About the Book:
BHARATVARSHA, LAND OF THE ARYAS: 270 BC
About the Book:
BHARATVARSHA, LAND OF THE ARYAS: 270 BC
TITLE: The Hounds of Shiva
AUTHOR: Preetha Rajah Kannan
PUBLISHER: Jaico Publishing House
As its mahout goaded the mammoth royal elephant to the open space where Navukkarasu was held, the beast trumpeted in fury, knocking down walls and ornamental arches in wanton aggression. The earth shook under its tread and the crowd surged back in fear.
Navukkarasu fearlessly stood his ground asserting, “The Cosmic Dancer who wears a garment of elephant hide will protect me.”
The animal charged forward – only to stop short before the saint. In an instant, all aggression leached out of the beast. As docile as a lamb, the elephant circumambulated Navukkarasu, clumsily fell to its knees, and raised its trunk in homage to him. Lumbering to its feet, it then carefully backed away from its intended victim.
Hounds of Shiva is a treasure house of tales with impassioned, heroic acts of sacrifice, devotion and service in the lives and times of the Nayanmars – the sixty-three Shaivite saints who were exemplars of bhakti. Kannappa gouges out his eye to heal Shiva’s wound; Punitavati renounces her youth and beauty to follow the Lord as an emaciated ghoul; Siruthondar sacrifices his own son at Shiva’s command; Iyarpahai gifts his beloved wife to another man; Samandhar raises a boy from the dead; Poosal builds an intricate Shiva temple in his heart.
But the book’s hero is Lord Shiva, who assumes myriad disguises to sport with his devotees, blessing and testing them. Filled with astounding miracles, Hounds of Shiva is an untold tale of the Blue-throated Lord and a feast for the mind and soul.
A journey into the lives of some of the greatest Shiva Bhakts, ‘The Hounds of Shiva’ is both interesting and enlightening. The stories 37 in all, introduce us to a bhakti of very high order in simple, crisp and lucid language. The glossary at the end of the book is a ready reckoner of sorts and makes the read easy to comprehend and appreciate.
Short and crisp, the stories move from that of one Nayanmar- Shaivite Saint – to another with ease. While each story gives us an insight into the level of love that that particular Saint has towards Lord Shiva and the extent the said person could go to, to keep his faith in the Lord intact, the penance and sacrifice he / she could undertake to attain salvation at the lotus feet of the Lord, it also enlightens us to the fact that the life of Saints is anything but easy and that nothing can be attained via shortcuts. The road to salvation is tricky and dangerous. It takes its toll in the form of renunciation or extreme suffering. So the life of the blessed one is not exactly something that mere mortals need be jealous of. They suffer; they strive and earn their reward after undertaking a journey arduous without a sigh, and undergoe untold miseries with a smile on the face and the ‘Om Namaha Shivaya’ mantra on the lips.
Though the blurb mentions Shiva as the book’s Hero, I personally felt that the Lord was just an instrument to define and extol the virtues of the Shaivite Saints and that it is they who are the true Heroes. Had it not been for their unwavering faith in the Lord, they would never have undergone the extreme trials and tribulations required of them, with a stoic attitude.
Another thing that struck me was the level of understanding each story brings out, between the family members of each of these Saints. It goes without saying that in a way these Saints were able to heed their calling and follow their heart without an iota of doubt or misgiving, because they had the unstinting support of their family be it their parents or spouse.
Gems of knowledge in the form of snippets nestled in a box within each chapter. These gems can pertain to anything from the significance or history of a particular temple, a text, a special day or even a cult. They are truly ‘delectable’ (read knowledge enhancing).
An easy read, yet one that needs to be read without a hurry in order to imbibe the essence which is true bhakti.
