Club You to Death – Anuja Chauhan

One MURDER Suspects Galore, Discover Lutyens Delhi like Never Before!

Anuja Chauhan’s latest, Club You to Death revolves around Delhi’s most renowned and elitist club – The Delhi Turf Club (DTC), where amidst the upcoming Club Presidential elections the members unearth a dead body in broad daylight. One murder and suspects galore, Chauhan surely knows how to weave a dark tale of crime and murder in a place full of glitz and glamour. The readers are introduced to several characters, all members of the club and belonging to influential households of the city. The more colorful a character is, the darker are their secrets. When the Delhi Police is handed over the case, will they be able to catch the killer and save the sinking reputation of the Club; or will power politics get the better of them?

Club you to Death is riddled with several twists and turns and an array of characters with their perceptions, prejudices, and shady pasts. However tight-lipped the suspects are regarding the reality, one cannot get enough of gossips floating around their lives. Whether it is an ex-military man with a suspected affair whose military tales are outdated and boring or the beautiful and elegant Club Presidential candidate who can bowl over any man. Whether it is a beautiful young woman whose fiancé passes away a day after their engagement or a perfect example of a youth-gone-wasted due to substance abuse – the complicated lives of the members of the DTC has it all. This opens up the grey shades of all the characters revealing yet again that no man or woman in the world can ever be sorted as good or bad; their actions based on their circumstances seal their fates.

Mental confusion and loneliness play an important part in shaping up the personalities of the suspects. While they may live in posh bungalows with palatial interiors, their hearts and minds are filled with loneliness, irritation, anger, lust, hypocrisy and a thirst for power. Behind the masks of heavy make-up, fragrant perfumes, kohl-lined eyes and muscular bodies lie devastated souls coming face-to-face with their realities. From dysfunctional families, parental pressure, estranged children and strained marital relations to professional rivalries and power of politics; all exerts pressure on their mental health and not to mention increased incessant gossip and the media does not help in calming any nerves! Guarding their secrets through cash or kind becomes their lives biggest motive; and when someone threatens to expose these secrets and their wrong-doings, can one become hysterical and maniac enough to kill?

Where there is glitz, glamour and gossip…there is the media. Although media articles on the murder is used as a narrative to progress with the storyline, one cannot deny the over-curiosity of the media in general, especially the Page 3 buffs, buzzing all around the Club to get the latest scoop. Who is seen leaving the restaurant with whom? Who is having an extra marital affair with whom? Who slept with whom last night? Who is whose partner? … are all news that the media hunts like wolves. Thus, when a cold-blooded murder takes place in the Delhi Turf Club, the media considers it as their loyal duty to cover every minute detail of the case while enlightening the whole world about the private lives of the suspects.  

Chauhan talks about Lutyens Delhi best known to an insider in this perfect mirch-masala murder -mystery with adrenaline rushing twists, dead-ends, love affairs and buried secrets; in the most talked about Club of Dilwalon Ki Dilli! If you happen to like reading thrillers and crime fiction novels then this one definitely needs to be added to your kitty.

P.S next time you enter a club do check if you are safe or the members can Club You To Death!

No. of Pages : 417

Publisher : Harper Collins

Availability : Flipkart / Amazon

Rating : 3.5/5

* I would like to Thank Writersmelon for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

A Red –necked Green Bird – Ambai Translated (from Tamil) by GJV Prasad

My first tryst with Ambai was a few years ago when I read her ‘a night with a black spider’ which won me over. A Red-necked Green Bird, her recent short stories translation by GJV Prasad is a contemplative treat to read. A series of thirteen stories with careful translation retaining the original flavor of the text, A Red-necked Green Bird is a portal to the mind of the author where fluttering thoughts are organized and penned down. A feminist by principle, Ambai’s stories feature bold female characters and touches upon several sensitive subjects of the society with unbiased perception.

Ambai gives the readers a glimpse of everyday dilemma with food for thought, as layers of the characters’ persona opens up with changing situations. From a lonely daughter dealing single handedly with her father’s illness and suppressing her desires; to the glitz and glamour –filled changing urbanscape which often leads to the dark alleys of crime, unemployment and subordination; from the changing relationship of a modern couple to women being stripped of all respect ; Ambai talks about them all.

Each story is commendable and sets a benchmark on its own but I have discussed three of the most touching and contemplative stories (for me) in this post.

Journey 21:

The story of Kamumma, a dancer in her heydays and her relationship with Rajappa, shows the hypocritical faces of the so-called liberal society, which is still conservative and commanding in nature. When a woman defies all societal norms and lives life on her own terms, the society turns its back on her. She is labelled as an immoral and unethical woman and judged harshly. Her voice is forever suppressed in the humdrums of disrespect, criticism and condemnation. The woman in question always has a choice to voice her concerns or not to do so. But it is seen that many in power subdue these voices with full force such that it loses its power to opinionate. Interestingly, in the sensational interview Meghan Markle post stepping down from her royal duties, is asked by Oprah Winfrey ‘Were you silent or were you silenced?’ – a remark which sums up the state of many women across the world.

