Indian Love Stories edited by Sudhir Kakar

Indian Love Stories edited by Sudhir Kakar

Reviewed by Shwetha H S

Title: Indian Love Stories
Editor: Sudhir Kakar
Imprint: Roli Books
ISBN: 9788174362797
Genre: Fiction, Romance

Sudhir Kakar is a distinguished psychoanalyst and writer. Winner of numerous honours including the Goethe Medal, his books have been translated into several languages. I hadn’t heard of him before reading this book. So, all of that in the first sentence of this paragraph is from the back of this book I am reviewing.

I had read Indian Love Stories about seven years ago and had completely forgotten about it. Probably because this didn’t mean much back then. Now that I have grown older, I can understand what each story is actually talking about between the lines.

The Empty Chest written by Indira Goswami in Assamese/Asamiya and translated to English by Pradipta Borgohain: talks about clinging on to past love until realizing that the other person has moved on. Indira has used cruel metaphors to convey the meaning of her story.

The House Combustible written by Subodh Ghosh in Bengali/Bangla and translated to English by Dipen Mitra: talks about why it is better for everyone to not rake the dried layers of past relationships and move on, even if you cross paths again, by not saying out loud what is going on in your mind to avoid embarrassment and retain self-respect.

Stains written by Manjula Padmanabhan: is not only a suffocating love story but is also about feminism, culture contrast, superiority-inferiority complex, taboo, standing up for self, and patriarchy. I had never come across any piece of writing that addressed all these topics at one go. My favourite quote from the short story is “The bleeding woman is penalized for being in that ‘state’: the correct condition, of course, is to be pregnant or nursing.” To me, this quote not only talks about women facing untouchability during periods in certain cultures, but also about situation of rape victims.

A New Triangle written by Ratanlal Shant in Kashmiri and translated to English by Neerja Mattoo: is a short story about a toxic marital relationship between two individuals. Towards the end of the story, it feels like they didn’t want to get married, but wanted to just live together and hadn’t realized it sooner. There is a mention of Harmukh peak, which apparently, has been attempted by only one non-Indian so far and hasn’t returned from his expedition. I had been on a trek on which I could see Harmukh peak from far and seeing its mention in this story brought back the memories. It also gave an authenticity to the story, a nod to the nativity.

Chastity Belt written by Damodar Mauzo in Konkani and translated by Xavier Cota: is not a love story but is a crap-load of male chauvinism and patriarchy’s whims and fancies made to look like love. This story just made me want to spit on it.

The Game of Chess written by Kamala Das in Malayalam and translated to English by Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan: is about the dilemma of mental infidelity and unrequited love. Each emotion-led action and each action-led emotion is beautifully described in this short story. So much so that reading it begins to give a feeling of you undergoing each of those emotions and actions. Isn’t that the purpose of good narration?

The Bed of Arrows written by Gopinath Mohanty in Oriya and translated to English by Sitakant Mahapatra: is a pain to read. The protagonist of the story is in pain and is on death bed and reading about her emotions and day-to-day ordeal inflicts pain on the readers.

Housewife written by Ismat Chughtai in Urdu and translated to English by Fatima Ahmad: is an erstwhile version of a rom-com; is a total laughter riot. However, it subtly yet heavily hints at patriarchy.

Weekend written by Nirmal Verma in Hindi and translated to English by Kuldip Singh: is either an aimless story or a bad translation. I neither liked it when I read it first nor now. Even if I try to make sense of this short story, at the maximum, I could say it is about insecurities. But, I still cannot make much sense of it.

The Weed written by Amrita Pritam in Punjabi and translated to English by Raj Gill: talks about the cock and bull stories people tell innocent girls about what love is and how it happens or what it looks like. It is also about experienced lives and their inexperienced sides.

Indian Love Stories is a book that offers something for everyone. But it all depends on you how you interpret the emotions evoked by each short story. Read at your own risk.

2035 by Shruti Jain and Nilutpal Gohain

2035 by Shruti Jain and Nilutpal Gohain

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: 2035
Author: Shruti Jain and Nilutpal Gohain
ISBN: 9781661616434
Imprint: Half Baked Beans
Genre: Fiction, Dystopia, Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Thriller

2035 is the first full-fledged novel by Shruti Jain and Nilutpal Gohain, who went on to write distinctive individual works.

