Tuesday, November 20, 2012


TOKE by JUGAL MODY (Originally published in The Book Review, November 2012)

Toke means puffing a pipe or pot filled with Marijuana. And true to its title, you get high with the novel’s surreal plot. The story is set in motion as you are introduced to Nikhil the protagonist who is fighting to come out of ganja-induced hallucinatory dreams. He is a regular guy with a regular job and suffers from regular bouts of insecurity, jealousy and disillusionment. Toking is his only escape from his not-so-interesting quotidian life. One day when he is in the middle of a cannabis induced hallucination, Lord Vishnu, the preserver God from the Hindu trinity, makes an appearance and joins Nikhil and his friends in a session of pot smoking. In between, He tells Nikhil the world is going to end in next 72 hours and Lord Vishnu has no time for another incarnation to save the world. So, He entrusts Nikhil with the responsibility of saving the humanity from total destruction. He warns Nikhil if Lord Shiva, the destroyer and reproducer of the trinity, comes to know about the imminent extinction of the human race, He will be more than  happy to destroy this world Himself and then to rebuild it. Nikhil who first thinks it is some sort of joke from that strange person who is wearing a dress like the gods from the mythological serials. But, soon he realises that the person is real Lord Vishnu and the demons have already unleashed mysterious maggots to transform every single human being into zombies. He accepts the challenge and set out with his friends to save the humanity.
The special about this book is the inventiveness of its narrative structure. Plus, the cleaver use of language makes this book highly readable. The dialogues sound real and give you an insight into the lingo of the generation X. At times, the story becomes confusing but the things get cleared once you progress further. Jugal Mody might not be applauded for the literary merits of his debut book by the critics but will certainly get thumbs up from his readers for writing such a fantastical and fun filled book.

India’s Olympic Story 

(The review published in The Book Review, November 2012 issue)

An outcome of three-way collaboration between British Council, Abhinav Bindra Foundation and Tulika Publishers, India’s Olympic Story is a slim book targeted to teenagers but can also be useful to anybody interested in a quick read about the Olympic Games and the Indian achievements at this greatest sporting extravaganza.  

Divided in to two sections, the first part of the book gives us the historical details about the Olympics. It delineates the mythology behind the beginning of the ancient Olympic Games which dates back to 776 BCE. The saga of the modern Olympics started in 1896 when its first edition was organised in Athens, Greece. The first section also has information about the Indian association with the Olympic movement.  In 1900, Norman Pritchard, an Indian of British decent, who had entered the Paris Olympic Games casually, became first Indian to win a medal. Later, in 1927, Indian Olympic Association was formed and  the very next year a contingent of 22 players was formally sent to participate in the Amsterdam Olympics. The team returned with gold in hockey. After that the country has participated in every edition of the Summer Olympics. In the Winter Olympics, Indian participation has been occasional. The most delightful inclusion in this section is the information about the Paralympic, the special version of the Olympics that is organised for the physically challenged people. There is also a chapter on traditional Indian games and rural Olympics.

The second half of the book  profiles some of all-time great Indian Olympians. Noteworthy among them are Dhyanchand, the magician of field hockey, Milkha Singh, the flying Sikh, Abhinav Bindra , the gold medalist shooter and K D Jadhav. Out of these four,  Jadhav remains an unsung Olympic hero despite being the first individual medal winner of independent India. A big achievement by any yardstick. It was K D Jadhav who ‘paved the way for future Olympic athletes with his determination to excel, unflinching dedication, single-minded focus and never-say-die spirit. He achieved the impossible without having access to state-of-the-art training facilities and money’

Aesthetically produced and beautifully illustrated, the book is also replete with interesting anecdotal stories, games trivia and witty cartoons. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Review of Julie O' Yang's debut Novel


In 1937, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese imperial Army captured the city of Nanking (Nanjing), the then capital of the Republic of China, and carried out a massacre in which hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians including women and children were slaughtered and thousands of women and girls were raped. This shameful episode from the history, known as Nanking Massacre or the Rape of Nanking, makes the backdrop of Julie O’ Yang’s debut novel Butterfly.

The eponymous protagonist of this heartachingly beautiful novel, Butterfly, is a married Chinese woman and calligrapher who has lost her teenage son in the Nanking Massacre. Years later, still trying to overcome her great loss, she happens to meet a mysterious young man almost of her dead son’s age and starts a torrid love affair with him. But, then she discovers a horrible secret about the young man and faces the biggest dilemma of her life.

The book is not just a love story with darker shades but also is a treatise on the futility and brutality of wars between nations and a critique on the idea of nation state. Historically insightful with political undertones, the novel has fully fleshed out multi-layered and credible characters. Written beautifully and structured intelligently, you get hooked to the story right from the first page. The denouement is also equally fascinating.
Highly recommended!

You can buy this book from HERE

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

From my old Scrapbook

The Time of the TIME

Sitting idle and killing TIME,
You blame the TIME for being merciless

Trying to cheat and beat the TIME
You cry foul when the TIME plays tricks on you

You yell at the TIME for walking too fast
While trying really hard to be ahead of the TIME.

The TIME you say has no sense of time and
You allege the TIME for arriving at your doorsteps untimely

Have you ever seen
Morning arriving late in the evening.
Or the night sleeping till late in the morning
Have you ever seen that there was 2 ‘O’ clock at 4 p.m?

