The Illicit Happiness of Other People - Manu Joseph

“He stares at the open textbook for hours and is distracted by the pain of the parallelogram, which is slanted forever. His nails scratch the page to straighten its tired limbs. It affects him, the great arrogance of the Equilateral Triangle, the failed aspiration of the octagon to be a circle, the eternal suffocation of the denominator that has to bear the weight of the unjust numerator, the loneliness of Pluto. And the smallness of Mercury, always a mere dot next to a yellow sun. In this world, there is no respect for Mercury.”

― Manu Joseph, The Illicit Happiness Of Other People

How beautifully this book has been penned down - I have no words!

"Ousep Chacko, according to Mariamma Chacko, is the kind of man who has to be killed at the end of a story. But he knows that she is not very sure about this sometimes, especially in the mornings."
And the author has you - the reader completely in these opening lines of the book.
This is a book that will blow your mind off! Though it took me almost 2 months to finish this one because I left it in between after reading a few chapters. It became too depressing and cynical for me to bear and continue reading it. It is a nuanced read that will leave you with an unsettling kind of feeling.
Anyway, so I picked it up again after over a month and I am so glad I did it. It is a poignant suspense/mystery novel that will leave you stunned and depressed at the same time.
It's a story about a father's quest to find out a good reason and the motive behind his son's (Unni) suicide. The story unfolds from various different points of view: Ousep, Mariamma, Thoma, and Mythili, their neighbor. Each of them trying to explore and go to the bottom of the reason why Unni killed himself. They each have something to hide, and each of them tries their best to keep it hidden. The story keeps on becoming interesting with various plots unfolding scrupulously with different characters being introduced and narrating their own perceptions about Unni. Each of them has a similar, yet an entirely new approach to Unni's personality, which, in some way or the other, keeps on adding to the mystery.
According to me, it is one of the best Indian contemporary suspense reads - the meticulous details, impeccable writing makes it unputdownable! It is a masterpiece with brilliant characters and an intricate plot that is weaved together with engrossing philosophical theories that will suck you in completely. And I just loved the way the author has described India’s obsession with IITs and America. If you are someone who enjoys contemporary writing with philosophical nuances like me, you should definitely go for this one. Though I should also mention it is a very disturbing read - comprised of death, suicide, and the painful plight of parents trying to solve various mysteries. And trust me, even after days of finishing it, the theories mentioned in the book will keep your brain engaged in mulling over the concepts.

Loved it - though I got a bit depressed while reading it, but I thoroughly enjoyed the writing - the mystery, cynicism, and various theories and philosophies - it’s a masterpiece!
Gonna read the author’s other book called - Serious Men.

The Century Trilogy: Ken Follett

“This is amazing,” Volodya said. “He’s the President, yet he has to make excuses all the time for what he does!”
“Something like that,” Woody said. “We call it democracy.” 
― Ken Follett, Winter of the World

Once in a while a book comes along that grips you entirely, making it impossible to concentrate on other mundane things. After long this book has done exactly that. Absolutely unputdownable!

The characters are so well etched, their stories intermingling to perfection. Follett gives such a brilliant insight into the psyche of so many people in different geographies of the world and at different levels. Indeed, a wonderful read this trilogy by Follett had been.

This series deals with the economic, political and social incidents that marked the last century. The wars, the cold wars, the conflict between communism and democracy, fights for the civil rights, Revolutions in different parts of the world etc.

Follett tells you the complete history with such an ease, without making it boring, via knitting the characters so beautifully and perfectly. The series shows how enormous and wide-ranging were the effects of the incidents that took place in the last century.

The historical background is brilliantly researched. The details and the language will mesmerize you completely! With this series, he brings a world to us, that we always thought we knew but then, it will never be the same again.

As usual I wouldn't get into the details too much and make it boring. Will just try to pen down the gist

The 3 books, as I mentioned above are:

1. Fall of the Giants: The first book in the trilogy! I must say, it laid the base so brilliantly and made me hooked not just to it but also to it's successors. This book is an epic of love, hatred, war and revolution. The novel follows five families (with interlinked characters) through the world-shaking incidents of the First World War and the Russian Revolution in vast. The novel leaves you with nothing less than imagining the whole drama and leaving you with a momentous effect!

2. Winter of the worlds: This one begins exactly where the first book ends, with the same five interrelated families which are American, German, Russian and English. It deals with enormous social, political, and economic turmoil. All this begins with the rise of the Third Reich, via the Spanish Civil War. This book completely deals with the incidents of second world war. It tells about the struggles of the people in those times and also, the unfolding of the incidents at a higher levels.