2035 is a science fiction, dystopian novel, very near to reality even now. It is fast-paced. No dragging narration anywhere. One can find many personally relatable points. To me, Rhea binging on Kaju Katli is extremely relatable as it is my favourite! Her need for half an hour to reboot after waking up in the morning reminds me of my friend, but she needs almost an hour. There is an Alexa of the future – Alie, Slurpp for Zomato, Nile for Amazon, Toggle for Google, TPay for GPay, and Slambook for Facebook. I love the idea of how Nile forces us to buy something, at least to exit the shop. The whole story is very gripping, an edge-of-the-seat dystopian thriller with good covering of any loopholes that can occur until the climax. But the ending seemed out of place. Since it is an AI, still in progress, maybe just the instructions were enough to put the doomsday on hold. What I could not comprehend is why would the AI accept instructions from a newborn baby, Ayang, whose Toggle id Siddhanth was using. Maybe by then Toggle Id had understood that Ayang is not a newborn, as Jaydeb had informed. But if Toggle’s AI was so invasive that it could understand Siddhanth was not a newborn that he was posing to be, and constant data transmission was happening from Siddhanth to the AI to create VR for him, then the AI would also have seen his past. It could have easily judged that Siddhanth was declared dead years ago.

2035 is a good sci-fi read. One of the few good ones written in this genre.

We Of The Forsaken World by Kiran Bhat

We Of The Forsaken World by Kiran Bhat

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: We Of The Forsaken World
Author: Kiran Bhat
ISBN: 9781771803663
Imprint: Iguana Books
Genre: Fiction, Adult

I have never read any of Kiran Bhat’s works. This is the first one I have read from his list of works.

There are multiple stories within We Of The Forsaken World. Illustrations in between the narration are good. Homemade chocolates mentioned in the book remind me of Ooty. Usage of the terms North and South remind me of India. People not learning their mother tongue are so relatable nowadays. But none of the characters or places have names so that the readers from everywhere can relate to them. However, the character Milker reminds me of Mohana Swamy by Vasudhendra. Silencer is the only sensible character in the whole book. One of the characters is similar to Sylvia Plath too. But this is where all the good things about the book end. Trying to depict the emotions, the author has made the narration tedious. Author has vented out his frustration of North Indians in South India. The stories sound more like sexual fantasies rather than anything else; nothing related to the blurb. The author should have named this book We Of The Forsaken World Of Sex. This book is more of a practice of polishing the language than having any story in there, in any of them. The only way the author describes females in the stories is that they are either ugly and bald or too sexy; so vain. The gooseberry cookies described are better whereas gooseberries are sour to taste. The description cannot even be imagined or makes me wonder if the author knows what he is writing. I have read convoluted things, but some sentences in the narration are so perverse like this one: “I heard that her father molested her, tried to drink the milk from her nipples and called her his cow.”

The only take away, something I already believed in, from this book is that education and living in a city doesn’t make one civilized. But in the acknowledgement, the author says the book didn’t make much sense when he began writing it. It doesn’t make much sense now either.

The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman

The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: The Foretelling
Author: Alice Hoffman
Imprint: The Little, Brown and Company, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc
ISBN: 978-0-316-05577-2
Genre: Fiction, Drama, Feminism

Alice Hoffman is not a household name. But where she is known, she is held in high esteem. Although seemingly only a young adult and children’s book author, the touch of feminism in her writing makes her works more than just for children.

Rain is the only daughter of the queen of Amazons, the clan of warrior women, who fight against men trying to take advantage of them. Rain is a result of her mother’s rape. The queen hardly acknowledges her daughter. She names her child Rain symbolizing the depths of sorrow of her origin. Rain has recurring nightmares of running alongside a black horse, which is considered a bad omen because Amazons only ride mares. The clan’s shaman too foresees something bad making way towards them. What does this bad omen mean? What does it have to do with Rain? Is it really a bad omen or is it just their perception?

What I mentally went through while reading and after reading The Foretelling cannot be put into words. A turmoil is an understatement. A change in the thought process? Possibly. But to describe it precisely? Impossible. Probably it hits each differently at different phases of life, especially according to age. But, every woman needs to read The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman.

