Adieu 2016… Welcome 2017!

Finally another year has passed by and a I have stepped into a crispy crunchy new year which has brought with itself an inkling of new opportunities.

Year 2016 was a mixed bag. It had its ups and down – personally, nationally and globally. The year brought a lot of doubts, confusions and instability in my personal life. An identity crisis, severe health issues, financial issues. But then, the year was very helpful as I was able to overcome the financial issues and lack of job satisfaction. Health is better now, and yes, the I got promotion in office. I am enjoying the new job role –  a lot to learn, scope to meet different people and the sense of job satisfaction.

On national front, the last few months were difficult. It was expected as approximately 86 per cent of national currency had been scrapped by the Government in a bold move to curb black money directly and to control other auxiliary problems like counterfeit notes and terrorism. As a result, even though we had money in our bank accounts, getting cash was a pain. People waited in queues in front of ATMs for hours to withdraw limited amount of cash. But this was not as bad as it sounds. We are now focusing more on cash less transactions wherever possible. Since the last few months I have used Paytm and similar online money transfer apps to transfer money to shopkeepers rather than waiting in queue for hours to get cash. I certainly hope we would see the benefit of more and more cash less transactions in the new year.

On international front, the US elections made a great ruckus. I had not expected Donald Trump to be the president elect, but then… I have absolutely no say in the decision making of US citizens. Mr. Trump is a successful businessman but then again leading a nation is not everyone’s business.Will Donald Trump be able to make America great again? – We will see in 2017.

I wish all my readers a very happy and prosperous new year. May all your wishes come true and may we all enjoy the new year with our friends, families and neighbors in peace.

 

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Haunting Jasmine – an enchanting tale of second chances

Book – Haunting Jasminehaun
Author –  Anjali Banerjee
Publishers – Berkley
Genre – Novels, Fiction, Paranormal, Multi cultural, South Asian Writings

Jasmine Mistry is overcoming a bad divorce resulting from her ex-husband’s infidelity. Things are not smooth on the work front either. In such a situation she is called by her Aunt Ruma, to manage her bookstore in Shelter Island for a month. While Aunty Ruma goes on a trip to India to mend her heart, Jasmine tries to manage this old dusty bookstore filled to the rafters with out of print books. While her stay in her Aunt’s old Victorian house she realizes that this book store has a mind of its own and gets cranky if left on its own for long. While her stay, she meets a Connor Hunt, a doctor by profession who gradually helps her realize her potential.

Initially the character of Jasmine is not lovable at all. She is bitter with her heart-break and is unable to feel happiness for others. She feels that she can no longer trust or love a man any more. A women with a high flying corporate career, Jasmine is more into logics and facts and finds the life in Shelter Island to be boring.However as the story proceeds she starts to feel at home, and remembers the happy incidents from her childhood. Gradually as she spends more and more time in the book store we notice positive changes in Jasmine, welcoming changes. It is a an entertaining tale about how a bookstore and books can really help people overcome tough situations in their life and any book lover like me would fall head over heals for this story. The haunting or the spirits in the book are amusing and interesting, and not scary. For a lack of better word, the book store is more enchanted rather than haunted. The story is about life and second chances. Connor, Ruma, Jasmine all get second chance at living.

It was an easy read and I completed this book in less than 24 hours. This is the first book that I have read of Anjali Banerjee, and I look forward to read her other books now. and while the writing was mostly easy flowing, sometimes I found myself skimming through the lines. It is perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon read.

My rating : 4/5

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Submissions Open for Literary eZine

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A Tale of Two Cities – The Reading Experience

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Book 1 Chapter  1                                                                                         

So I decided to read Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, a novel set in the historical background of 1775 in England and France. Reading the first chapter was a pain in the bottom, for the first time, and for the second time. It demanded a lot of concentration to really grasp the social situation of the times just before the outburst of the French Revolution. After reading the First Chapter for the second time, I decided it was time to refer to Sparknotes Summary for the first chapter. And boy, that was the best thing to do. Once I was aware of the summary of the first chapter, suddenly Dicken’s lines made a lot more sense!