A Red-necked Green Bird:

No human being is perfect! Yet, one embraces their imperfection and proceeds to make the best out of what they have, to live a happy and eventful life. But what happens when those closest to you fail to accept your shortcomings and live under self-inflicted mental pressure caused due to denial? This story highlights two vital pillars of childhood – accepting oneself and parenting. One must first accept oneself the way they are, devoid of all inhibitions and then only they are able to confidently face the world and nullify any criticisms. Further, parents are the closest relation one has in the world. For special individuals, it is all the more that parents are aware of the situation, admit it wholeheartedly and support their children through thick and thin. Parental denial in these situations open the doors to identity struggle within the four walls first and the world later.

Swayamvar with no Bows Broken:

From Indian history to mythology, all speak of grand Swayamvar’s! Remember Arjun piercing the fish’s eye by seeing its reflection or Princess Sanjukta garlanding the statue of Prithiviraj Chauhan and eloping with him? In all the circumstances the women got to ‘choose their own’ companions. Ambai explores the idea of companionship through this story. After living a blissful life with one’s partner there may come a time when one’s better half is no more. But this does not mean that one cannot continue living on their own terms. One has the choice of choosing their companion at any stage of life and they deserve their decisions to go completely unjudged.  However the hypocrisy lies in the fact that oftentimes near and dear ones fail to respect personal space and decisions; and take it upon themselves to dictate the future of their relations. Does Ambai’s protagonist going through a similar situation break through the bondage of relation or succumb to them discarding her desires and priorities?

Ambai touches upon human relations like no other while Prasad’s translation retains every essence of the original text. An interesting point by Ambai in the preface suggests ‘whether what are born from it are stories or various forms of myself’. Though a small sentence, an ocean of thoughts revolve around it. Are books really versions of the author – their thoughts, experience, prejudice and observations put together; or can authors truly detach themselves from their works? This may have various arguments, but to me Ambai has been the liberal torch bearer of feminist Tamil Literature very akin to the causes she stands up for and one finds reflection of it in her stories. Prasad’s sensitive dealing with the same and usage of Tamil language and phrases throughout the stories make A Red-necked Green Bird, a highly recommended ensemble of short stories which connects the world to Tamil Literature, culture and society.

No. of Pages: 200

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available at: Flipkart / Amazon

Rating: 4/5

Little Me in Everyone – Eddyee Siingh

Siingh’s book Little Me in Everyone is a wonderful perspective of one’s inner self. The unsilenced voice within everyone which stays on till the very end, is nothing short of a guarding spirit. This voice which encapsulates an individual’s whole is the Little Me, – a true friend, philosopher and guide. This eternal companion plays a crucial role in shaping one’s life. How one reacts to situations, what perspective one keeps towards life, how one deals with success, failures, heartbreaks, commitments and pride are all determined by the true guidance of the Little Me. Siingh touches upon all aspects of life throughout the book and delves deeper into the concept of Little Me revealing how ones life is best controlled by the choices they make.

From a very young age we are made aware of our inner self, a self which is the truest of all the masks that one wears and faces the world outside. This self, gauges the true outcomes of situations and decisions – good or bad! Often times, it is said when in doubt, close your eyes and listen to the Voice within! This voice is of none other than the Little Me. Every step that you take, every decision that you make through the mind or the heart, the guiding light behind them is that of Little Me; which strives to protect, motivate and help in taking the right decisions. Should you happen to neglect the inner voice and your attempt goes in vain, it still stands for you helping you cope up with the negativity around.

One can ask if the inner selfhas the power to overshadow an individual’s personality by making them too full of themselves. It cannot be denied that indeed ego and pride take birth within Little Me. But it is through the acquired knowledge that Little Me helps defeat any negative feelings. Pride, ego, aggression, superiority complex are latent qualities. One’s actions decide if any of these start having an overbearing effect on them. Flashes of these negative aspects of a personality is harmful and can have major influence on the way one thinks and behaves. Hence the need arises to dissolve them as soon as possible and continue living a holistic and mentally healthy life.  

Success and money are integral part of an individual’s life and cannot be ignored. However the key is in understanding that one must not run behind success and instead work hard to achieve self-set goals. Once the goals are achieved, success comes automatically. Money too is a necessity; but there is a fine line between being a necessity and being the reason to harbor self-pride. The Little Me constantly leads the individual to be on the safer limits of success and money so that none give rise to arrogance and overconfidence.

Siingh’s writing is very easy to grasp and the explanation of various concepts through short chapters makes it easy for the readers to understand, soak them in, and contemplate positively. He explains the entire circle of life by touching upon the idea of Little Me, emotions, pride, ego, self-doubt, success, money and relationships. Through Little Me one finds answers to several burning questions that they might have had about the inner self or the Voice within; which has always been an intriguing but an abstract conception. His ideas and explanations gives it shape and makes one conscious of its existence.

Little Me in Everyone is an eye opener in the way one thinks, functions and takes decisions. Indeed a brilliant read, it helps one connect to oneself a little more!

Page No: 265

Publisher: BlueRose Publishers

Available on: Flipkart / Amazon

Rating: 3.75/5

*Disclaimer: I would like to Thank Vinfluencers for giving me a review copy.

