unity between religions, between tradition and modernity, and between spirituality and science can be built.

Q2: Do you think your book has the potential to affect change in human thought and behaviour?

Yes I think so. As the title suggests, the book is about a synchronicity created by higher powers. A couple of readers told me that they had begun to see a pattern in their life after reading the book. Once a person is aware of the patterns in their life, they can realize their full potential by finding answers to: Why do these things happen to me? What were the external factors that made me what I am? What internal changes should I make to counter those external influences? Do I take my limitations too seriously? How can I solve problems through love and intelligence? What should I feel grateful about? Who are the people I should forgive? What do I do to love myself more?

In its core, the book is really about the struggle between the internal you and the external you made from worldly circumstances. And the transformation is about going back to what you were meant to be, and what you really are rather than what the world makes you.

Q3: In which case, who is your target audience?

Honestly, that’s something I haven’t figured out. Just as the book defies categorization as it has elements of spiritualism, sci-fi, romance and thriller, the ideal audience for this book defies classification. Originally, I started with Young Adult as the target audience as I felt that youngsters may be more open to something new. But it turned out that people across all age groups liked it. At the same time, those who expected Dan Brown like science-fiction were disappointed with the first few pages. Some continued till the end and discovered that this was something new and fresh. I think the people who were most enthusiastic about the book were either spiritually-inclined or with some idea of metaphysics. On the other hand, this book is not at all for people who have dogmatic and rigid views about their religion.

Q4: How are you marketing your book to reach your audience?

As of now, I am more interested in reviews and have put my best efforts during free promos. I search for sites that promote free ebooks and request each site to feature my book. This is quite a painstaking process. In the future, I’ll consider paid marketing to make the book more visible when I have two more books ready. Investing in three books brings the best ROI per the pundits of book marketing.

Thank you, Ms Sony! Wish your book finds wings across the globe and may your keyboard keep clicking!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Book Review: Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh

If you have picked up Amitav Ghosh’s latest in the Ibis Trilogy, Flood of Fire, STOP. First revise the first he wrote, Sea of Poppies, then skim through the second, River of Smoke and now you will be ready to read his last and final in the trilogy, Flood of Fire, but remember, you must start from the last, the Epilogue, first.
The enormous research done to write this book will dawn to the reader, only when this is read and absorbed thoroughly. Having said that we are to remember that the full Ibis Trilogy was written from the journal notes, jottings, ‘jack-chits’, pictures, documents that was the collection of the bankrupt landowner we met in Sea of Poppies, Raja Neel Ratan and his son, Raju, during the years that Neel ran a printing press in Shanghai, with his partner, Compton ( Liang Keui – Ch’uan ) in the years 1838 to 1841, years leading up to the first Opium War. In June Neel fled on the Ibis, which resulted in the first book, Sea of Poppies.
Now enter the pages with much hilarity in waiting, for while the Flood of Fire finally is a book that describes the war, it is as much a book of passion and fire of the flesh in the medley mix of characters who make themselves available to the reader, and if one has read the first, then you know them all, but their lust for money and for love is made available in this one, so much that it is hardly possible to leave the book for a minute, after it is in your hands.
Take for example, Mrs Catherine Burnham married to the wealthy unscrupulous British merchant, Benjamin Burnham for his wealth and power, must satisfy her lust for flesh with the young American sailor Zachary Reid, working as a mistery ( carpenter ) on her husband’s budgerow. His passions really were for Paulette Daughty, a young French woman, grown up with a wet-nurse in Kolkata, but instead of finding its end there, Zachary is in the grip of Mrs Burnham and is richly rewarded with forbidden love and sex in the confinement of her boudoir . You must remember her husband has his own afflictions, that being what was revealed to us in Sea Of Poppies, when the poor Paulette was in all her naivety made to spank Benjamin Burnham on his bottoms and scold him in a strange ‘play’ until, Mr Burnham fell on the wooden floor spent and heaving…
Not that only, Mrs Burnham’s unfinished business with Captain Mee, the only man she told Zachary she had ever loved also comes up momentarily but again meets failure because the two main characters, Mrs Burnham and Captain Mee, decide their own future at the end of the book.
Here, Zachary left in the lurch, with a lot of experience and a taste of wealth, pursues his old love, Paulette who is ignorant of the age and maturity of Zachary’s sexual age by now, since she last knew him on the Ibis, is not yet ready to marry Zachary.
Leave that as it may, the other surprise waiting for the reader comes from Mrs  Shireen Modie, wife of Bahram Modi, the Parsi Opium trader from Bombay, who finds herself going to China, to meet her husband’s son,  Ah  Fat, also known as Freddie, when Bahram Modi has passed away under strange circumstances, and of whose ‘other life’ Shireen is not aware, until,  Zadig Bey, friend of Bahram Modie informs her about it. The rather protected Shireen with two daughters has suddenly having to wake up to a lot of stuff, her protected life had hidden from her. But in the journey she finally finds her own new life with Zadig Bey, as if to say, that she had moved on, since her husband’s death, albeit with his friend.
There are a few things in this book that are of concern to me. These are of course not to do with his writing style, which is simple and absorbing. But it has to do with his treatment of the characters, who are women in particular.
For instance: Mrs Catherine Burnham. She was bold and no matter how deceitful and cunning, she had made her peace with a young man’s flesh, that being Zachary’s  who was at her husband’s service. If Ghosh had deemed it such that her primary passion for Captain Mee would be thwarted early in her life, when both of them were young, then, why was it not possible for him to ensure that the passion continued between the Mistress and her husband’s servant, thereby bringing in a new and fresh angle to this association?
Second, why did he make Shireen Modie marry once again, when she was a wealthy widow, with two daughters and in the face of facts that Parsis in India are known to befriend spinsterhood as bed partners gladly? Also, for the fact that she showed desire to open a hospital in her late husband’s name, with the monies she received, she had a worthwhile cause to fall back upon, than becoming a wife again. She was used to living alone for long period of time, when her husband was alive and out on business.
Last but not the least, the last act of sin, was to have taken the entire family that made up Shireen’s husband’s ‘other life’ in China, extinct.
Ah Fat, are men who write such books that will go down in history as one of the greatest trilogies written in fiction, finally, conservative men?
What reasons have you, Amitabh Ghosh, for the above considerations? Or for that matter, if you were his voice, dear Reader?

