Wednesday, February 26

Book review: The Hunt for Kohinoor

Hi readers,

Forget about stories that introduce a background and give you enough time and consideration to adapt to the plot. This one dives right in and maintains a crisp pace - one that needs complete attentiveness to grasp and enjoy. Not your light coffee-time read, this.

I was approached by Westland Books to read and review this book that was published in Dec 2013.

To be honest with you, I am not a regular patron of historic, terrorism and political stories so I found myself drifting off on a few occasions. But each time the authoress succeeds in sowing some excitement into the situation to bring the flighty reader back.

First and foremost, I was intrigued by the name of the protagonist – Mehrunisa. A quick search on the web divulged that Noor Jahan, the twentieth and favourite wife of the Emperor Jahangir, was born as Mehr-un-Nissa in 1577. She is called one of the most powerful and influential women of the 17th century Mughal Empire since she was a strong, charismatic and well-educated woman. Not unlike the Mehr in Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s trilogy.

Trilogy season has kicked in big time post Meluha, I guess. “The Hunt for Kohinoor” is a sequel to "Taj Conspiracy", and I was a little hesitant to read the second book as I did not have the grounding and knowledge of the first one. Being the organized and structure-loving person that I am, I was secretly hoping that Westland would pamper me with both the books (!) However, I was assured and set at ease, and thus began my reading journey that took me on an expedition across Kashmir, the Hindukush mountains and Peshawar.

This was my first tryst with Sodhi- Someshwar, an IIM-C alumnus and author of "The Long Walk Home". “The Hunt for Kohinoor” is an interesting tale, albeit not a completely original idea. It reminded me of some Bollywood flicks and also very vaguely the Da Vinci Code. Just like Princess Sophie sets out on a mission set upon her owing to her grandfather, Mehr is cast into a dangerous conspiracy by virtue of being the daughter of a secret agent.  

I liked the metaphor “Snow Leopard” used throughout the book, and its relevance to the storyline. The description of the varied characters is also engaging. Their dreams come alive in their eyes and their realities hit you in the face as Mehrunisa Khosa’s journey is tracked over a span of 96 hours to save herself and her lost-and-found father.

The writing is fluid and boasts of a multitude of converging plots. More impressive for me, though, as an avid bookworm and language trainer, was the glorious vocabulary used throughout the story: opprobrium, fulminating, extant... Breathtaking! I don’t know who to applaud for this – the author, editor, some thesaurus or other individual. Whoever has implanted these in the paperback – fantastic job!

I do, however, wish that the book was smaller than 425 pages. I found myself skipping a few paragraphs and pages, not something I would do with a Jeff Arch or Chitra Divakaruni. Now that could be attributed to my lack of interest in geography and war history, but that is precisely the backdrop so I can't complain, so I flick a few pages and scan through the next chapter. The protagonist travels alongwith another agent and then a lover to unravel the secret of the “Kohinoor” and foil a gruesome plot of the Jihadis.

While reviews are still being published across blogs and mags, the writer suggests (as does Anubhav Sinha) that Priyanka Chopra would be ideal to play the role of Mehrunisa, should a movie be made. I wonder why that is a pre-requisite these days. Would be so much better if writers focused on writing a great book than making a good movie. 

My view: 5 stars on 10. And a special one star for the lexis. 

Have an awesome day, ya'all!


Monday, February 10

Sharing Anubhav's (ahem Experience, duh!)

Hola you!

I know some of you must be wondering how my nomination at the top bloggers award by Blogadda fared. While I was touched and excited by all your display of affection and support, “Life…” did not make it to the top 5. No regrets, albeit I can’t deny feeling a little blue.

I mean I started off as a teenager using text language and venting off dreams and emotions on my blogspot page akin a dear diary. The blog (and I) sure have come a long way. Thanks to all your feedback and appreciation. My first victory (which still continues) is when I see my followers list growing and people walking up to me telling me they love what I write; feels absolutely fantastic! A few bloggers and acquaintances were kind and knowledgeable enough to recommend a few changes to my blog and I took it with grace. I also did a lot of research, checked other blogs (to learn what I was doing right or wrong) and amended my blog. Thankfully I had the time then to pursue my passion with fervor. Now, with family and work commitments abounding, I have very little time to write, let alone check other blogs and aim for improvement. Apologies to you, and my hobby, for this miss. Earning bread and butter (and jam and mayo) takes precedence over pastimes, you sure would agree.      

Anyhow, I do plan to continue on my blogging journey and get better, every passing day. Someday, I hope, I stand a chance to win accolades in this area of life too. Thanks to all of you…

Well, having given you that update, let me tell you about something new I experienced at work in the past few days. There is a concept called “Friday Matinee” at Hitachi Consulting (GDC) where we screen a movie for all employees and review it together gleaning lessons. The first such program I attended a last week was highly interesting and enlightening. We watched a 1952 film called ’12 Angry Men’ starring and produced by Henry Fonda (Jane Fonda’s pop). This black and white production lasting an hour and half is a delightful watch, one that I suggest you take the time to check out. There is a Hindi remake as well, but as you all know, the original is always better than the copies or sequels.

The story revolves around 12 jurors who have to unanimously decide whether a young boy accused of killing his father is guilty or not. While 11 of the jury start off with a “guilty” vote, the last one succeeds in pulling all of them over to the other side by using his reason and logic. The unique behaviors of all the men, their stories and transformations are truly marvelous. And the number of lessons to learn, outstanding! It talks about teamwork and courage, confidence and empathy, trust and humility. But shan’t let the cat out of the bag, you must go and watch it yourself. Get some popcorn while you’re at it.