The Roaring Lambs – Sreedhar Bevara

Sreedhar Bevara’s poignant tale – The Roaring Lambs– draw a pen picture of an animal kingdom, where the greed of the lions far exceed their need and they start mercilessly killing lambs for their meat and entertainment.  Enraged by the injustice, the lambs form a defense group led by the young and dynamic Shuja, who tries to protect their herd and bring long –term peace to the territory. The Roaring Lambs is a fascinating tale of leadership, strategy building, managerial duties and correct channelization of talents and skills; drawing purely from animal analogy. In fact, years after the Animal Farm was written by George Orwell, comes another novel as exciting, simple, and wise, as the former.

Often times in high school, colleges or even in corporate life, one comes across the question – What qualities should a leader have? This novel jots down several qualities – some inborn and some acquired- which helps one grow as a leader and progress along with the team. For, a leader is no good if they cannot achieve team progress and contribute to a greater goal. Throughout the novel, one primarily identifies 9 major qualities as below.

  • Observation: Careful, near accurate and quiet observation helps in collecting information about ones team, opposition and surroundings. These information can later be used in ones favor in a. Shuja on one of his crusades, watches a nomad chief take on a lion all by himself. Observing this battle quietly he notices that both are fighting only for self-defense, rather than the motive of killing each other. This small note made him take informed decision when required in future.
  • Dialogue: Transparent communication is the golden rule to solve any issue. To-the-point peaceful dialogue often helps in problem resolution. This restricts and solves the matter in a nascent stage and does not let it escalate.
  • Diplomacy: Is often resorted to, to solve a problem quickly. But on the flip side, it can often take the form of backdoor diplomacy or blackmailing which are unhealthy means of resolution. While diplomacy is a great tool, its usage determines the final course of actions.
  • Patience: Towards oneself, one’s team and the results of various actions taken, is key. Impatience only leads to mistakes which might later intensify and go against the situation.
  • Believing in Self Worth: No individual is devoid of facing criticism.  It is completely on them whether they succumb to it or fight it out. When Shuja’s plan of overcoming the lion pride was being discussed and mocked at, he clearly states ‘Let’s stop underestimating ourselves and undermining our honor. I was not born to die without putting up a fight. You need to change your mindset.’ Insecurity, belittling oneself and underestimating one’s abilities are the greatest enemy a leader can have.
  • Sharpening ones skill: With time, skills need to be honed and newer ones picked up. It is absolutely essential that one is updated with the ways of the world. This thorough worldly knowledge helps in picking ones brain when needed and in finding quick solutions to what may seem complicated problems. Sharp skills help in keeping leaders onto their feet, else quick access to everything will make them dull and numb. When the lion pride habituates themselves to leisurely killings, it amounts to regular availability of food which results in many of the older lions forgetting the tricks of hunting and the younger ones not being taught at all.  
  • Accepting the truth: Those who quickly accept the truth, comprehend the situation and formulate a plan and a back-up plan, stand to win much. Denial would only complicate matters by making it worse.  
  • Defeating Ego: When Shuja asks the Lion King ‘Which pride are you talking about? The one behind you or the one within you?’ it says it all. A leader is revered, respected, and glorified. Such is acceptable as long as it does not give birth to pride in the leader. Pride in turn leads to the development of ego and ego finishes it all!
  • Strategic alliances: No man or animal can live in isolation. Every individual lives in a community and a society at large which consists of various species. It is thus necessary to venture out of a closed circle and look for strong alliances, which would form a bond of friendship and can be looked up to for help in dire times.

It is quite interesting to note that every character in the book – Shuja, the popular leader of the lambs;  Kesan, the exiled lion; the nomad chief; the Lion King Kaizaar; the Lion King’s right hand Shaka; and lion Queen Leela; are all leaders on their own. While some exhibit how a leader should be, others reflect what a leader should not be like.

Meticulously penned and thought out, The Roaring Lambs, as the names suggest, reveals that no individual is big or small in this world. If need be, lambs can roar like lions and lions can bleat like lambs on being defeated. A special mention is to be given to the cover designer and illustrator who have thoughtfully chalked out the essence of the book in the first look itself.

Though a light read, the subliminal messages make it a cherished handbook for management students and among those in the corporate ladder. If at any time one wants to become a true leader, this is the read to turn to, which through its holistic penmanship, paints the ideal picture of leadership.  

Page No. : 178

Publication: Harper Collins

Cover Design by: Saurav Das

Cover Illustration: Mohit Suneja

Available on: Flipkart / Amazon

Rating: 4/5

*Disclaimer: I would like to Thank Enchanted Book Tour, Earnest Aspirant, Sreedhar Bevara and Harper Collins for the review copy.

Monsoon Arrives at the Junction Crossing – Madhura Banerjee

Madhura Banerjee’s second book of poems – Monsoon Arrives at the Junction Crossing– is cleverly worded leading to multiple interpretations, backed by the reader’s perception. The myriad emotions presented by capturing different moments, takes the readers through a whirlwind of destinations and feelings. The countless palette of subjects dealt with, attracts interest from all ages. The over 70 poems luring the readers to a world of imagination, makes the book refined, hard hitting and plays with metaphors and analogies to perfection. While all the poems are incredible, I would take time to discuss a few which struck a special chord with me.