Sunday, November 04, 2012

My Interview of Nayantara Sahgal

Indira and India

Nayantara Sahgal. Photo: V Sreenivasa Murthy
The HinduNayantara Sahgal. Photo: V Sreenivasa Murthy
We have “ruling families” all over the country, so why single out Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, asks Nayantara Sahgal.
Just released 'Indira Gandhi: Tryst With Power' by Nayantara Sahgal is an in-depth study of Indira Gandhi‘s style of functioning and political leadership which, according to the author, “marked a drastic break with the democratic tradition of her family and Indian politics.” As a member of the Nehru-Gandhi extended family, Nayantara Sahgal had observed her cousin Indira at close quarters and had access to the kinds of documents which an outsider can’t think of laying their hands on. That is why this beautifully written book gives its readers an opportunity to have a peek in to the mind of enigmatic Indira Gandhi. In this interview, Sahgal talks about Indira, India and dynastic succession in politics.
Tryst with Power is different from the other biographies of Indira Gandhi because it gives an insight into her inner life. Please tell us how this book was conceptualised. Do you think it would have been possible for anybody else to write such an intimate biography?
It is not a biography but a study of her political style. It interested me because her style was a definite departure from that of her two predecessors and from the way the Congress party had functioned until then. The book started as a paper I was asked to contribute to a conference on "Leadership in South Asia" at SOAS (School of Oriental & African Studies), London University, in 1974. When my conclusion that we were heading toward authoritarian rule proved to be correct, I expanded it into a book. As a close relative I was able to give it a personal dimension.
What do you think about Indira Gandhi’s decision to intervene in the Bangladesh liberation war? Who benefited from its outcome, India, Indira Gandhi or both?
It was an act of statesmanship and great courage to support East Bengal’s fight to restore its elected government. The whole region benefited by the result, Bangladesh most of all.
How do you look at the stunning defeat of Indira Gandhi in 1977 and then her miraculous rise, like a proverbial phoenix, three years later?
Indians rejected authoritarian rule in 1977 when they defeated the Congress. Equally they showed their good sense in re-electing Indira Gandhi and the Congress party three years later, because the quarrelling coalition of the Janata Party had let them down so badly, failing to punish those who had been responsible for the Emergency’s excesses.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

A Review in Hindu Literary Review

Mystical musings

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Rumi: A New Translation; Farrukh Dhondy.
Special ArrangementRumi: A New Translation; Farrukh Dhondy.
This book offers a great excuse to revisit the poetry of Rumi.
Rumi: A New Translation; Farrukh Dhondy, Harper Perennial, Rs.299.
Reynold A. Nicholson, renowned English Orientalist and Islamic scholar, once said of Sufi mystic and poet Mevalana Jalaluddin Rumi: “The influence of his example, his thought and his language is powerfully felt through all the succeeding centuries; every Sufi after him capable of reading Persian has acknowledged his unchallenged leadership. To the West, now slowly realising the magnitude of his genius ... he is fully able to prove a source of inspiration and delight not surpassed by any other poet in the world’s literature.”
Nicholson made this statement many decades ago but it still holds true. While Rumi has been widely read for the last eight centuries in countries where Persian is spoken, he has now become popular in Europe and the U.S. When it comes to rendering Rumi’s works into English, prominent names include Reynold A. Nicholson, Arthur John Arberry, Coleman Barks and Nadel Khalili. Both Nicholson and Arberry were British scholars and translated Rumi’s poetry either literally or semi-literally. But, the person who made Rumi a household name in the U.S., Coleman Barks, doesn’t know Persian and his translations are not actually translations but reinterpretations of English translations. That is why many critics point out that Barks’ translations (despite their popularity among general readers) are superficial. Another translator Nadel Khalili was a native of Iran and familiar with the essence of Rumi’s mystical musings. But Khallili could not replicate the rhyme schemes of Rumi.
When Farrukh Dhondy, the well known novelist and screenplay writer, embarked on a mission to render Rumi’s poetry in English, he kept three things in his mind. One, the English version should have the fragrance of the original verses. Two, the translation of a poem should be a poem. Three, he would stick to Rumi’s rhyme schemes. The result of his labour is delightful.
Dhondy’s translations reflect that he understands the cultural and philosophical context of Rumi’s poetry. Though, like Barks, he is not a scholar of Persian language but understands Urdu, a language which borrows heavily from Persian vocabulary. And that might have helped him to decipher the real Rumi. This offering is a beautiful excuse for us to revisit Rumi.

Friday, November 02, 2012


 एक  ग़ज़ल 
कई ख्वाब उसकी आँखों में पिघलते देखा
 मैंने अरमानों को सांसों में जलते देखा 

रुख पे थी बेबसी और मायूसी निगाहों में
पर धडकनों  में उम्मीदों को पलते देखा 

कल चुप चाप  थी  समंदर की लहरें  लेकिन
उसके साहिल को हर पल ही  मचलते देखा 

उसने देखा मुझे आज एक  अजनबी की तरह
और मैंने आज एक दोस्त को बदलते देखा 

चोट लगती थी जिनको  फूलों से भी अब्द
 उसे आज मैंने काँटों पे भी चलते देखा 

Abdullah Khan 'Abd'