The road to perdition is paved with desires. An expat couple resort to illicit means to hoard wealth. A small-town author yearns for fame and laurels at the risk of alienating his family. A widowed woman is desperate to preserve her youthful looks and turn the clock back. An eager-to-please, do-gooder mother seeks respect and reciprocation of her efforts. The common thread weaving through these stories is a pulsating and addictive desire to attain what one craves for at any cost. In Fire-Ant’s Sting: Desire Diaries, Kamalini Natesan explores, through twelve varied characters, the different facets of desire—a primal human emotion—and how its pursuit blinds one to reason. Alternately wry and full of pathos, daring and evocative, this is a delectable diary of desires that will leave you asking for more.
Desire is one of the human emotions that is generally suppressed the most, and is yet the single-biggest driver of our actions. We are adept at suppressing desire, at painting it as “too much”, as taboo.
Seahorse is the story of Nem, a student of English literature at Delhi University. He drifts between classes, attends off-campus parties with free-flowing drinks and weed, and writes articles for the college magazine. Until one day he crosses paths with an art historian - an encounter that changes the course of his life, steering him into a world of pleasure and artistic discovery. And then one day, without warning, his mentor disappears.
In the years that follow, Nem settles down in South Delhi, earning a name for himself as an art critic. When he is awarded a fellowship to London, a cryptic note plunges him into a search for the art historian - a search that forces him to revisit the past and separate fact from fiction.
Art historian Mehrunisa is back. This time, the fight is more personal – finding the Kohinoor (a set of documents that will help India to avert a major terrorist attack) is the only way she can be reunited with her father, a man she thought was dead. Thrust into the high pressure world of espionage, where no one is as they seem, Mehrunisa finds herself in Pakistan, trying to hunt down the Kohinoor.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, Babur Khan – a hard-lined jihadi who enforces strict Sharia laws and promises to get rid of the Poppy pashas and infidel Americans –is also hunting for the Kohinoor to ensure that India doesn’t get its hands on the document.Continue reading→
If love is all about freedom and honest expression then how can one associate it with loyalty?
The story starts with 19-year old Moon sitting at an abortion clinic, wondering why she was there and who was responsible. The answer to both questions: LOVE.
And so we join Moon as she ruminates on her 19 long years and all the boys she has loved.
First is Ash, her first love. Five years older than her, he knew exactly what he wanted from life – to own a chain of flower stores across India and to marry Moon. But please, how can the daughter of a leading TV news anchor love a flower seller with a pathetic small time business background? The minute she finds a better option, she forgets all about Ash, but conveniently forgets to tell him he’s been dumped. After all, he’s her first love, he’s been her mentor and someone she really looked up to. And she can’t see him hurt. So the best strategy – ignore him and move on.
Enter Aditya, a cool copywriter at an ad agency where Moon is working as an intern. He’s the only one who doesn’t drool over her or send her a friend request on Facebook the minute he sets eyes on her. So of course she’s intrigued. Continue reading→
Ever since I read Sophie Kinsella’sI’ve Got Your Number, I’ve developed a new-found love for “chick lit”. I thought it was all sugary sweet teeny-bopper love stories, and I really have outgrown those. But it isn’t! It’s romance all right, but pretty darn believable, told from a woman’s perspective with issues that modern women can totally relate to. But I’m still skeptical about Indian chick-lit, largely because I’m skeptical about most Indian authors. So when I got an opportunity to review Judy Balan’s Sophie Says, I took it – mainly because the story sounded interesting.
Sophia Tilgum has dated all kinds of men in thirty years. Men who’ve stalked and pleaded, men who’ve lied and cheated, men who’ve written songs and wanted to play house after three dates. And equally scary, men who’ve sported hot-pink bow ties and called her Sweet Cheeks.
So after a decade-long attempt at sustaining long-term relationships, Sophie has finally thrown in the towel and has found her calling as The Breakup Coach via her super-popular blog: Sophie Says – in which she makes a case for Single-Singles or people who are wired to remain single (because according to Sophie, commitment phobia is not a real thing) and shares her many theories on breakups.