The Ganguly’s Garden – takes up the issue of refugees living in Kolkata. No matter how hard they try, are these displaced citizens truly accepted by the city and its people? The poem goes on to describe the ‘walls’ between the city and the migrants where one fights for existence and identity every single day. It talks about the ‘walls’ existing between the shared memories of the refugees and the local residents. Most importantly it goes on to describe the perceptional ‘walls’ that the people of the city has built towards the migrant dwellers. These ‘walls’ symbolize prejudice, injustice, struggles and unacceptance in which the refugees dwell – sometimes lifelong. 

Fictional Picture Frames– Reading the poem will take the reader back to the world of physical photo albums. Treasure troves of memories printed in B&W or color and cautiously placed in the pockets. Sometimes these albums do not have a chronology to the memories; but have reminiscences bending time and age, placed together forming its own fictional narrative. Banerjee’s glimpses of captured moments through this poem is commendable. It is sure to evokememories or the curiosity to start swiping album pages instead of left and right!

A Reflection- It is said that if heaven exists on Earth, then it is in Kashmir!  From the beautiful snow-capped mountains to the rustic local villages exuberating warmth and hospitality, Kashmir is a sight to behold. The poem, set around the Dal Lake speaks of the man-made distances Vis a Vis the uniform Nature. While Nature made man find ‘a mosque and a temple/ between the oars of a Shikara’, man created unforgettable distances between their ‘lost brothers’ from the same soil. It truly makes the readers reflect on what Kashmir was meant to be and what it has been made into.

Melting Glaciers – The analogy between melting snow and a widow’s withering emotions is outstanding! As the snow melts every season taking with it the memories of the past, similarly, a widow’s emotions, memories and habits melt with time. Banerjee draws the reader’s attention to the widows, who have been treated as discarded clothes for decades and this raises some pertinent questions. Do widows not deserve respect as humans in the society? Why are they subjected to the harshest terms of living?  Why are they made to feel as if their existence has ceased when their marriage life melts away in fire? As India progresses it is crucial to restructure age old social traditions and rituals giving widows the chance to live their lives, just as they deserve it.   

The Teesta Flows in Bhatiali- with the East Coast falling prey to occasional rain storms and the devastating Amphan and Yaas, this poem could not have been more futuristic. So what do the coastal men communicate through the Bhatiali, their folk song? Do they measure their paths deep into the sea or invite the subtle waters to their homes? Questions go unanswered leaving behind a whirlpool of probabilities for the readers to imagine. While we crave for gourmet seafood, it is interesting how less we talk about those who risk their lives every day and in return get much less than they deserve. The underlying message of this poem is the highlight of the fishermen/ boatmen and the plea to understand their plight. The immense sorrows in their hearts are as deep as the waters they tread. One can, at least try and aid them towards a better livelihood.

Palmists on 21st February- The International Mother Language Day is celebrated to honor the regional language, many of which are lesser known or forgotten with the dominance of certain majorly spoken languages. Historically, it originated through the Bhasha Andolan in Bangladesh – a movement taking the form of revolt, seeped in bloodshed, betrayal and loss. The poem reminds one of the shared history between the Bengals in India and Bangladesh. 

Train of Thought- The last poem in the series, Train of Thought is cleverly worded. It is the countless things that a traveler thinks while journeying to unknown lands. It is literally a train, taking the traveler to numerous destinations, each offering its unique experience. It is the thought that enters the mind of a traveler urging them to constantly compare the West and their home. It is the simplicity of remembering instances while crossing a station in a train. IT is all of the above!

Monsoon Arrives at the Junction Crossing is a Pandora’s Box of emotions bursting from every page. From the mountains and valleys of Kashmir, to the Ghats of Varanasi; from the dunes of Jodhpur to the hill stations of Bengal; from the happening beaches of Goa to the highways of Maharashtra, Madhura takes the readers on a journey of a lifetime. When the pandemic has restricted us to our homes, this is the best way to travel. Words take the readers to journeys of their own, where Nature becomes their best friend and memories come greeting like long-lost friends.

What is quite unique in the poems is the reference to social causes. The unique analogies and metaphor filled poems often draws the reader’s attention to social standards of living in India- the loneliness of widows, the helplessness of boatmen, the  desperation of refugees  etc. Consciously or unconsciously it can be interpreted as a call to action urging one to open their eyes, identify the social wrongs and try in any littlest way to bring a smile to someone’s face.

Lastly, her visions of the City of Joy wins the heart of every Bengali. It compels the readers to stop, think, and visualize Kolkata / Calcutta/ City of Joy/ Bengal as an emotion, not a city. For me, my city is a young woman standing on the rain-washed streets of Chowringhee, surrounded by a horizon of traditions and colorful hues, moving towards a new beginning, every day.

For those who love to read poetry this is a must read to exercise your I(maginative) Cells!

No. of Pages: 129

Publisher: Dhauli Books

Cover Design: Debaditya Naha

Available on: Amazon

Rating: 4/5

*Disclaimer: The above poems have been described as per my interpretation.