Charles Dickens used the first chapter of Book 1 to build the back ground of the novel, and gave us a glimpse of the times when the novel was set. The following lines (the starting lines) in fact is the best summary of the first Chapter –

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

In this Chapter, we come to know the contrast in the life of people in France and England, For example while in England, the spiritual revelations were conceded and people enjoyed discussing supernatural events with passion, France walked on much stricter lines, and anything spiritual or supernatural beyond Church was not favored. While laws were stricter in France, and people were punished harshly for simpler things like, not bowing to a group of monks… the law and order in England was quite lax. Theft, burglary, prison revolts were common. And the punishment to petty thieves and hardened criminals was often the same.

Book 1 Chapter 2

We are introduced to one of the characters of the novel, Mr. Lorry, a banker from Tellson’s Bank amidst the eerie setting of dark night full of mistrust, suspicion and fear as is clear from the below lines –

In those days, travellers were very shy of being confidential on a short notice, for anybody on the road might be a robber or in league with robbers.

The Dover mail was in its usual genial position that the guard suspected the passengers, the passengers suspected one another and the guard, they all suspected everybody else, and the coachman was sure of nothing but the horses;

They had stopped when the coach stopped, and they kept close company with it. If any one of the three had had the hardihood to propose to another to walk on a little ahead into the mist and darkness, he would have put himself in a fair way of getting shot instantly as a highwayman.

The purpose of Mr. Lorry’s travel to France is a mystery. The message that he received from Jerry to wait for a woman at Dover is a mystery as well. And most of all, Mr. Lorry’s answer to Jerry – “Recalled to Life” is a mystery as well.

Book 1 Chapter 3

Why does Dickens use such a flowery language, sometimes flowery to the extent of being tedious? That was the question that crept up in my mind as I was reading the third chapter. In the very next moment, I realized that it was not only Dickens who used such language. For example, look at John Milton’s Paradise Lost. There is a wonderful discussion going on at Quora regarding this very question.

Anyways, in to the Third Chapter we realize that Dickens is continuing with developing the mystery and mistrust, and dropping a few clues while doing so, within the dreams of Mr. Lorry. We realize that someone is going to be recalled to life after eighteen years of being buried alive. We realize that this person is probably somehow related to the lady whom Mr. Lorry was supposed to meet at Dover.

In this chapter we witness some of the finest lines in literature about human psychology when Dickens wrote:

…every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.

…that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!

Book 1 Chapter 4

The chapter opens with Mr. Lorry reaching the Royal George Hotel in Dover in the late morning. He relaxes in the hotel, thinking about his business and waiting for the arrival of the lady with whom he was supposed to meet who arrived in the hotel later that evening. Mr. Lorry introduces himself to Miss Lucie Manette and divulges his business and her involvement in the business. Apparently, Lucie was led to believe by her mother that Dr. Alexandre Menette, Lucie’s father was dead. While is father was actually imprisoned in France by the authorities for eight years, and was recently released. Mr. Lorry’s business was to identify and ring back Dr. Manette, a client of Tellson’s Bank, to England, while Lucie’s responsibility would be to care him back to health. All this comes as a shock to Lucie and after failing to console her, he calls fall help.  A wild looking woman dressed in red runs into the room. Concerned about Lucie’s well being, she shoves Mr. Lorry away from Lucie and yells at hotel’s servants to bring smelling salt.