Goa, south India. A beautiful holiday hideaway where hippies and backpackers while away the hours. But beneath the clear blue skies lies a dirty secret…
Simran Singh, a 40-something social worker-come-crime investigator is holidaying in Goa with her teenage daughter Durga. All she wants is the sun, sand, and an idyllic, relaxed holiday. But all of that is spoilt when she gets a disturbing video clip featuring a young girl being attacked by a group of men. And then comes Amarjit, her on-again-off-again flame, to spoil her holiday.
He begs her to send Durga back home to Delhi and help him to find out what happened to the Liza, the girl in the video. Enter Marianne, her sister, who fills in some of the details of the crime but is deliberately vague about the exact timeline.
As Simran gets pulled into the case, she finds out more than she bargained for about Goa’s dark underbelly:
the web of lies and dark connections that flourish on these beaches. Everyone, it seems, knows what has happened to the girl but no one is prepared to say. And when more videos appear, and Simran herself is targeted in order to keep her quiet, the paradise soon becomes a living nightmare.
A world drawn and woven with words.
A bond punctuated by absence and distance…
Two continents. Two cities. Two people.
And letters. Hundreds of them.
Over years. Across oceans. Between hearts.
I was delighted, and a little apprehensive, when I read the back cover. Delighted because three of my favorite books are epistolary works – May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude; Helene Hanff’s 84, Charring Cross Road; and Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Apprehensive because I am generally wary of Indian authors, even though there are some excellent novels out there – Indu Suderasan’s brilliant Taj trilogy comes immediately to mind. But then, there are also disasters, like I, Rama or How About A Sin Tonight. And telling a story through letters isn’t the easiest thing to do.
The Other Side of the Table tells the story of Abhi, who is training to become a neurosurgeon in London, and Uma, who has just entered medical college in Calcutta. They write to one another about medicine and life, love and friends, about travels and family, and things that are close to their hearts and about nothing at all. Each letter reveals a tantalizing glimpse into their lives.Continue reading→
If you go through my reading list, you’ll notice that it’s not too often that I read Indian authors. I don’t like their portrayal of India and Indians – it’s generally geared towards selling a picture of India that Westerners would like to believe. Of a dirty, grimy city and uncouth “brownies.” (One Indian author’s description of Indians. Really.) But there have been some interesting novels by Indian authors lately, like the Immortals of Meluha by Amish, so when I saw the blurb on the back of All and Nothing, I knew I was going to have to give it a read.
Image courtesy Rupa & Co
From the back cover:
All and Nothing tells the tale of five individuals. Tina is a talented artist, desperately in love with Aditya. But he cannot let go of his past. Their marriage sours and Tina teeters on the edge. Kriya is a fashion designer, chic and successful – but tormented; Poorvi, is a socialite and feminist – but discontented; Manas is a struggling copy writer, besotted with Gayatri – but plagued; Upasna is a willing victim of domestic violence.
Then one day, Tina summons her friends to share their stories from the beginning.
The bulk of this slim, 223 page novel is about Tina and Aditya’s whirlwind courtship and marriage. Aditya is everything that Tina wants in a man, and Tina is everything that Aditya wants in his wife, but while Tina loves Aditya, he’s still not over his first marriage with Antara. Things between the two start souring barely a year into their marriage. For Aditya, this was a marriage of convince, a way to get ahead in his career. Tina, desperate for his love, clings to him, tries hard to ease his hurt from his first marriage, and when all fails, turns to the bottle. She becomes an alcoholic. It takes her a long time to realize just how hollow their marriage is, and when she does, she decides to leave him. It is then that she invites her friends, all of whom are carrying a secret alone, to share their stories from the beginning and to help one another begin their healing process.
The novel is quite well-written. Raksha is evidently an astute observer. Her insight into relationships and understanding of the human psyche is well-reflected in the narrative. The characters are well drawn out and believable, and she hooks you in to their world and makes you care about them. There is a lot in the novel that anyone in a relationship will be able to identify with, because at the end of the day, no marriage is all roses, there are the occasional thorns. There may have been a few grammatical mistakes here and there, but it was easy to overlook them because the story was so gripping. You really wanted to know what happened next and how each of the people would cope.
Overall, All and Nothing is a beautifully observed novel that takes a close look at different relationships and what makes them tick. I would heartily recommend it to everyone.