It covers the catastrophe and cataclysms that marked the mid of the century.

3. Edge of Eternity: The third book in the trilogy... And I must say it is such an extensive and passionate closure to The Century Trilogy.

Throughout the series, Follett has tried to display the life of its characters and has followed the destiny of the five families. This book is about the enormous social, political, and economic turmoil in the later decades of the century, which covered civil rights moments, mass political movements, cold war between US and Russia, a war over the small countries, a war between communism and democracy. The book also gives a sweeping description about the Vietnam war, the Berlin Wall, the turmoil in countries like Hungary and Czech and the Cuban Missile Crisis

The best part what I liked about the book is the way Follett has described the fall of the berlin wall! He kind of forces a surge of emotions to erupt within the readers. For me, these emotions erupted in the form of tears. And I also like the way, Follett started the book with the Civil Right fights for blacks in US and he so beautifully ends it at Obama becoming the president of the state. It's a turbulent rollercoaster yet a beautiful journey that Follett takes you through this book. And he ends with such an amazing words by Shakespeare:

Time's glory is to calm contending kings,
To unmask falsehood and bring truth to light,
To stamp the seal of time in aged things,
To wake the morn of sentinel the night,
To wrong the wronger till he render right,
To ruinate proud buildings with thy hour
And smear with dust their glittering golden towers.
-William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece

Go ahead, read it, You definitely will not be disappointed.

Roll of the Dice and Rise of Kali: Anand Neelakantan

No self-respecting God would allow a good man to be happy for long. God has relevance only in the unhappiness of good people.
― Anand Neelakantan, Ajaya : Epic of the Kaurava Clan

These 2 books: Roll of the Dice and Rise of Kali: Strong enough to alter and shake all my prejudices and beliefs completely. The beliefs that were instilled and imbibed in me, deep and profoundly, since childhood!

Initially, I thought to write about them separately because both the books are so vast and they carry huge amount of information, emotions, story, drama and all. But then the problem is one book is incomplete without another, the second one is a continuation of the first, so thought to write about them as ‘one story’

There is nothing new in the story or the incidents, Its Mahabharata, which we have grown up reading and watching again and again… The same story, same incidents, same characters, same drama, same plot, same conspiracies, same events, there is nothing different, absolutely nothing, apart from one thing, and this one thing has the capability to change your perspective about the ‘same’ old story and ‘same’ monotonous incidents entirely! And the thing I am talking about is that this Mahabharata is written from DSuryodhana’s point of views, the view of the fallen, the view of the defeated. This book, somehow makes you believe in a very old saying, “The history is written by the people who are left and not by who are right”

Here in this book, the same old incidents (exactly how it happened in ‘our’ Mahabharata) has been depicted from the most evil man’s point of view and believe me, it will force you to questions all the things that you were made to believe via this great epic.

And BTW, if you are a fan or lover or believer or follower of Lord Krishna, do not even think of reading this book, because it's going to rip your beliefs apart brutally, it will tear your trust and love for him mercilessly and will force you to question the Lord and his ways.

The book is beautifully written, with so much detailed and extensive research, so much to the extent that not much of the events have been twisted or molded or added, by the author to prove his points right. Infact, the author manages to convenience the reader about the course of events from the other side (the evil side) and also manages, to make a space for DSuryodhana in the reader’s heart.

Go ahead, if you are a lover of unconventional writings if you are a believer in looking at both the sides of a story, if you are audacious enough to read and believe that God can also make mistakes, go ahead and grab this one.

And trust me, this book will leave you with several questions about everyone!

I cannot find enough words to write about Anand’s fabulous way of writing. I had been a fan of his Asuara and these 2 books had just been an addition to that list. And these 2 books have completely lived upto the expectations, even after an amazingly depicted and written Asura

Beware: For the first time, you will shed tears and you will feel an excruciating pain for all the evil men in Mahabharata, especially Karna and DSuryodhana. They will make you cry!

Go ahead and read them..

How naive you still are, Arjuna my friend,” Krishna said with a smile. “Once you win, everything will be considered fair.

― Anand Neelakantan, Ajaya - Rise of Kali

Krishna-The God who lived as Man: Bhawana Somaaya, Kaajal Oza-Vaidya

It would actually be an arduous task for me to hunt for words that could describe my feelings for this book! That could elaborate on how I felt after reading it... It's going to be a taxing exercise!

I generally take my own sweet time to finish books, but this one! I tell you I finished in 2 days! 

