Category: Book Reviews

Harp – Book Review (BlogAdda)

First of all thanks to Blogadda for this opportunity and the patience they have showed. I feel terrible that I could not complete my review in the time they had requested. My work and personal commitments + travel took up most of my time in the last month. These are the most busy times at work and I found it difficult to devote time to the book and then write the review.

I volunteered for the program with intention of getting back to blogging + increasing my reading which has slackened severely in the last few years. I envy those who can manage work, travel, and finish books in the time one takes to finish off biscuits. When Blogadda tweeted about wanting bloggers residing in Europe to be part of the book review, I decided to volunteer , wondering what the topic of the book would entail.

The premise of Harp by Nidhi Dalmia seemed very interesting. The setting in the late 60s – a time when India was in teens and her young generation was eager to seek adventure in the western world. The young breaking free from the norm and the age old traditions. A rebellious streak, a daring to try something anew and nursing a fearless craving to travel the world. The setting Europe – which has some of the most beautiful places on the planet.

Ashok the protagonist , born in an educated business family, joins his father’s Dairy products factory soon after college. He is the only son with two sisters and enjoys many privileges compared to his sisters, given the attitude of parents & society to sons vs.. Girls. Much against his parent’s wishes, he earns his scholarships and ventures out to Europe, to intern at different dairy companies. And on this journey, he encounters many a romantic adventures.

This is where my interest stopped, I waited for Ashok’s character to build up, his romantic affairs, the build up to meeting different women on his journey, establishing a reason to get together, his struggles in the new land, far away from the comforts of home or his relationships with his parents and sisters. I barely read through 30% of the book – neither did the language work for me nor the characters; I kept waiting for the story to take a turn.

Europe has some of the most picturesque towns and cities and I was most disappointed that the author did not manage to bring alive the beauty of the surroundings in her book. I kept craving for the minor details that would paint the romantic setting associated with most places in Europe. The writing was immature , where the story had a stop-start-stop-start narrative. The sentences felt cut and there seemed no flow from one sentence to the other. If this was a first attempt, it surely needed lots of editing. Ashok’s character seemed weak, more driven by lust than love or genuine attraction. His interests were randomly established and just felt forced when he met the women. I did not feel any connection or curiosity to what happens next with the central characters.

I did try my best to give this book a shot to complete but I just could not. If the book is good, you will find a way from the busy schedules to complete it but sadly Harp did not motivate me enough to finish it. I hope the next books I volunteer to read for this program manage to hold my interest for a longer time than Harp did.

The Immortals of Meluha

I’m an absolute sucker for Hindu mythologies – the Mahabharta, the Ramayana, the DashaAvtaar, the SaptaRishis, the Devas, the Asuras, the Apsaras – the triumph of good over evil.

I blame my mum who read me a chapter of the famous epics every night when I was a kid – who composed songs of Rama and Krishna and then I blame my father who bought me all possible books on these epics and each character that I could read as a kid – Long Live Amar Chitra Katha!

I had not read any book on Hindu Mythology in a long time until I got hold of “Palace of Illusions” a year and half back.

Krishna is my favourite God, so is Ganesha , but Shiva has fascinated me the most. The loner, the one with the bad temper, the recluse, the ardent lover, the superlative dancer, the protector.

I had heard such great reviews of Amish’s Shiva Triology that I finally picked up the two books released on my trip to India in December. The Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas. I finished the first one yesterday within 2 working days ( I get just about 2-3 hours in the day to read the book given my workloads at home and office, so I’m proud of myself for this mini-achievement given that my reading habit has taken a beating post my move to Dubai). It is a book that you cannot keep down – every chapter, every page is a mystery waiting to be unravelled.

If you love Hindu mythology don’t give this one a miss. Secret of Nagas has begun and should be completed by the weekend. Can’t wait for the Oath of Vayuputras scheduled for this year end release.

Shiva – the NeelKanth, Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi – always shrouded in mystery and Amish attempts to demystify Shiva’s phenomenon.

(P.S: Moneyball reading was happening on the parallel – had to put it on hold after realising the breaks in reading were not doing justice to it. So I have kept it for the days I can finish it in one sitting – what a fascinating, intelligent read so far, but a bit technical and need to know a little bit of baseball to get a hang of it all , or probably to enjoy it a bit more )

The One Who Will

I’ve a dozen books piled up on my bookshelf staring angrily at me. I’ve not done justice to them. I’m halfway through “ The One Who Will” by Jack Egan currently. I have not yet completed Steve’s autobiography “Out of my Comfort Zone” ( I know I’ll get murdered for this confession by my friend PK who gifted this one to me!) but that will be off my to-do list sooner than later.