Girl A – Abigail Dean

When Lex goes to the United Kingdom as a formality on her mother’s demise, she evokes no emotion. In fact, she probably heaves a sigh of relief, as if a dark past has come to its finality. It is now up to Lex to decide what is to be done with the money and house left behind for her and her siblings. A house she does not want to return to and money she could not care less for. This is when she embarks on a journey to visit her siblings and recollect the shared horror-filled childhood and come to terms with a better future. Lex’s journey takes the readers through a childhood full of emotional turbulence, blind faith, betrayal, trust, identity crisis, and acceptance.

The readers are introduced to Lex’s family comprising six siblings and parents in part flashbacks throughout the narrative. Ethan, Lex, Delilah, Gabriel, Noah, Daniel and Evie live under the strict vigilance of their father who is drunk in mindless philosophy and blind faith. Their mother is also a weakling, following the footsteps of her husband- whether correct or not! Things start going downhill for the children when this patriarchal submission to baseless philosophies make their family dysfunctional. Girl A is the story of Lex’s family, the horrific trauma and bondage she was confined to, her heroic escape and present life.

Dean brings to the forefront the effect of child abuse and its aftermath which a victim has to endure throughout their life. One falls prey to mental agony which stays with them throughout their lives. Questions about identity, trust, substance abuse, acceptance and stigma encircle their lives. Many take advantage of the vulnerability of children where they are unable to express themselves and engage in abusive behavior. This, especially when the abuser is known to them, leads to the development of psychological traits in children requiring immediate attention and long-term counselling to get over.

It is often said that the safest place on earth for a child is with the family. But what does one do if a parent is strong willed on unconscious destruction and another too timid in her resolves? Lex and her siblings never share a regular family relationship. Theirs is always clouded by uncertainty and dominance, one that they could never break off from. Dean also portrays sibling relationship very beautifully throughout the story. While sibling rivalry, parental sidings, attachment, guidance, care is prominent; the unpleasantness of their restricted childhood together also haunts them often. The question family security is a prime issue in today’s world. In many places children are not safe within the four walls of their own house. The ruthlessness is more if the child is a girl as they are often made victims of child marriage, child labor, prostitution, etc. This makes readers question the definition of a family and how does a child fit into a happy and safe environment?

Children at times start exhibiting traits of identity crisis. They constantly start questioning if they are the biological children of the parents who have been so cruel to them. For if they are, then what lead to this grave betrayal? If they are lucky to be adopted, they still have to face the baggage that comes with adoption. What if they do not have a better life post adoption? What if their adoptive parents do not see them at par with their biological children? Their minds are clouded with such ‘what ifs’.  Along with this, in certain high profile cases, a sense of false identity starts developing in the child. They start conforming to an induced celebrity status and their pain becomes the fuel to engage in media centric and financial activities.

Faith is that which can move mountains. Faith is also a gift that many are yet to receive. But what happens when someone immerses themselves into too much faith? Extreme faith as portrayed by Lex’s father transforms itself into blind submission to philosophy and practices which are not stereotypical and do not have an audience.  Her father wants to work for the community and induct them to his beliefs. Failure to do so generates disappointment, depression and internal frustration which are outwardly projected on Lex and her siblings as physical and mental torture. This puts an individual’s practices and beliefs into question. What does one do when these beliefs exceed the bar of normalcy? How does one react when such beliefs overpowers the conscious and conscience? This is the first projection of insanity and one should seek immediate help rather than letting the matter go out of hands.

Girl A in the novel is not just an alphabet used to denote a rescued girl. ‘A’ stands for Abuse! Child abuse is an important social devil worldwide. A small contribution from a conscious mind can help save the lives of many children from the torment they are subjected to. It is a call of duty for each one to understand the signs and seek help, lest the present scars the future forever.

Abigail Dean not only pens down a heartfelt story but also makes the readers aware of the enormity and monstrosity of this social issue. Though fictionalized it touches upon reality and what happens in the society. One never knows if the child next door is safe or not. A must-read book about society and its negatives and how it impacts the lives of many living in it, sometimes forever!

No. of pages: 326

Publisher: Harper Collins

Available on: Amazon / Flipkart

Rating: 4/5

*Disclaimer: I would like to Thank Harper Collins for the review copy.

A Sum of Our Choices – Chaitanya Salvi

Remember the story of The Midas Touch– The man who touched anything and turned it to gold? Can one be born with The Midas Touch effect in today’s world? A Sum of Our Choices by Chaitanya Salvi tells the story of a young business magnate who has been considered to be a lucky boy. For Ashutosh Paranjpe, nothing is impossible! Coming across as a man who means business and considers time as money, Ashutosh is yet to imbibe the value of emotions and relations – reminding readers a little of Arjun Saluja from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara ! Things turn topsy-turvy when his workaholic nature leads to a break in his relationship with his long-term girlfriend; followed by his arrest on the grounds that his company cheated people of their money. At this point ones gets to understand Ashutosh closely from when he was a child to where he stands today – his life, principles, actions and thoughts.  