Read more Here

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Camping out at Gwalior Fort

For one whose search within reflects outside in the exploration of the unknown, the challenges are but many, for the territory is never known, nor studied in books and internet before. Gwalior was one such for me. All I knew was I wanted to go there to visit.

Travelling out from Mathura on what we call a ‘chaloo ticket’, I sat in the reserved compartment for the two and a half hours to Gwalior from Mathura, on the Goa Express. Needless to say, the ticket collector was unhappy but let it pass with the fine. He was duly rewarded with a Cup Of Railway Coffee, which if you are not on the Indian Train, you would never have drunk it with so much joy.  Once in Gwalior, I hastened to book my reservation back to Delhi, but no sooner than I was near the counter, a sight attracted me so much, that instead of buying a ticket, I was off to the Sound & Light Show on top of the Gwalior Fort, an autorickshow having dropped me to the bottom of the massive stone on which is carved the impressive and beautiful Gwalior Fort. Stranded at the bottom of the Fort, on a dark night when the sky threatened to break into rain, I was saved at the nick of time by a young man on a motorbike, who very kindly took me as a pillion rider up the 2 kms rough ride up to the top, where the Sound & Light Show would take place. As I walked without a torch, in pitch darkness to the counter selling tickets, I wondered, how I was going to come down after the show, to the base camp, at the foot of the Fort.

“He provides,” the man at the counter said, “there is a Gurudwara here on top, where you might like to stay the night?”

Gwalior Fort and its surroundings are not lit in the night, perhaps for security reasons. After the 45 minutes Show, me and two others, who were the only viewers of this show, we found our way, using our mobile phones to light up the way to the Gurudwara at a walking distance from the main Fort area, where we were there.

“A room for the night for a single woman? Where am I going to manage that?” the perplexed sevak at the entry asked.

“I can sleep on a charpoy in the courtyard.” I suggested.

But he would not have it and offered to put me up in his room. All three of us ate at the langar and then my friends left on a motorbike, which they had come up too on.

I had put an alarm on my mobile for 4 am. I wanted to take some early morning shots of the fort, before dawn. But the Granth Sahib is chanted from 3 am and I woke up naturally at 4 am, to the sound of the recitation.

“Wahe Guru!” I muttered as the door flung open. It was the sevak. He walked into the room and I said, “Sardar ji, bus nikal hi rahi thi – I am leaving just now.”

Gently refusing his request to stay one more night, I went into the group shower for ladies and found many women already taking their bath under taps which were high on the wall. I joined them, naked in my birth suit. How empowering a homosocial feeling, this, when women are all naked without a shred of clothing on their bodies, having a bath together! Bliss!

Yet, it did cross my mind even as I bathed, are the women looking at my body or are they looking at the new face, among them? I turned to look at the one next to me, a beautiful earth colour body, with wet hair glistening in the morning water.

I was done soon and rushed out first to the Gurudwara and then to my photo session.

To See the Pictures CLICK HERE

About Gwalior Fort Click Here 

More information and personal guide: Dr Pramesh Dutt Sharma, Email;

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

India - Horny, O K, Please!

Worry Warts for India Travel
Despite the numerous bad mouthing you have heard on Social Media and by word-of-mouth, nay, fingers typing away, you have once again let all warnings to go unheard, as the devil-may-dare attitude took over your mind and at last you have gone and done the worst – booked to come to India!