It was the month of April when nature attired herself in a new garb with little smooth green leaves sprouting on some trees, while the others had not yet shed completely their brownish yellow leaves. A mixture of dusty yellow fallen lifeless leaves under the massive trees and the seasonal flowers past their full bloom presented a spectacle of life and death. One had to step over the crispy fragile remains of what once was a prized greenery to get near the rows of pansies, zinnias, lilies and other flowers to see the minute tapestry of the multicoloured spectacle amidst the crackling dead leaves. The winter’s ruthlessness had made way for the pleasant breeze, dusty at times, that replaced the cold winds of February. It was a pleasant, beautiful, sombre and placid morning in a strange land when Sumitra joined the school at Domod as a lecturer. It could have been the month of July with blackish-grey clouds suppressing the bright onset of the dawn or the torrential rains drenching her on her first day of school; it could have been the month of December with its biting cold necessitating the full stock of woollen clothes. Nevertheless, out of all the random eccentricities of the transferring authority, she was slated to join the school during the best period of the year, and it sure augured well. A placid look came over her face when she saw the red cap over a green body, the gulmohar, topping the fresh green leaves of the massive tree at the end of the road leading to the school. The April bliss.
She got the first shock when she found the distance cut short abruptly. The school happened to be in full view, even as she was jostling through the crowd, manoeuvring the sharp cuts and turns of the street; an expectation of an ideal location of the school belied. Why this proximity? A school in a bazaar? How nauseating and depressing?
TITLE: The Globetrotters
AUTHOR: Arefa Tehsin
ILLUSTRATOR: Nafisa Nandini Crishna
PUBLISHER: Puffin (27 June 2018)
TARGET GROUP: 9-11 years
A bully needs a prey to satisfy his ego, but what happens if the bully himself falls prey to his own doings. Well, the story of Hudhud a mean and nasty little boy, imparts some truly meaningful lessons not only in terms of empathy and love, but also regarding different living forms that are very much a part of Planet Earth.
Children are prone to playing pranks. So what’s wrong with Hudhud? Harmless pranks are a big ‘no’ as far as Hudhud is concerned. The headache of his classmates, teachers and innocent creatures too, Hudhud learns some eye-opening lessons ‘the hard way’ when his strange new history teacher visits him on the night Sameer his classmate and a victim of his insensitivity, goes missing. Cursed and left alone to fend for himself Hudhud must find answers to all wrongs and for that he must roam the vast earth in the form of some of the greatest migratory beings.
Setting out as a blue whale calf separated from his mother in the deep ocean; as a trusting caterpillar who befriends a hunting spider; as a competitive caribou on a perilous trek; as an Arctic tern too scared to fly . . . But fly across the world he must, if he hopes to ever return home, Hudhud’s surreal journey takes him across the globe where he encounters some truly majestic species, comes face to face with danger and death, learns to differentiate between friend and foe and understands the meaning of empathy and love.
Interesting and engaging, The Globetrotters is a remarkable tribute to those innumerable species that inhabit the sky, land and waters of earth. What stands out as one moves from story to story in this vast amount of information that’s packed in just 197 pages which also see some wonderful illustrations put in. This speaks volumes of the author’s knowledge and language skills.
Reading the book is like going on a safari where one comes face to face with the marvels of the oceans, the desert and the poles. Each story imparts a life lesson and at the same time helps the young reader understand the characters (life form) involved in the same, their habitat, mannerisms, food habits, etc. The imagery takes us on the arduous trek/ travel undertaken by them (mainly the mighty migratory creatures) and gives us an insight into their stamina and determination.
What does the adult reader take away from the book?
The joy of reliving childhood years!
The book offers the adult reader a trip down memory lane, a revisit to those classroom sessions made enjoyable and lovely with some lively role plays, amazing textbooks and equally amazing teachers who even without the internet or all the tech- tools available today, made learning a wonderful experience. One also has the advantage of carrying away bits of information that may have not been available in those days.
The language is crisp and lucid. The illustrations compliment the content and the style of writing is amazing. Each story is testimony to the fact that the author Arefa Tehsin, is truly a globetrotter and a wonderful story-teller. ‘The Globetrotters’ also voices the author’s concern regarding the steady deterioration of the health of land, water and air on Planet Earth.
The icing on the cake (read ‘story’)
The twist at the end. Loved it.
A book for both the young and old alike, with the power to make you sit upright.