Jack Egan never got a chance to speak to Waugh when writing this book and the book is a compilation of thoughts from people who knew Waugh as a cricketer, paper clippings, some book references and his tour diaries. The book still makes for interesting reading.

And why am I writing this before completing the book – cause our GOD will break this man’s record of 168 tests tomorrow as he steps onto P Sara Oval – Colombo.

I’m at the half-way stage in the book where Australia has commenced the 95 tour of WI – the tour that turned the tide for the record breaking Aus side. I’ve not yet reached the double hundred that changed the course for all – for Steve and for Australia. I will share interesting tit-bits from the rest of book once I complete it – until then satisfy yourselves with some excerpts on this wonderful sporting hero . However grumpy he might have been – his game always brought a smile to our faces.

On how much he was respected by his then captain Allan Border.1987 WC :

“The rest of us have had legs of jelly but he seems to go ahead and just do it”

He’s the sort of bloke that you know is not going to freeze. If he gets hit , it’s because the bloke’s played a good shot”

A few things on Waugh’s grumpy attitude:

Waugh had over the years gained a reputation among umpires in Australia as “always reluctant to leave the crease” . Mike Coward once wrote in the Sydeny Morning Herald, critical of Waugh’s attitude:

“Just when will Steve Waugh lighten up?He presents an unhappy and unsmiling soul, and this is such a pity; cause in many ways he is a very special cricket person.”

Peter Roebuck described him as the bloke whose lawnmower has broken down” 🙂

The long wait for the much awaited first test hundred – Headingley, Ashes 1989. Ian Healy narrates in his book “Hands and Heals”:

“ The relief and joy was palpable. Stephen put his head down, determined to get as many as he could. That was his way of savouring the moment. When he reached 137, he looked up to the players’ balcony and waved at Tubby Taylor , who had made 136. ‘Gotcha’ he signalled.”

When he faced his first failure, Steve Waugh on being dropped in Jan 1991 from the test team and replaced by his twin Mark Waugh:

It doesn’t really sink in until the plane is ready to leave and you are not on it”

When in 12th, the career advisers asked the Waugh twins what they wanted to do – both said ‘Play cricket in England’

Confidence. Lynette ( Steve’s wife): The first time Steve visited her place for dinner, someone asked what he was going to do for a living – he said ‘Play cricket for Australia’. The whole table went quiet.

His sense of humor:

In his early Sheffield Sheild trips he roomed with Imran Khan. They used to get lot of phone calls , mostly for Imran who was out all the time. Steve would answer the phone and say, “Hello, when would you like to come up?”

Against New Zealand, Australia was 300-1 at Hobart. Taylor was quite stodgy and crowd began getting abusive. When he came back to the dressing room and started complaining about the crowd’s ignorance and slow handclapping, Steve replied, “ Actually it was us mate, we started it”.

And how he became the master of singles – an art he became famous for in his career.

Bob Simpson worked hard on Waugh’s technique. Simpson narrates: “First you got to understand it doesn’t matter how bad you look avoiding the bouncer, it’s better to avoid than try to play it down if you are not capable of playing it down.

And that’s when he appreciated the full significance of the singles. Stephen had always been a four-hitter and so we worked hard on the ball coming in to the body. Move across to the off, all the weight on the right foot and you can roll through it, push it away to leg, get off the strike so that the bloke can’t get at you again. I don’t care who it is , if you get enough short bouncers, you start to worry about them – anyone who says they like fast bowling is an absolute liar.”

And those are just bits and pieces of what I’m reading now. The golden period is yet to begin,loads to come and loads to share. Watch this space for more.

Until then let’s celebrate the bloke’s achievements, one of which will be broken tomorrow by our very own little master. Let’s once again remind ourselves how blessed we have been to have witnessed Tugga play live!


Is what made Arjun the greatest warrior of his times – not his supreme prowess for there were two more warriors greater than him in talent and in deeds.