“While living life, we fail to understand what does living a life mean. We tend to ignore the meaningful stuff and end up running behind unworthy and trivial things.’’ The Ashutosh one reads about has no time for inconsequential things in life. His blinding ambitions make him ignore relationships. This makes the reader stop and wonder if earning money is everything or relationships, emotions and even personal feel-good factor come before them. Would one not want to take some time off and spend walking along their favorite part of the city? No mobile phones, No annoying clients, No emergency planning – Just the quaint Nature and One’s Thoughts! Would one not experience joy by taking one’s partner / spouse on a holiday, a movie show or a candle light dinner date? Sometimes ambitions come in the way of making these precious memories alone or with our loved ones and in the course of time the way life is meant to be lived is forgotten. Instead one is busy chasing the unending cycle of fame and money like animals chasing their tails!

A Sum of Our Choices follows a simple storyline and yet touches upon the essence of life and actions – Destiny and Karma. “Destiny is a situation presented to you. You can choose how to react to it. And your reaction, to the situation presented by destiny, is your karma.’’ It takes years to understand the meaning of this never-ending cycle of action and reaction according to the philosophy of life. But Salvi has put it quite simply for the readers to grasp the sum of these terms. What is important to contemplate is how a person reacts to the situation. It is said a person isn’t born good or bad, their actions make them what they are. Similarly, a person has the freedom to choose what their reactions will be in a certain circumstance. Their decisions are always based on their needs, values, morals, and prejudices. In this quick span of decision- making an individual might take the right path or end up being wrong- but whatever the action, one has to bear the subsequent reactions in life.

Salvi has poignantly portrayed the protagonist of his novel as a lucky man. But how can one define luck? Is it possible for someone to be repeatedly lucky throughout their lives? Is luck the driving force behind a person’s life and actions? The relation between luck, karma and destiny is quite a twisted one. To simplify it, Destiny throws a situation and Karma is the action; but Luck is the consequences of Karma. Putting it straight, Luck is a myth to cover up the reactions of Karma. Or, Luck and Karma can be simultaneously used to denote the same actions. Even then it makes the readers wonder about each of the terms and their inter-relations.

Ashutosh in his journey, meets many who devote themselves to the service of their community. This selfless approach to life makes him retrace his decisions and imbibe newer principles through his experience. He chooses to pay it forward by doing well to someone just as somebody had helped him in life. It is an important takeaway for the readers that one must visualize help as selfless service without expecting anything in return. What best they can do to compensate is to help another when in dire need. Service to the community helps in making a person humble devoid of ego or arrogance which are the source of all troubles.

The crux of this novel will be incomplete if one does not discuss about Life. It is indeed A Sum of Our Choice.  Life is that circle in which Destiny and Karma rotate together throwing challenges at a person to make them travel through this spiritual journey. Life is a chapter in itself and cannot be discussed in a paragraph. It is the essence of action and reaction. Whether one leads a good, bad, humble or arrogant life depends completely on how one chooses to live it.

A Sum of Our Choice is a beautiful explanation of man as a spiritual being through fictional characters. The philosophical layers explaining the meaning of life unfolds one by one within the pages of the book.  A straight forward story rich in philosophy, it makes up for a good read.

No .of Pages: 300

Publisher: Flipping Pages

Available at: Amazon

Rating: 3.75/5

*Disclaimer: I would like to Thank Siddhi Palande for sending a review copy of the book.

Klara and the Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro

When the master storyteller returns with a new novel post his Nobel victory, it cannot be missed! The futuristic Klara and the Sun depicts a society where humanoids and mankind co-exist. However, with the society becoming mechanized and the life of people becoming mechanical, will emotions be overtaken completely by artificial intelligence? A story of the bond shared by Josie and her Artificial Friend (AF) Klara, the novel is a take on the thoughts of a humanoid and how they perceive the world, their responsibilities and emotions. In a world which selects AF’s just the way age old customs select bride as a companion, is there any leeway for true friendship? Klara and the Sun raises questions mirroring a society based on tomorrow. In the long run it will be interesting to see if the world takes a turn along the words of Ishiguro.

Klara is chosen by Josie’s Mother as a companion for her ailing daughter. But with Josie in her teens and wanting her own space and time is Klara really able to provide companionship or is a burden? Ironically one gets to notice that even though Klara has been brought for accompaniment, all the characters exemplify loneliness in some form or the other. The Mother is drowning in her sorrows of loss; Josie wants to have her own space and is actually alone most of the time; with nothing to do in a completely new place Klara too is fighting loneliness in her own way. This drives the readers to ask a vital question- are humans pushing away company and embracing loneliness? It has been observed that in a room full of people, majority would be working on their mobile phones rather than emphasizing on the people present in the same room. Are humans so heavily dependent on gadgets that they have started living in a virtual world, devoid of physical human presence? How healthy or unhealthy is the same for the mental health of the people?  

With time Klara meets Rick, Josie’s neighbor and childhood friend. The two already have A Plan to lead a life together. This fills Klara with joy but also leads her to think of her existence once the Plan is executed. Josie and Rick’s relation is as any teenage romance-full of care, fights, love, friendship but also retaining each one’s personality and self-esteem. This relation is also hope that in the future, love will not completely die and one will be prone to falling in love or experimenting and finding Mr. Right for themselves.