Forced to team up with video game designer Ashwin Deo, who is too attractive for his own good, she finds life becoming a whole lot more complicated when he turns out to be her new neighbour. How can she maintain a professional distance with this charming troublemaker who believes in getting up close and personal?
To make matters worse, her ex tries to manipulate her loved ones to work his way back into her life. Hysterical siblings, a cantankerous client, an ex who will not take no for an answer, and a blow hot blow cold neighbour… Sanjana is sleepless in the City of Dreams! Can she do what Ashwin dares her to–create a few ripples even if it upsets her family?
Adite Banerjie discovered the wonderful world of books at an early age which sparked her interest in writing. After a fulfilling and exciting career as a business journalist she turned her attention to fiction.
Three of her books have been published by Harlequin/Harper Collins India. She is now committed to being an indie author.
She also writes screenplays and in 2017 one of her scripts made it to the semi-finals of the prestigious Academy Nicholl Fellowships.
When she is not grappling with her current work-in-progress, she enjoys spending time with her husband and watching back-to-back movies.
She loves to connect with her readers and writers. .
As the divine Blue Lotus Indivara sprouts an ominous red petal, its guardians must do everything in their power to protect it and their kingdom. Aryavir and Sitanshu march to the border of Kalipura for a bloody showdown with the Chandraketu King Divyendu. It seems as if the Kamal Akshi Army with its peerless long-haired Kesakuta warriors cannot lose a war, but the wily enemies of Kamalkund have diabolical plans that are not written in any rule book. Thanks to the evil machinations of the Mayakari Queen Tamasi and wily King Kratu, Aryavir and Sitanshu are facing the battle of their lives.
With hidden ancient secrets that are known only to the revered Maheshwari Masters, the mythological Old World is about to be plunged into intrigue and danger its denizens could never have imagined. Powerful kings face mortality, relationships are tested to their breaking point and the Great War of Sompur will bring completely unexpected repercussions.
Written with the classic Indian ethos, Sitanshu, the second part of the Guardians of the Blue Lotus Trilogy, pays homage to India’s magnificent mythological heritage and takes the reader on a journey into the heart of human passions.
Mesmerizing cover design and an interesting blurb combined with a wonderful prequel that goes by the title ‘Áryavir,’ beckons the mythological fiction buff to pick up ‘Sitanshu’ and I must admit that this one is a notch up compared to its prequel.
Picking up from where Áryavir’ ( Read my review of the book here) ends, ‘Sitanshu’ takes the reader on a ride far different from its prequel. Interesting and captivating there is a lot of action, there are intriguing paranormal sightings and a one of its kind encounter with the mythological Maheshwari Masters. Palace intrigues combined with startling revelations test relationships. Greed gets the better of good sense and love blossoms in unexpected quarters. Amidst all the action we get to know some interesting characters, see the birth of a new star and witness a positive change in equations as far as relationships are concerned. Little Eashwari with her intuitive powers puzzles all who come into contact with her and plays a pivotal role in taking the story forward. As one moves forward along a path ( read) full of twists and turns, one can’t but help admire the author’s skill at keeping her reader/s hooked. Relationships fail, new ones are built. Secrets are revealed, characters as well as readers are taken by surprise. The brave survive, deceit takes a beating. The foundation stone for a new and final part of the trilogy is laid.
The characters, again a huge cast, are well developed. One can actually visualize them and perhaps even live them out as one encounters them. There are some like little Easwari, Eshan and Lakshya who bring a smile to your face, and then others like Tamasi, Kratu, Divyendu, Drisana and Nyka who by their thoughts and actions leave you gritting your teeth. There are people like Queen Mother Chandrabha and Urmasi who leave you confused and wondering and then there are people like Sitanshu and Reva whom you can understand without going too deep into their mind. In short this is one story where you get a glimpse of all shades of human character and all types of human emotions.
Pace is racy, language is simple, crisp and lucid and the style is apt.
A book that’s sure to keep the reader hooked and guessing.
A sneak peak into the book
A sample to give you a taste of the story and the author’s style of writing
From his residence at Brahmaloka, he turned his attention towards Devaloka—on another sphere altogether—where the devas lived and was greeted by total silence. The space around him had become dark. Maybe it was time for him to go to sleep too. The exhausted Brahma, despite his ability to see in all directions, didn’t notice the Asura Hayagriva who was eyeing him from far away Earth.