In this Chapter, Dickens fills us in with several physical details about Mr.Lorry’s person signifying the details of his character and importance of his business. Mr. Lorry tries to sound like a professional, insisting that he is a man of business however his concern for Lucie is apparent from the fact that he tries to explain the business to Lucie as gently as he could. Also Mr. Lorry’s dreams about digging out Mr. Manette, signifies that he was troubled with Mr. Manette’s situation as well.  Finally Dickens shreds some light on the suspense that was building up since Chapter 2, as we realize the purpose of Mr. Lorry’s business in Dover, and the involvement of Miss Manette in the business. However it only raises a new question – What caused Dr. Manette’s imprisonment in France?

Book 1 Chapter 5 (The Wine Shop)

A large barrel of wine has been dropped and broken in the street in a poor neighborhood in Paris, and it has attracted the interest of people nearby, who have stopped their business or the lack of it, to drink the wine, from the puddles of wine on the street. Men, women and children all bent over the pools of wine – using broken earthenware, handkerchiefs to sip the wine. The short lived game of wine sipping and dancing soon ended with the end of wine. People rejoined the activities they were at. And the street was cleaner than it was earlier. The owner of the wine shop, a good humored man of thirties, with a unstoppable attitude was keeping an eye on the entire scene. His wife, Madam Defarge has been defined as a woman with watchful eyes with steady face and strong features and great composure of manner, who would rarely make a mistake. As Mr. Defarge enters the wine shop, Madam Defarge signaled him about the presence of two new customers in the shop – Mr. Lorry and Miss Manette. Mr. Defarge soon takes Mr. Lorry and Miss Menette into the building where Dr. Manette was kept.

The wine shop is in the suburb of St. Antoine, in Paris. As per Wikipedia, St. Anthony is the patron saint of finding things or lost people. The titles of the chapters in this book are relevant, and going by that trait, it seems that Mr. Lorry and Miss Manette might find Dr. Manette somewhere in this suburb. Dickens uses the word Wine and Blood interchangeably in this chapter as it is clear from the following lines while referring to the revolution that was soon to occur:

The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on street-stones, and when the strain of it would be red upon many there.

Dickens has also personified cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance and want as powerful lords (members of nobility) and most powerful lord being the “want”, who would force the people to submit to its whims. He indicates that the times were like a grinder or a mill that grinded young people to old age and weakness, and left them without happiness. He personifies hunger as an omnipresent entity that is everywhere. It seems that people used to allow babies to drink wine in those times, probably because wine was cleaner and drinkable than water in those times. In those times, streets of Paris lacked proper drainage system, and people used to dump their wastes on the street. The fact that people were happy to drink the wine from the street where the wastes had mixed and decomposing in the soil indicated the severity of hunger people were suffering from.  We get to see the unhygienic living conditions of people in Paris, again in the following lines:

… the room or rooms within every door that opened on the general staircase – left its own heap of refuse on its own landing, besides flinging other refuse from its own windows. The uncontrollable and hopeless mass of decomposition so engendered would have polluted the air, even if pollution and deprivation had not loaded it with their tangible impurities;

 

TO BE CONTINUED

P.S. – What was your experience while reading A Tale of Two Cities? Do share.
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Kiriti Omnibus 2 – Adventures of another Bengali Sleuth

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Source : Internet

As I had mentioned in my last post, for the past few days, I have quite a lot of time at my disposal, which I am utilizing by eating sleeping, reading and blogging.

I had this book Kiriti Omnibus -2 by Dr. Nihar Ranjan Gupta (Bengali: নীহাররঞ্জন গুপ্ত) (6 June 1911 – 20 February 1986) since the last several months and this was the perfect time to dust of the book from the shelf and dive into the adventures of one of the most popular Bengali detectives that the world has seen after Feluda and Byomkesh Bakshi.

To my dismay, there were not many resources available about this Kiriti, the fabulous creation of Dr. Nihar Ranjan Gupta. Kiriti Ray is a renowned private detective from Kolkata (Calcutta) and is a combination of intelligence and physical prowess.

The first story that I read from the omnibus was  –  Holud Shaitan (হলুদ শয়তান) or the Yellow Devil.