Mother is overburdened with the sorrows of having lost a daughter and losing Josie to illness now. In order to get out of this condition she wants to substitute her daughter with an AF. The Mother’s psyche is on the extreme and raises questions of ethics and morality about her actions. Moreover it asks a reflecting question to the readers- can humans be truly substituted with machines? Can their existence be that easily wiped out with mechanics? What about the relations that they share; would they not miss the life in the personality they know? Or would they embrace the coded humanoids with artificial intelligence which is nearly too perfect?

Ishiguro cleverly focuses on the environment by making the Sun as the prime source of energy for all AF’s and mankind. However, disturbance in this equilibrium through pollution, environmental degradation and irresponsibility will lead to disastrous effect on the planet and those living in it. The careful integration of the idea – Save the Earth- is much needed to make people aware of the consequences of their carelessness and what it can lead to. Klara in her mind thinks that the Sun being the source of all energy can cure Josie of her sickness. Will her faith hold true? Will the Sun be able to cure Josie? To what extent will Klara go to help Josie?

Klara and the Sun will change the meaning of love and emotion for the readers. Love need not only be the stereotypical relationships one hears or sees. It can also manifest itself in care, selflessness, guidance, friendship and companionship. With some or all of the above retaining their space in a man-machine relation, one can be assured, that emotion cannot be completely overtaken by screws and hinges, even in an advanced future. A book that is far ahead of its time, centering on the generations yet to come and their lifestyles, harping on the man-humanoid relationship, and transgressing the idea of emotion in several layers, Klara and the Sun is bound to win all hearts.

Postscript: The idea of humanoids in literature is not new. Going back a few decades, Satyajit Ray’s brilliant mind also conceptualized Professor Shonkhu. His in-depth ideologies in science and science –fiction literature cannot be overlooked while talking about a futuristic society. I would also like to mention that this very fact was brought out brilliantly by Aritra Basu in his paper which can be read here. Completing a century of his existence, Ray is immortal. His thought process and symbolism would go on living through his works- art, music, movies and  literature, baffling generations to come.

No of Pages: 307

Publisher: Faber and Faber / Penguin

Available on: Flipkart / Amazon / Audible

Rating: 4/5

The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient has been doing the rounds of major newspapers, lifestyle columns and even in the blogger circuits. Thus when I got the chance to get the book at a super price from Delight Bookstore and read it for myself, I did not lose the opportunity. Prima facie it begins as the story of Alicia, a culprit who is found as the only suspect to her husband’s cold-blooded murder. She never speaks about the night when her husband died. Subsequently she is admitted to a psychiatric welfare centre. Enters Theo, an experienced psychiatrist who insists that he is the only one who can make Alicia speak. It is only a matter of time when the readers come to know whose resolution wins- lifelong silence or grit and determination to make The Silent Patient speak!

The novel follows two distinct timelines, that of Alicia and Theo, before and after they cross paths with each other. Alicia, an artist is living a happy and content life with her husband and her works of art. Theo, a psychiatrist loves his wife dearly, but is shocked to see signs of infidelity entering their relationship. This plants a seed of suspicion within him. Coupled with his own traumatic past, when this suspicion of losing his love exemplifies itself to engulf his life and mind, the consequences are disastrous.

Alicia and Theo’s journey together raises pertinent questions about the thought-process of an individual and how it ultimately influences one’s actions. Written in an unputdownable thriller format Michaelides has truly worded a gripping novel, arranged in layers of timeline, switching from flashbacks to present, and unfolding a story one never could have imagined. The climax is where the past, present and future intermixes in the subconscious and leads to an unthinkable action.

From a behavioral point of view the readers understand how important the formative years are to an individual. If not rightly managed and controlled, then the bruises inflicted remain lifelong on a subconscious level and emerge at the most unexpected times. Identity crisis and childhood abuse are two of the most common forms of mental torture a child can be subjected to. With society hell bent on having sons than daughters, this mentality crushes the confidence of an individual and pushes a child to existential crisis, inferiority complex and under confidence at a very young age. Since behavioral manifestations work differently for different individuals, it remains an unknown fact how this trauma will be demonstrated later in life. However, even within the understanding of behavioral science one needs to realize that an individual will only act as he/she wants to. Psychological factors are constantly at war with the consciousness in order to bring out a desired action from the individual.

While reading The Silent Patient readers need to take a mental note of the society in which it is set. The Western society is even today far ahead and open when it comes to discussing psychological issues. Almost every school, college, workplace, and institution has an attached counsellor to deliberate on an individual’s mental health. Even counsellors can choose to refer themselves to other counsellors. With an open acceptance in the society, it becomes easy to discuss, deliberate, and recover from any signs of psychological agitation.

This is vastly different from the Indian society where the importance of mental health has gained momentum only in the last 2-3 years. While a lot is indeed debated on paper, sufficient steps to put in place an actionable and strict system to monitor mental health of the individuals have not been achieved. The foremost reason of this backwardness is the age old idea of ‘Log Kya Kahenge?’ and the mental pressure inflicted by the peers and ‘nosy aunties’. These so-called well-wishers have been successful in infiltrating within the household through parents and relatives, barring an individual to talk openly about their mental peace. If the society actually casts away the shame and stigma it would do much good to it and make individuals prosper as wholesome beings.