Hayagriva, the asura with the head of a horse and the body of a man, was built like a small mountain. He was over twenty-five feet tall, with wide and well-muscled shoulders, his arms and legs strong and muscular, even more so than a horse’s. With his thick, dark mane swaying in the gentle breeze, Hayagriva stood there, his arms akimbo, avidly watching the creator, hoping to get something out of Brahma when the latter was in the throes of deep sleep.
The brilliant blue sky was greying by the minute as twilight was taking over rapidly around Brahma’s abode that was positioned way above the Earth, while Hayagriva was standing close to where we have the north pole today, keeping an eye on the creator with the help of his mystical powers. Yes, the asuras who were evil, also had powers of mysticism, same as the devas. The only difference was that they were mortal unlike the immortal Demi-Gods.
Hayagriva’s waiting didn’t go waste. As gentle snores emanated from Brahma, out jumped the four Vedas from his nostrils. It was not as if they all slid out at one go. But then, Hayagriva was patient. He had waited for this moment since a couple of thousand years. First came the Rig Veda. Hayagriva pounced on it with agility and swallowed it up whole, confident that no one could prise it from him now that it was sitting tight in his abdomen.
By now, Brahma was snoring a bit louder and quite rhythmically too. A few human years passed before the Yajur Veda slid out noiselessly. Hayagriva was wide awake unlike the creator and smiled broadly as he stood right below to catch the second Veda in both his hands. It took him but a few seconds to send it down his throat to settle down next to the first Veda.
Two more years went by before Sama Veda fell down with a thud. Yes, by now, even Hayagriva had fallen sleep. But the whirring sound of the Veda falling down through the air just before it touched the Earth woke him up. He galloped across on all fours and picked up the Veda from where it was lying on the Earth’s surface to swallow it up whole, almost choking on it as his throat was all dried up due to the deep sleep that he had woken up from. He quickly turned around and dipped his mouth into the sea, gulping down a few litres of water before the third Veda wound its way into his stomach. The sea close to that area contained fresh water due the melting of the icebergs and hence helped quench the asura’s thirst only too well.
The completely refreshed Hayagriva was grinning by now. There was just one more Veda that he needed to collect before he could take off. Then would follow what could only be called unadulterated entertainment! Let the Trimurti try to resurrect the next kalpa without the Vedas that were the very basis of orderly life for human beings. Hayagriva couldn’t wait to share his success with the other rakshasas. They would all be so happy with what he had done and will definitely make him their lord and master.
Just then he remembered all those apsaras in the court of Lord Indra. Hayagriva laughed softly, careful not to wake up the sleeping creator, too excited at the thought of having the heavenly beauties for his playmates. What a life!
He didn’t have to wait very long before the last one, Atharvana Veda, slid out of Brahma’s nostril. The alert Hayagriva caught it with alacrity, his laughter loud and triumphant now, not really caring if he woke the sleeping Brahma. Pushing the fourth Veda into his mouth, Hayagriva took to the air, flying far away from there, hoping to find a hiding place for the next thousand years. He knew that it wouldn’t be long before one of the Holy Trinity would come chasing after him to retrieve the Vedas. The chances were high that it would be Lord Vishnu since he was the one who helped preserve everything in the universe.
Hayagriva flew around the Earth a few times before deciding that the oceans were the place that would keep him safe and out of sight. Being a mayavi with fantastic magical powers that most of the rakshasas were endowed with, Hayagriva could breathe in water. There was no dearth of food either since the seas teemed with creatures both big and small. He tilted on his head and took a dive when he came across the biggest body of water that he could see from the air—the area that is known as the Pacific Ocean nowadays—and went deep within before he touched bottom.
Lord Brahma is highly disturbed when the four vedas are stolen from him the moment he goes to sleep at the end of the kalpa. It’s Asura Hayagriva who’s gotten away with the sacred scriptures.