This is like Hotel California – you can come in, but mind you, you might never leave!

I am not one of those pessimists who think India is a bad country for travelers to stop by. Indeed not! But I certainly wonder, what drives their groins and pushes them to come here, after hearing all about the Uber case, random rapes, causing India to be #4 in the list of rape countries in the world, Maggi stories that have been doing their rounds ever since the year began. I guess it is just a wild side of each one of us – what you most dread, you also want to experience.

So go ahead. Sample this. Most men will address your breast, instead of your face. If you think that is awesome, then beware. Men in India have a fixation for the breast. What! Did I hear you say, it is a worldwide phenomenon? I won’t agree or disagree but elsewhere you can report offensive behavior; here you only get few more eyes to stare at your breasts, if you go to report it at the police station.

So you may ask, as to why you can’t intervene and tell them to look directly in your eyes, when speaking to you. The fact is, they can’t! And please to remember, you too, don’t! Don’t stare at men in their eyes, because, for you it might mean you are coming from your truth, but for him, it might mean that you are inviting him to nocturnal delights, in broad daylight. Besides, if you are white, you definitely stand a high risk, because Indians are racist and they haven’t yet forgotten the British Raj! In fact, they are obsessed with white. Look at the number of men who use that fairness cream – Fair & Lovely!

However, now that you have decided to enter the forbidden country – remember your mother, grandmother, grandfather and grand uncle, had warned you against such perilous paths, be prepared with a few TIPs while you are here.

Touch, can mean many things, but most of all, here it is sexual. Hence, if you are about to fall into a great big hug, remember, you might be even thought to be making a pass. Therefore, do wear your English gloves and do a plain Namaste, or a gentle handshake, using only the tip of your fingers to shake the other’s hand.

Eating out on the street is an absolute No! No! They are hot and delicious but your intestines are not going to like it! So beware!

Buy whole fruits, put them in water for an hour at least. Then cut with a knife and eat little by little. Get your own nuts from your own country to fill you up, if you are suddenly hungry. Get lots of nuts – lots!

If you are using a Public Toilet, even in a Five Star hotel, don’t sit on the seat, just hang over it and be done with it! After all, all gymnastics don’t have to be done in the Gym only.

Wash your hands as many times as you can. Use sanitizer all the time. Which is why I say, wear your English gloves!

Drink only bottled water! Lots and lots of it! If nothing else, it will wash the tension off your worry warts.

Stay close to your friends when out on the street or in the night. Indians think the night is the only time they can do the ‘unmentionable’ because sex is such a taboo here.  Believe me, you need to watch this video here below.

 Picture of Worry Warts: Credit Here

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Film Review - Piku, a film of Bengali eccentricities

You have to give it to Deepika Padukone! Sandwiched between two stalwarts, Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan Khan, she struck out and carved for herself to be acknowledged as a remarkable actress with an unforgettable role as Piku, in the film by the same name, directed by Soojit Sarkar.

Depicted as they come, a serious Bengali girl who is an Architect in Delhi, Piku is single, unmarried yet and a care giver to her 70 year old father, Bhaskor Banerjee, played by Amitabh Bachchan. Bhaskor is inflicted with a condition often a problem with aging people called constipation. Had it remained at that, it would have been fine but it has the Bengali twist to it, that being, constipation has become an obsession with the senior. From morning to night, breakfast to dinner, all conversations are around constipation!

Poor Piku! Needless to say, she is in the thick of having to listen to it and handle her father’s bowel condition, day in and day out. Being a dutiful daughter, she does not show resentment although a war of words ensues every now and then between the two.

Syed Afroz  played by Jisshu Sengupta is a good friend, although her Boss too at work and Piku and he could have made a good partnership, had Bhaskor not played dirty, like most Bengali single, to be read, widowed/widower father was not so selfish. He wanted Piku only to himself.

In the meantime, it is decided that the family house in Kolkata must be sold and Piku and Bhaskor, set off on a long journey to Kolkata by car! Bhaskor is mortally afraid of both Plane and Train, because, he is paranoid that his bowels which are already so reluctant will now create havoc for him.
Come Rana Chaudhary played by Irrfan Khan, the man who is a Civil Engineer but has had to settle to his father’s business of running a taxi service, after being cheated in the Gulf, by taking a job there, but made to do something else. He returned as soon as he could and then, took up his father’s business.

Through the long and quintessential journey from Delhi to Kolkata, Bhaskor and Piku get fond of him and find that even after arriving at Kolkata, they are averse to leaving him. But Rana must return soon to be followed by Piku  - alone.

Having given up the idea of selling the Kolkata house, Bhaskor overdoes his fun moments in Kolkata and leaves all of a sudden for his swargloka, happy as a lark, having had his full measure of fun and also having then forgotten all about his constipation.