The story revolves around a mysterious entity called Raktamukhi Dragon (blood-faced dragon) who had already kidnapped one of the rich businessmen in Sri Lanka and killed another. Kiriti Roy comes to know about this case through newspaper while in Kolkata and decides to investigate this as the mystery interests him. As a well known detective from Kolkata, Kiriti receives  full support from the Sri-Lankan police department and identifies that another businessman is being targeted by the mysteriously criminal entity.

The modus operandi is also quite strange in the case –  one of the victims dies without any physical wound except a few droplets of blood on the neck, while no one was found in the room. The other dies due to some sort of green toxic gas.

Once i complete the next story, I will add a synopsis of the same here.

Kiriti Omnibus comes under the genre of Kishore Sahitya ( fiction for teens) and should be read as what it has been intended as. This is something that Bengali guys and girs have grown up reading in weekends and vacations.

Are you a Kiriti fan? Which one is your favorite Kiriti adventure?

PS  –  Popular sleuth Kiriti Roy to debut on silver screen

 

 

 

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Tintin : Revisted after a long time

tintinAfter a long time, due to recent turn of events I suddenly found myself with a lot of time to spare, and what better way to splurge time that reading. It was late at night (around 3.30 AM) and I had this sudden urge to read something entertaining, in the detective genre hat would not take too much time nor effort to ingest. And that is when I remembered that I was missing Tintin and his adventures.

For the uninitiated, here is what Wikipedia has to say about Tintin:

Tintin (French pronunciation: [tɛ̃tɛ̃]) is the fictional hero of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. He is a reporter and adventurer who travels around the world with his dog Snowy. The character was created in 1929 and introduced in Le Petit Vingtième, a weekly youth supplement to the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle. He appears as a young man, around 14 to 19 years old with a round face and quiff hairstyle. Tintin has a sharp intellect, can defend himself, and is honest, decent, compassionate, and kind. Through his investigative reporting, quick-thinking, and all-around good nature, Tintin is always able to solve the mystery and complete the adventure.

Thanks to Blackkat.Net that has indexed the adventure of this Belgian reporter’s adventures on the internet for everyone’s access my ungodly urge was sated finally.

This particular adventure The Adventures of Tintin – In the Lands of the Soviets wasthe boy’s first adventure and was published in 1929 in a children’s supplement to a Belgian newspaper

Are you a fan of Tintin’s adventures? Or is this the first time you’re hearing about this boy reporter? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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Book Review : The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail

img5Title : The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail
Author : Chetan Mahajan
Publisher : Penguin India
Goodreads Rating – 3.2/5 Flipkart rating – 3.9/5
Price : Rs. 165.30 (Amazon India)

What happens when a high flying Indian corporate guy with MBA degree from US gets sent to an Indian Jail for no fault of his own?

A book like this one gets authored that exposes the readers to the underbelly of Indian Jails that tells us about everything that is wrong with the prison system and judicial system in India

The author encounters several inmates who are stuck in jail because they do not have as meager amount as 2500/- to get bail. Then there are other inmates who have the luxury of using cellphones, ipods and inverter. He tells us how the jail doctor uses “hands free” treatment on prisoners, checking up 30 prisoners in 30 minutes while not one’s touching the prisoner. Also we come to know that there is no concept of “Prevention before Cure” as the loos are filthy and stinking, flees and mosquitoes abound.

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Chetan Mahajan – Finding value in bad boys

Money is supposed to be banned in prisons, however the jail has it’s own economy, supported by the powerand corruption that comes from the cops. The food is bad for prisoners, as the good things are consumed by the officials while most prisoners get “goat piss” tea.

Thanks to his social stature, Mahajan was allowed to meet his visitors personally in a room without a wire mesh separating them, and that he was out of it in 30 days.

If you are looking forward to reasons, this book will be able to more than convince you why you should not be on the wrong side of the prison wall.

Value for money rating : 4/5

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