This book is, I guess the best portrayal of Krishna's life till date I have been through. It deals with his relationship with the four women whom he loved, loved intensely: Radha, Draupadi, Satyabhama, Rukmini. Unlike other epics where all his roles are confined to Gokul, Kans, Kurukshetra, Gita etc...
In fact, the beginning of the book itself is totally different. It starts with Krishna, being on his death bed, ready to be relieved from this world, remembering all his past experiences, all the time he spent with the four women. 

The beauty of the book is the way Krishna convinces all these women, who sulk, cry and crib because of different reasons. One for his time, and the other one for not getting enough attention, one for leaving her behind and other for making her go through so many hardships and for not understanding her love for him. The way he consoles all of them and win the arguments in any case, is something to be admired and learnt! What a charmer he was...

The conversations in this book between Krishna and the four ladies is incredible! It's breathtaking! Something beyond comprehension, I guess... Beautiful would be a word too small for describing those conversations. I read them again and again and while reading I shed tears again and again! If you are an emotional person, it will make you cry! You actually wait for the dialogues to come... You feel like skipping all the explanation and directly get on to the conversations... Thats powerful they are... 

The plight of Krishna, and the pain he is going through on his deathbed, ready to be relieved, but unable to, will make your heart sulk. Time and time, he is thinking of his bonds that are still there, the questions that still someone is seeking the answers to, the relationship that couldn't find closures. All these things that are not letting him embark on his final journey, that are stopping his soul to abandon his body.

He tries to call in for all the people that he was extremely closed with, to clear all their doubts, if any and to make him free of all the attachments, so that his soul can leave this world 

He calls in for Draupadi, who was his friend, with whom he shared a very special relationship that was beyond everybody's understanding. The way author has described Draupadi's anxiousness, after learning that something ominous is going to happen to his friend is remarkable. I have not read something so beautiful, so real... And their last conversation is just something to be read again and again because the meaning of it is deep enough, to be not able to be understood in one go... The way Krishna describes their relationship, their love, their bond! 

Then, his last conversation with Rukmini, who always cribbed on not getting enough time from her lord! The way Krishna explains her about his love, about his passion and about her place in his life will take your breath away, it will make you fall in for this God, who lived like a man!

I would quote one thing from Krishna's explanation to Rukmini on asking about her place in his life:
"Beloved you know you are not ordinary and can never be! How can Krishna's better half be ordinary? When I narrated in Gita to Parth and said, 'Among all the elephants, I am Airavat, among trees, I am peepal, among the cows, I am Kamdhenu, among the rivers, I am Ganga and among the women, I am Rukmini' I meant it. My beloved, you are supreme!"

What a player of words, what an amazing orator! 

Last but not the least, his telepathic conversation with Radha, was enough to bring out all the emotions in a reader! It's indescribable. It's beautiful. One actually needs to read it, to understand what I mean...

There is obviously a mention of other things from Krishna's life, as well from Gokul, to Mathura, to Kurukshetra, to Pandava, to Kauravas, to Yadav's, to Balram, to Yashoda Maa, to all the incidents and people who defined Krishna's life, perfectly knitted in his stories with the four women. The former not at all dominating the later. 

And the best message of the book: Even God couldn't save himself from falling in for the human attachments. Even God is facing trouble to get rid of those. That powerful human attachments are!

And the love that Krishna describes, is beyond our capacity to decipher, is much beyond us: the mortals to comprehend!

Go ahead, read it! It's much more than amazing... 

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea - Dina Nayeri

I finished this novel in a a very short span as compared to what I take to read others. I am really finding it so difficult to hunt the correct superlatives that can describe what and how this novel made me feel. It left an everlasting impact on me. Even after so many days of reading it, it haunt me! That strong the story of this novel is.

I want to begin with saying that its just a fine treasure of fascinating dreams weaved together to create an impeccable story.

Its gripping, enthralling and mesmerizing. It has the power of taking the reader to some other world, the world of beautiful dreams of Saba (the protagonist), hostile and intimidating realities of Iran and author's astounding imagination.

This is a story of Saba, an eleven-year-old girl, growing up in a small village in Iran in 80s. Her mother and sister disappears, leaving Saba and her father alone in Iran. Saba is certain that they have moved to America without her. And Saba starts conjuring Mahtab through her imaginations, a major part of which is born out of  illegal magazines, television shows, and rock music which she loves to collect. She starts creating beautiful stories about her sister's life in the Western world. She made Mahtab a western version of hers.

While growing up in the tenderness of the community of her local village, she struggles with the limited possibilities in post-revolutionary Iran. Saba’s world has all the grit and viciousness of the real life under the new Islamic regime, imaginations of her sister’s life in US started giving her wings of freedom that Saba can only dream of. Saba envisions that there is another way for her story to unfold.