Eklavaya – Who learnt from the clay image of the Guru who refused to teach him archery skills; and the same guru who took his right thumb so that Arjuna would remain the best archer in the world

Karna: The unlucky one, the one whom Kripa and Draupadi insulted when he could’ve easily won the Swayamwar that Arjuna finally won. The one who gave up his armour and jewels (that made him invincible) to Lord Indra, father of Arjun. The one who spared his brothers of death despite overpowering them. The one who did not disobey his dear friend Duryodhana and gave up the Shakti Shastra to kill Ghatotkacha knowing well this was the sole weapon that could destroy Arjun in the ultimate war.

Destiny is what we cannot fight even if we want to – Krishna and Vyaasa reiterate this truth throughout the epic Mahabhartha.

Since my childhood this mythological tale fascinated me more than any epic narrated to me. Just finished  reading Chitra Banerjee Divakurni’s “Palace of Illusions” – Draupadi’s Mahabhartha; it’s an enticing read and this post might run into a thousand pages if I decide to pen down my thoughts – I may do that later but this I had to write down today.

Can we fight our destiny – can we overcome it? The Mahabhartha seems to suggest otherwise.

3 books, 3 stories and 3 moods…

I came back from Mumbai with a few must reads on my shelf. Before I hit the 3 huge cricket books I thought I’d finish the short ones first. ‘Marrying Anita’ by Anita Jain, ‘Q&A’ by Vikas Swarup and ‘My Friend Sancho’ by Amit Varma.

I’m not particular when it comes to books – I’ve no strict likings to a particular genre. If someone tells me it’s a good read, I’ll head for it right away. Having heard fair reviews of all the 3 books, I thought I’d buy them right away.

I started with ‘Marrying Anita’. An autobiographical novel by the author. It is a story of an Indian girl in her thirties, born and brought up in USA, who comes to the shores of her motherland in search of the perfect husband. I thought it might make an interesting read. Indian marriages are by far the best entertainment – they have all the drama, comedy, misery, tragedy packed in few days. No wonder movies around the subject of marriage are a huge hit! The book by itself was a big let down. I firmly believe a good book either has to have good plot or good characters, having none means that it is headed for disaster. But in recent times, where  good marketing of a bad movie ensures that the production house breaks even, good marketing of an average book makes it a best-seller. Marrying Anita is more of the main protagonist’s sexual exploits with all the men she meets rather than any story or depth to the characters involved. Most men she meets are weak and I wonder how a woman can make the mistake of giving herself to the same sort of people time and again. I was bored half-way through the book and wondered where and when it would end. Will not recommend this one to spend your money on.

Amit Varma is an excellent blogger & journalist, and I do follow his blog India Uncut like most bloggers in the blogosphere do. He is sharp, witty, sarcastic, funny and at the same time very knowledgeable and intellectual. These very qualities come out in bits and pieces in his main protagonist ‘Abir Ganguly’ especially when the young journalist is talking to himself. But just like ‘Marrying Anita’, ‘My Friend Sancho’ lacks a solid plot. Just when you think the story is building up, it comes crashing down. Other than Abir no character is well-developed in the book, especially Abir’s love interest Muneeza. I did like the fact that Amit has kept the writing simple which makes for smooth reading. It’s good for a one time read and I do hope that his next books will make for more engrossing reading.

Finally, Q&A by Vikas Swarup makes for one hell of a gripping read. I’ve still not seen ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ since I wanted to read the book first. I try to read the books first before I watch the movie based on a book. No movie can do justice to the book and having read the book you just understand the plot and characters better! Of course the disappointment that the movie can never be as good as the book will always persist.

With every chapter Swarup raises the reader’s curiosity. Q & A is the kind of book where you don’t want a break and want to finish it at one go. So what did Ram Mohammad Thomas get as the next question, what happened in his life that he could answer this one. I’m not going to narrate the story as that would mean spoiling the reader’s interest in the book. But it sure tells you that life can be one hell of a quiz show and you need to be really lucky to get the questions that you happened to know the answers to. That’s what Ram tells his lawyer Smita.

Every chapter in the book deals with Ram’s life of eighteen years and it’s a mere coincidence and his luck that he gets those very questions to which he knows the answers to. Vikas Swarup narrates a story whose climax is unpredictable and that is what makes for an interesting book. Every chapter is a story in its own and it all takes an interesting turn at the end which the reader cannot guess. Go for it, this one is a must have and one you would want to read again and again.

The next 3 in line belong to my first love – Cricket:-) Tugga’s autobiography, Gavaskar’s biography and the Other God’s compilation of his works.

Work schedules are hectic and hence more time will be needed to complete these relatively huge works of excellence but as and when the reading is completed , a review will be up on this blog.

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