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: Fortunately, The Milk
Author: Neil Gaiman
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN: 9781408873021
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Children, Young Adults

Neil Gaiman is not new to people already submerged in the literary world. But, for those who don’t know, let me quote The Times from the back cover of this book, Fortunately, The Milk: “Gaiman is the nearest thing children’s books have to a rock star. If you enjoy fantasy, he is irresistible.” Well, he is not limited to children’s books. Go on, explore his world. Many of his books are with illustrations by Chris Riddell. If Gaiman’s words spark the reader’s imagination, Riddell’s illustrations bring the imagination to life.

A mother goes to a conference leaving the father in-charge of their two children; a son, the eldest and a daughter, the youngest. They trio are fine on day one. The next day, there is no milk to have a decent breakfast. Off the father goes to buy milk. The children wait and wait and wait. When the father comes back and is questioned about the delay, he tells his children how he got caught up in time-travel and went back and forth to the past and the future with pirates, dinosaurs, tribals, a demi-god, precious stones, unicorns, vampires, dwarfs, aliens and, of course, a carton of milk that he bought. What is this new breakfast recipe instead of milk with Toasties? Do the children believe their father? It is for you to find out by reading the book.

I finished reading Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman in one go because I couldn’t put it down. As the Observer has made an observation and quoted, it is truly an entertaining story for adults and children alike. Chris Riddell’s illustrations are an added bonus. Anybody can pick it up to read and nobody would be disappointed.

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? By Dr. Seuss

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?
Author: Dr. Seuss
Imprint: Harper Collins, UK
ISBN Number: 978-0-00-824000-4
Genre: Children’s Book, Onomatopoeia

Most of us don’t need an introduction to Dr. Seuss, but I will still give a brief introduction to this great personality for the benefit of others who are not aware of him. Dr. Seuss is a pseudonym or pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel. Apart from being a writer, he wore many different hats like animator, political cartoonist and poet to name a few. Even if you have not read his books, you would have definitely heard of or watched the movie based on his books Horton Hears a Who!, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and The Lorax.

There is no story in Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? It is more of a booklet to help children learn to read and progress with their pronunciation skills. While reading this book, I couldn’t help singing along. Why? Because all the lines in the book rhyme!

I recommend Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? to parents who are reading to their children who have begun to speak now as well as to children who have learnt to speak/read on their own. Enjoy the book!

Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: Carmilla
Author: Sheridan Le Fanu
Imprint: Pushkin Press, UK
ISBN Number: 978-1-78227584-8
Genre: Classic, Fiction, Horror, Gothic, Vampires, Sapphic/Lesbian

Sheridan Le Fanu is an Irish writer, who lived in Dublin in the 1800s. He is touted to be Stephen King of his times. His work, Carmilla, is said to be the cult classic that inspired Bram Stoker to write his cult classic, Dracula.

Young Laura and her father live in a schloss (German for castle) in a place called Styria where families live very far from each other, but would like to visit each other. Laura doesn’t have any friends of her age, except her governesses who are of course older than her. She awaits visits from her far away neighbours hoping they would bring in their young nieces or friends with whom she could be friends. One such visit of an elderly neighbour with his niece gets cancelled at the last moment due to sudden death of the niece, for reasons unexplained to them by the neighbour. One night, in an accident outside their schloss, an injured girl of the age about that of Laura, is taken in after a lot of discussion with a lady who claims to be her mother. Joyed to have a friend at last, Laura spends a lot of time with her new friend, Carmilla, who is always tired, languid and tantrum-throwing. As Laura becomes closer to Carmilla, the more the former girl becomes weak. Unable to understand why Laura is weakening and getting nightmares, her father searches for answers. What answers does he get? What happened to the neighbour’s niece? Who is Carmilla? What happens to Laura? Read the book to get your answers.

If you have already read Dracula by Bram Stoker, you will find Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu a little pale. But, on the other hand, Carmilla is an easy read compared to Dracula. I personally don’t like epistolary novels. Dracula took me a very long time to finish reading. I struggled with it. Although Carmilla is in a similar form, it is a short read and hence tolerable. But, that is just me. Apart from this, I must acknowledge the fact that while writing one of the early fictions of vampirism, Sheridan Le Fanu also included homosexuality in it. Must have been too much to handle for the people of his era. However, it is very subtly handled in the narration. That might have avoided any furore. We don’t know what might have happened at that time. Sheridan Le Fanu is more dead than Carmilla now to answer our questions.