Lord Vishnu offers to go to the creator’s rescue and takes the guise of Matsya, the fish.
King Satyavrath lands up with a tiny gold fish when he’s offering prayers to the Sun God one morning. Is the fish all that it appears to be?
How can Satyavrath help the fish?
Read more to find out the reason for Lord Vishnu taking the avatar on earth as Matsya.
Retold in simple, crisp language, this one on the first avatar of Mahavishnu, has all the elements required to make a read enjoyable, engaging and informative. Apart from putting across the reason for the birth of the Matsyavtar, the book also delves into the intricacies associated with the various yugas, the cycle of birth; apocalypse and extinction of life on earth every thousands of years and the emergence of a new dawn. It offers hope of destruction of evil forces and sends out a strong message that eventually good prevails.
The pace is perfect and the style does justice to the story. I loved the way the author has portrayed the growth of a small fish into one of monstrous proportion, and the final revelation of its true form towards the end. It’s sure to awe and garner interest among the little ones. And before I give my verdict I must add that the opening scene of Brahma being dead tired and yearning for a ‘short’ nap as well as Asura Hayagriva waiting to pounce on that unknown something that could possibly fall off from Devaloka ( Read ‘Brahma’) made me truly curious. I could not but help live Hayagriva’s anxiety. The Author does have a way of riveting you to your seat till you finish her book.
This one though a short read of just 38 pages, speaks volumes of the research that has gone into its creation.
A riveting one narrating a mythological story in a language and style that’s sure to hook readers both young and old alike, I’m giving this one a 👌 5.
TITLE: Trust Me Not
AUTHOR: Ankita Verma Datta
PUBLISHER: Jaico Publishing House
GENRE: Fiction ( Socio-Political Thriller)
Rising corporate star Reeva Rai is offered a prestigious position in a top-notch PR agency. It is the opportunity of a lifetime. But working with Enigmatic Billionaire Kunaal Kabi was not going to be easy. Even as she develops feelings for him, she is determined to prove herself.
But when an activist friend turns to her for help with a real-estate scam, Reeva has to make a high-stakes choice. Can she retain the credibility of her prominent clients while helping hundreds save their homes? As she digs deeper to find solutions, a nefarious scheme unravels with unexpected connections. A no-holds-barred race ensues, blood is drawn and Reeva is trapped in the eye of a political thunderstorm. If she succeeds, powerful people will have much to answer.
Intricate, engaging and cleverly crafted, ‘Trust Me Not’ has the power to keep the reader guessing till the end. Though a Socio- Political piece of fiction, the book does throw up a few relevant questions and nudges the reader to think. It brings out the grey side of the human character well, and at the same time gives us a hint of a blooming romance, one that is not smooth as a fresh jar of skippy. Sinister plans, shady deals and their execution are narrated with a finesse that makes one look forward to see the resultant impact with the eagerness of a kid curious to know whether the radio hides within its cabinet people whose voices are heard on tuning a station.
The twists, the turns and the climax lay bare the battles, the intricacies, and the agenda of the triumvirate made up of the political, the corporate and the media world. The complexities of relationships built and those ruined are brought out well.
The author has done a fine job as far as characterization is concerned. All the characters right from the protagonist to those that make just a passing appearance in the story, are well developed helping the reader easily relate to them, their style, mannerisms and thought process. This in turn translates to a feeling akin to direct involvement in the story, which I believe is essential for the same to be a resounding success.
Language plays an instrumental role in the success of a narrative. It is that conveyance which reaches a story/ plot to its destination the reader. If the conveyance sputters, it is bound to fail before it reaches the destination, even if it does reach, it will have offended/ put off its occupants by the harrowing experience. But, I’m glad the conveyance here was well-oiled, smooth and comfortable, offering a joyous ride (read).
The pace gave no room for the escape of a yawn, or the wish to stretch and shriek. It was perfect.
So what is that one thing/ things if any, that did not work for me?
Answer – A love triangle.
I felt it could be done away with. It was like that sixth finger that serves no purpose yet sticks out as odd.
A truly enjoyable read, one that’s sure to keep the reader hooked from the first word till the very end.