This novel exploits the power of imagination to heal the reader's psychological needs. The story and the characters surely touches the reader deeply with such an intensity that leaves you astonished

Its emotional, beautiful, captivating, imaginative, creative, full of dreams, impeccable, enchanting, remarkable and just so marvelously bewitching and profoundly meaningful. And if these are the things that you, as a reader look forward to while reading a novel, this novel would surely prove to be a treat for you and for your senses:)

Go ahead and you will not be disappointed.


And the mountains echoed: Khaled Hosseini

I finished reading "And the mountains echoed" by Khaled Hosseini.

Let me begin by getting you acquainted with the fact that I am a huge-huge fan of this one author. He is simply remarkable. With his books, I just have no patience to wait and read it leisurely. I mean, be it Kite Runner, be it The thousand splendid suns or be it this latest one, I have finished them all in a span of just 2-3 days! Even I feel astonished and wonder from where do I manage to steal time for his books! I have no idea and genuinely, I have no idea! I just leave everything and surrender myself completely to his books. Man, they have that power, that amazing command over you. The story just engulfs you and something continuously keeps on poking you from inside to know the story ahead.

Anyways, back to the review of the book. It is good but only if you do not have the same expectations of Kite Runner from it.

I loved the way it started. It began with a bedtime tale being told to two children, Abdullah and Pari, by their father. The story is just beautiful and immediately gets resided in your heart. The story of Abdullah and Pari, who are brother and sister and just have a very special bond between them, is not at all captured effectively! Hosseini just got diverted and concentrated too much on other stories. Abdullah and Pari just didn't get the kind of attention they really deserved and thus, Hosseini deprived the reader of really feeling their pain, their love, their bond, their relationship. Which is a pity. Really! These two characters had the power, the potential which was just not at all explored and was, infact wasted

No doubt the writing is amazing, as usual. But somehow, this book doesn't have that same enchanting magic, that Hosseini 's previous 2 had. There is something, some link missing in this one.

Guess the problem is, it becomes too stretched in between somewhere and thats probably because Hosseini, this time experimented with putting in too many stories and that too, with an exhaustive description. He took his own time in describing each and every detail of the story of too many characters (almost the complete life). Too many tales have been woven and have been forced to put under one umbrella. And this is what created the whole mess. Attimes, you just feel lost. Infact, all the stories are so strong in themselves that they all have the capacity to be individual books, and that too very easily.

However, all the stories mentioned in this book are just amazing and superb. All of them carry a sort of unique essence and something special.  Though all the stories have something or the other, that is very depressing and very miserable, again which I did not appreciate much. Infact all of them carries an unbearable, intolerable sadness

Needless to say that all the characters and stories had some or the other link with Afghanistan. And as done in his previous books as well, the story very well explains the complete era of wars, battles and exploitation that this country had gone through, the transformation and changes that its people have seen. But the good or rather surprising part is you read this in all the books of Hosseini, still you don't feel mundane, rather you feel a strong surge of pain within you for the people of Afghanistan, for the loss that they have incurred and that too, without any mistake of theirs.

Nonetheless, once you start this book, it's hard to put it down. Its definitely good for one read:) Go ahead, it will definitely not disappoint you:) Just do not carry the expectations of the same magic that Kite Runner had. And you will like it:)

Keep smiling...

Timepass:the memoirs of Protima Bedi

Just finished reading Timepass:the memoirs of Protima Bedi. I am really confused on where to begin with! Anyways, I loved the name "Timepass". It implies that we all are here in this world to do timepass in our own ways.True!

So, this book is completely about Protima bedi: wife of Kabir Bedi and one of the most famous of modern Indian classical dancers (of the Odissi style). This book had just shaken me completely from inside. Before reading this book, I had heard few things about Protima Bedi: the famous and the obvious being the one  where she apparently ran nude on a beach in Mumbai!!! As per this book, she was at Anjuna beach with hippies and everybody was in the same condition and so, was she! Somebody took her pics there and made up the Mumbai story. And what else, as usual, she was given the tag of being crazy!