All in all, I neither recommend nor reject Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. You are on your own with this.

Days In Pair by Om Raj Shrestha

Days In Pair by Om Raj Shrestha

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Psychological Thriller
Imprint: Kindle Direct Publishing

Days In Pair is a prelude to His Virtual Reality, both books coming from Om Raj Shrestha.

Sam is a teenager who has a set daily routine. Not just because he is disciplined, but because from infancy his routine has been set. Eli is his young, single, windowed mother. She doesn’t talk to Sam about his father, but both mother-son duo are happy living with her meager earning. Things start to get weird when Sam’s days start to happen in twos (attributing to the title of the book). His days are filled with déjà vu and he is not able to figure out whether the first day he experiences is the original and the next day is the duplicate or if the first day is a premonition and the next day is the real one. What does he and his mother do about his condition? You will not get your answers in this book as this is only a prelude. Read the book, or not. I will tell you my opinion.

The storyline is intriguing, but the narration fails it. It shifts the tenses so suddenly that it was difficult for me to grapple with it. As it is a psychological thriller, I wasn’t sure whether the shift in tenses is intentionally done or a mistake. But I understood as I continued to read the book further. The narration is also very childish and could have been well-developed. At many points of the story, the events are not even make-believe for a genre or a theme like this. Although the author says this book needs to be read with his next book, His Virtual Reality, and not as a stand-alone, I can see myself holding myself back from reading the next book.

I would not be recommending this book at anyone.

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Epistolary
Imprint: Penguin, UK
ISBN: 9780141325309

Johann Wyss was a Swiss author. I am not sure whether he has written more because when I tried to search for more of his works, nothing came up in the results except The Swiss Family Robinson, the very book I am reviewing now. Although I couldn’t find any other works of Johann Wyss, I found a trivia that he was inspired by Robinson Crusoe, written by Daniel Defoe, that he started writing The Swiss Family Robinson with an intention to teach children a thing or two through it.

A Swiss family of six – father, mother and four sons – sail to the nearest island after the crew of the ship in which they were sailing abandons them. The island has no signs of humanity. On the island, they start with a temporary home at the shores and then go deep into the forest looking for suitable places to build a permanent home. On the shores as well as inside the forest, the family of six come across different types of flora and fauna. The father teaches his children – Fritz, Ernst, Jack and Franz – about the plants and animals and their uses. Some are scary and some are pleasant. They also use the livestock they had on the ship to breed them on the island to keep a good and constant supply of their food. They pray to Jesus on the island too as they are a very pious Christian family. As the months pass, they building house and make caves for various purposes and settle properly on the island. Eventually, a crew of one of the detouring ships visit the Swiss Family Robinson. Will the Robinsons go back to the civilization with the crew? Or will they stay back on the island? Read the book to know.

I personally could not enjoy reading The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. It is not a bad book. I felt it is too preachy at times. Johann Wyss has written the book to teach something about making a living in the nature, but he forgot to make it interesting. I listen to audiobooks for those that I can’t spend anymore time reading so that I can just listen to it and finish the book soon. I did the same for The Swiss Family Robinson too. Now I understand why some people don’t like classics.

I don’t know whether I should recommend this book to anyone in any manner.

Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Review by Shwetha H S

Imprint: Penguin India
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism
ISBN: 978067088485

Salman Rushdie is an author more famous for the fatwa issued against him for writing The Satanic Verses than for any of his books. Of course, his writing is good and his books are famous too, but there is always the comparison.

There is a millenia-old face-off between dead philosophers. They just can’t leave the world alone even after their death. Then there is the jinnia princess, Dunia, who gives birth to so many children of one of the philosophers that their offspring almost single-handedly populate the whole world. They are called Duniazat. In the present day scenario, when something eventful happens and all the progeny of Dunia start displaying magical powers that were unknown to them. Ifrits, that were banished from the earth, step into the human world again. It becomes a fight between the Duniazat and the Ifrits. But what is the role of the philosophers and Dunia here? For that, you need to read this book.

Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is a mesmerizingly beautiful story. It is as mesmerizing as a magical realism story should be. This is the first book of Salman Rushdie I had picked and I was not at all aware of his style of writing. In the beginning, the story bored me. But two chapters into it and it completely engrossed me. I was raving about the book everywhere. I still do. Don’t miss reading this book.