Deepika returns to Delhi and its business as usual, with a difference! A game of badminton between Piku and Irrfan is indicative of things to come, in future, perhaps!

This review will remain incomplete with the mention of Chaubi Mashi, played by Moushumi Chatterjee, who is Piku’s maternal aunt, always visiting the family and never stopping to deride Bhaskor Bannerjee, Amitabh Bachchan, her brother-in-law in the film for causing the early death of her sister, by his constant idiosyncrasies.

I give 4 STAR to the film if you are to look at it from the Bengali point of view. It does a wonderful job! But if you are to look at the larger mass, I would give it only 2 STAR, because, unless you knew Bangla and their absolute eccentricities, it would be a film that could not have been watched at all!

Having said that, the director missed out on another Bengali idiosyncrasy, that being gorom joler kulkucchi – a warm water gargle.  But then that may be in the making of Piku II.


Amitabh Bachchan as Bhashkor Banerjee
Deepika Padukone as Piku Banerjee[5]
Irrfan Khan as Rana Chaudhary
Moushumi Chatterjee as Chaubi Mashi
Balendra Singh as Budhan
Raghuvir Yadav as Dr. Srivastava
Jisshu Sengupta as Syed Afroz
Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury as Nabendu
Akshay Oberoi in a cameo

Maushumi Chatterjee boasts of her role in Piku: Click Here

Thursday, May 21, 2015

She's come home to me!

                                                She's come home to me
                                     (Dedicated to the memory of my ‘intellectual mother’, my Chotomoni)

Many year before she left her mortal body, she had called me one day in Delhi, to tell me she was going to visit and stay with me here for two months. My partner and I were really happy and looking forward to her coming. 

However, back where she stayed in Kolkata, discussions began at her home about how she could be sent to Delhi. Her husband had got so used to having her around, serving his every need, her son had not outgrown the umbilical cord connection, her own home needed her for each and every thing – what was going to be cooked each day, how much and for how many people – the list went on and on. Needless to say, the discussion of her coming to Delhi ended, only when she decided not to come at all.

Next, I decided to spend a year in Kolkata in my newly acquired home. My flat was only a forty-five minute taxi distance from hers. I pleaded with her to come and stay a week with me, with her husband, my meshamoshai. But then, once again the question arose, as to how she could go, because her husband refused to come along and her young toddler grandson, I was told by her, asked every day, before he went to Kindergarten, whether, she his granny would be home when he returned from school…

The plan to come stay with me was dropped yet again!

I was furious! Women, I told her, always put themselves aside to put men first and then complain that they don’t get heard. My Chotomoni, only smiled. After all, it was her gentleness which was most used against her. 

I never asked her again. I knew she would feel guilty both ways, to refuse me or to listen to her family only. I did not want her to suffer the fragmentation of an undecided mind. I let it go and instead increased my visits to hers.

Until, last year, on 16th May, 2014, she left her body. I was not at her bedside at that moment, but when I went back to her house after a few days, her photo greeted me with the enigmatic smile that was typically hers. I wept uncontrollably. She had not set foot in the house, that was mine and she would never do so, now.

On the 6th this month, May, 2015, we completed the one year death formalities by Hindu rituals at Kolkata.
On the 16th evening, I called my brother, her son in Kolkata and talked to him, consoling him. On the 17th I woke with a dream vivid as real life. 

In my dream, I was preparing to eat a breakfast of what used to be my maternal grandfather’s favourite dinner. Doodh rooti  is what it is called. Chappatis torn to small pieces and thrown into milk, with a dash of sugar, was in our family pure joy, learnt from habits passed down the generations. 

I saw, my partner returning home with Chotomoni beside her. I was overjoyed. Helping her to sit on a chair, I hurried to give her my bowl of doodh rooti, which she accepted and was stirring the spoon in the bowl, before taking a bite, when she looked at me and said clearly –

“Wear diamonds around your neck.”

I was a little stunned, both from the fact that I was not given to such showbiz, nor felt I could do so because diamonds are so expensive, but my partner interpreted the dream to mean, that in her accepting the doodh rooti, she has indicated that she has accepted what I have had to offer her and in return she has blessed me with the diamonds, to symbolize, a sparkling white and pure clarity of life and path ahead.

No wonder, then, to keep the magic of the moment alive in me, I quickly placed the Chrystals around my neck.

She has come home to me, my Chotomoni. I am wearing her around my neck.

On the isle side in a printed border white silk sari, Chotomoni, Dr Pratima Konar seen here with her friend and room mate with whom she lived over seven years in London, doing her Ph.D. This picture was taken when they were visiting Holland. She wrote at the back of the photo taken in the 60s, Mira Dasgupta and Pratima on boat in Europe.