Another experience at work - I tamed the bull, a raging maniac who always communicated rudely. I was a little flustered initially, but I managed to assertively put him in his place. It was a proud achievement, and the outcome is very pleasant (and I hope lasting). Just like the movie above, this goes to show that you need not always bow down to pressure and stress. You need to stand your ground, and clearly let the others know your needs and perspectives.

Hassee to Phassee has released this week, and I have heard pretty decent reviews. Since I am on leave all of next week, I might just catch it in my free time. Also need to catch up on my reading – I have been asked to review “The Hunt for Kohinoor” by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar on request from Westland Books. Not going to spill any beans now, but plenty to say in the 50-odd pages I’ve read so far. You gotta wait for the book review that shall be published here shortly. Professional obligation, you see :-)

The Sale season is on, have you set hands on anything in the million malls yet? I got 2 jeans – they were a steal at 600 each (2 for the price of 1) at Megamart. Go go go!!  

My nephew celebrates his 4th birthday in Mumbai today so I’m off to wish him and shower him with love. Brother and sis-in-law also complete 8 years of marriage, so it is one huge celebration with the family. We were planning to hit Imagica, what with it being my husband's fake birthday and the Valentine's day worldwide. But the recent accident there (also with some Rathi’s from Kolkata) has made us change our minds. Apparently, the amusement park is still on despite that one ride being stalled. This is India, my dears! Had it been abroad, the victims would have been compensated generously and the entire place would have shut down for repairs and maintenance. India oh India… You have a moronic Rahul Gandhi trying to become who he isn't (missed the catastrophic interview with Arnab "ArGo" Goswami - click here to laugh and.or pull your hair like a madman) and a “stupid” janta who have to immigrate in order to be valued for their work and intelligence (Go Satya Nadella!)   

I always have these arguments on Facebook with people on my friends list about our views on India. They think they need to support everything Indian merely to show their patriotism. I disagree. I am patriotic too, but I am not afraid to acknowledge the errors and shortcomings of the greatest (pseudo) democracy in the world.

And before we start off on that again, adieu!


Friday, February 7

Secrets of the Ramayana

Hey Readers !

I just came across this awe-inspiring link on Secrets of the Ramayana.

I love mythology (of course you know that by now), but the Mahabharata was always my pet favorite – I found the Ramayana too idealistic, simple and lackluster. However, these tales and facts that I read astounded me.

Here I present to you some stuff that I did not know, the entire set of ‘secrets’ can be read on the link at the bottom of this post:

Sita was putting sindoor in her hair and on being quizzed, she told Hanuman that she did it for her lord’s long life and well-being. On hearing this, Hanuman started applying sindoor to his entire body! He loved Lord Ram more than anything else in the world.

Urmila (Laxman’s wife and Sita’s sister) slept on behalf of her husband as well as herself – she slept for all of 14 years! This way Lakshman could stay awake for 14 years during exile protecting Ram and Seeta. Lakshmana is also called “Gudakesh” for this reason – the one who defeated sleep. Precisely why he was able to kill Meghnad, blessed to be defeated only by a person who hadn’t slept for 14 years.

Rama is the 7th incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the Ramayana has 7 Kand’s or parts.

Dasharatha had more than 300 wives though only 3 are well-known. Kaikeyi was the last one. He was cursed that he would suffer just like Sharavan Kumar’s parents. Fate took its turn and Ram went into exile at the age of 27. When his father died in agony, Rama saw this in a dream where his father wore black robes.

Jay and Vijay were gate keepers of Vishnu’s world and they were cursed by Bramha’s sons to be born on earth. They pleaded to Vishnu and the Lord said they could be born as his devotees 7 times or his enemies thrice. In order to be back with the lord sooner, they agreed to the latter and were born as Hiranyaksha & Hiranyakashapa in Sat Yuga, Ravana and Kumbhakarna in Treta Yuga, Dantavakra and Shishupala in Dwapara Yuga.

Ravana could not be killed by animals or gods, spirits or demons. He thought mortal men could not harm him and thus, Ram was born human to destroy Raavan.

Vishnu magically coaxed Ravan into asking for Parvati’s hand in marriage from Shiva and Shiva granted his wish. Parvati was furious and she cursed that Vishnu would also lose his mate on earth. Bali’s wife also uttered the same curse when her husband was slain by Ram. That is why, Sita was abducted in the Ramayana!

Hanuman once battled Lord Ram with nothing more than the chant of Lord Ram’s name. Ram’s arrows could not hurt Hanuman and Yayati was saved.

Hanuman would not allow Yamraj to enter Ayodhya to claim Lord Rama’s life. To divert his attention, Ram asked Hanuman to retrieve his ring that he had dropped into a crack in the floor. Hanuman reached the serpent world and asked for Rama’s ring. The king there said that there was a vault full of Rama’s rings that he used to divert Hanumana each time his life on earth was over.

Rama left the earth by taking Jala samadhi in the Sarayu River.

The concept of Lakshman Rekha is a myth. The Valmiki Ramayan doesn’t mention a thing about it. That Ram broke Shiva’s bow in Sita’s swayamvar is also not described in the Valmiki Ramayana.

The Ramayana has many authors and versions. Valmiki’s version is known as Valmiki Ramayan. Another famous version is written by Tulsidas and known as Ramcharitmanas.

Stunning eh? You can check out more of these tales by clicking here. The Daily Bhaskar website also has slideshows on Shiva and other aspects of the Ramayana, etc. Happy reading! 


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