Let me brief you about this lady's character first: a
- A rebel
- Insurgent
- Audacious
- Untamable
- Passionate to do things her way
- Honest
- Bold enough to challenge the conventional thoughts/way of our society
- Someone who did not stop living her life her way because of anyone: her parents, her husband, her lovers and even, her children
- Clearly who is wild enough to get labeled as 'crazy' from this society

Little about her life:
- Had a disturbed childhood because her family was kind of 'dysfunctional'. But I guess, noone has a perfect childhood. Everyone faces one or the other issues in the childhood. Anyways, she was ignored as a child. The weird thing is she herself further created a 'dysfunctional' family.
- Had been a victim of child abuse!
- Was a rebel from childhood itself and yes, no need to mention she became a pain for her parents
- Gave complete liberty to her sexuality once it sprouted
- Slept with countless men. Even had friends in benefit
- Turned to modeling. Off course, against her parents wishes
- Had a live-in with Kabir Bedi after running away from home, continuing to sleep with other men
- Married Kabir bedi-> continued to sleep with other men-> he had an affair with parveen babi and others, with complete knowledge to Parotima-> They both kept on sleeping with others-> finally one day they got divorced-> she asked for almost no alimony
- Her children were to remain with her
- She continued sleeping with others
- She kept on searching for something to sothe her excitement, something to channelize her energy and to find a purpose of her living.
- This search ended, when she met her guru Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and fell in love with the Odissi style of classical Indian dancing
- Became one of the most acclaimed Indian Classical Odissi dancers within surprisingly  a very short time
- Raised a very unusual, diverse and exceptional dancing school, Nrityagram (with a lot of difficulty) teaching multiple dancing disciplines and made it into a premier institution
- Paid no attention to the feelings of families when she slept with the man of the house
- And astonishingly,  along the way, doing all this, she raised 2 kids, a girl and a boy. Sadly, the boy Siddharth became schizophrenic as a youngster and committed suicide at the age of 26
- Took Sanyas (Off course, not exactly in the traditional way)
- Died in a landslide in the arms of the Himalayas while on a pilgrimage. The body was never recovered and Pooja bedi mentions that she always wanted to die in the arms of the nature

My Take:

Let me begin with mentioned that I loved the book: not for its uniqueness or its probity or its boldness but just because of this lady who had so much audacity, courage to reveal such things/secrets about her to the world that people die of hiding and concealing

Its beautiful, emotional, different, unique and yes, insane. This lady has lived many lifetimes in just one lifetime! Was fearless of everything. So bluntly, she has mentioned each and everything about her life in this book: her affairs (with the names: few famous ones!), her feelings, her fickle mindedness, her search for the perfect man, the 'n' no of times she had fallen in love.

I do not say that she was a perfect lady. I know this piece is not 'her' review, its her book's review. But her character is so strong that I really can't stop myself from mentioning few things about her!

She had her own share of wrong things. Like: She was extremely hurt when Kabir left her for Parveen, she even goes off to an extent of saying "Parveen was getting what she deserved" when in a family function of Kabir, Parveen was ignored. Why? because Parveen broke her home... But Protima forgot to imply the same thing on herself. For her, her men were her love or vice-verse and everything was fair in love (lets remove 'war' here)

I was really aghast to know the way she had raised her children. They were sent to a boarding school at a very young age and she was busy in finding her 'purpose' in life and sleeping with other men.
Nothing wrong in that. I just felt bad for the 2 poor little souls. Yes, its been mentioned in the book as well: that she regreted a lot about it. A lot!

Apart from these little things, I think this lady was tremendous and full of energy. She was completely different from what people expect a lady to be. Never had any qualms of doing things her own way. Passionate about whatever she does: Dance, building Nityagram from just a mere piece of land in the suburbs of Bangalore. Extremely honest. I salute her spirit and also, Pooja Bedi's.
She once asked her mother, “Why are you always running away? You ran away from your mother and father, you ran away from your husband, then you ran away from us, your children, and now you’re running away to Nrityagram. Why?” And she happened to run away from Nrityagram too.

The most emotional part/ chapter of the book is "my flesh and blood", where the painful journey of her son Siddharth has been mentioned. Your heart just goes off for the mother who sees her son suffering but is just helpless. Hats off to her: the way she supported her son in his journey of pain
Here is her son's suicide note! Obviously, I have no words, nothing to say. Its just something to feel...
Well, this is it.

Please don’t feel any ‘guilt’ at this. Its my way of taking control and opting out and, strange as it may seem, I’m going happy, not sad.

I did not get to explore the other side. If there is a rebirth, I hope I come back with the faculties to be a technical genius. The times that we live in are so exciting.

I’m sure there’ll be some anger on your sides…but I hope it passes soon.

Booie, keep smiling…huska huska huska…good luck with the baby.

Mum, I love you the most of all…big kisses on your fat cheeks…please don’t be angry.

Love to all.

There’s a check for $1,000 for death-related expenses.

I don’t want to be buried in India-bury me here, cremate me here or cremate me in India but don’t bury me in India. Something in my sensibility doesn’t want my body to be lying in India.


You should definitely read this one: It gives you a different prospective towards life and this is by far one of the best biographies I have read or heard about. Its honest: what else you need!