The Silent Patient is a wonderful take on the importance of mental health, which is a necessity in today’s world. With lockdown / curfew/ isolation/ quarantine being words spoken at the drop of a hat, an individual needs to be equipped enough to channel their thoughts into words or something constructive. Isolation can either shrink the intelligence or if given the right direction, push it for the betterment of the society and individual. Thus it is important to talk about and take necessary steps in keeping oneself fit in a holistic manner not only for oneself but also for people around.

Going beyond the pertinent psychology of the book, however well worded the novel is, for me, the climax failed to work out. At times the narration was slow and disjointed leaving one confused of what the narrator wants to say. Even with the presence of two very powerful characters and their resolutions, the ending failed to strike a chord. Nevertheless, I would still recommend all to read The Silent Patient once to determine what works for you as the storyline is notable and does manage to leave an impression on the reader.

No. of Pages: 339

Publisher: Hachette

Available on: Amazon / Flipkart

Rating: 3/5

Finding your Way by Drake Taylor

The challenges that 2020 had thrown in the path of every individual gave them a chance to contemplate on their personal growth. Closely associated with self-growth is also its repercussions on mental health. While thousands around the world spent a life from their homes and are still doing so, staying in an overtly familiar environment 24*7 can induce mental claustrophobia in many. This adversely affects the behavior and psyche of the individual. When during Corona and lockdown , limited mobility, stress and work pressure is on the rise, comes Finding Your Way by Drake Taylor, a perfect self-help book that helps one to relax their senses and lead a healthy life – physically and mentally.

Drawing from the author’s strained relation with his wife, he puts forth how his life was affected with depression and isolation, so much so that even suicide crossed his mind. Living in the shadows of one’s actions only accelerates the hurt than mending the circumstances. The author’s personal journey of well-being and a sound life offers guidance to many, to lead better lives for themselves.

The stepping stone for healing oneself is self-acceptance. The sooner one identifies the problem and the need for help, the faster one recuperates from the situation. To fill in the gaps of mental anxiety one definitely requires to continue working with a positive attitude devoid of a growing list of excuses. Excuses and negativity only makes a person inactive and slows down the process of recovery. It is thus important for one to be optimistic with every challenge that is thrown by life and tackle it with confidence. Positivity also helps in harboring newer mindsets which accelerates a change in perception through newer avenues to explore and avoidance of self-pity.  

Perception plays a crucial role in the shaping up of a personality. There is a constant war between ‘what you think you are’ v/s ‘what others think you are’ v/s ‘what you think others think about you’. Most of the times, all their perceptions are formulated by the individual in their mind with influences from mindset, environment, prejudice etc. This game of perception changes partially or wholly the meaning of self and self-portrayal. More often than not ‘what you think other think about you’ is the most dangerous perception as it is the space between ‘what you are’ and ‘what you want to be perceived as’. This realm becomes unrealistic and helps in harboring egos which can lead to self-destruction. Hence, perceptions should be open minded and definitely based on visual implications rather than hearsay. 

At the heart of acceptance, perception, mindset lies stress which can further aggravate depression and isolation. Be it work pressure, peer pressure, self-induced pressure; the rise in stress levels adversely affect the well-being of an individual, mentally and physically. Many a times individuals give in to stress. But with a growing awareness of ways to overcome it, many opt for counselling and therapy and eventually lead a controlled or stress-free life. Counselling today has become an acknowledged path in the society. Earlier whenever people ‘needed help’ or ‘needed to talk to someone’ it was looked down upon and mostly understood as signs of madness. But today, counselling is an accepted form of bettering mental health and can be resorted to at any point in life. Many educational institutions, workplaces, corporates etc. schedule regular counselling sessions for the well-being of their students and employees. If an individual is content and happy, they are also able to keep their surroundings positive and progressive.

The author goes on addressing mental breakdowns which is an accumulation of negative thoughts, high stress, isolation, mental claustrophobia. All the parameters of a breakdown are triggered when one has a highly complex goal in life. Thus it is mostly advised to have an achievable and practical goal with a realistic deadline, which might require struggle to achieve but would not be detrimental to the individual’s health in its course. To lead a meaningful life, one must first have meaning to their own life. This is achievable when all odds are forgiven or forgotten and one is filled with a positive attitude towards life to strive for a better tomorrow.

The author proposes a few steps to lead a better life which is important and with conscious hard work extremely achievable. Leading a disciplined and routine life makes it easier for a person to win half the battle. Discipline induces wisdom, sense, emotional control and a sharp eye to details helping in welcoming newer mindsets. Decluttering and accumulating ones thoughts helps in leading an organized life with more focus and less confusion. As society tends to change with time, changing ones mindset by drawing inspiration from ones surroundings is equally important. And last but not the least, should need be one should aim to go under mentorship which would result into receiving proper guidance in formulating ones roadmap of life.

Filled with exciting self-evaluating exercises and activities, Finding Your Way , is bound to open ones senses to contemplate how one leads their life and what changes can be introduced to make it better for themselves and the people around. It is just the reading necessity when the world faces one of the most challenging times in the history of mankind.

No. of Pages: 98

Available on: Amazon Kindle

Rating: 3.5/5

  • I would like to Thank vinfluencers for giving me this review opportunity.