Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Review: And So Can You!

And So Can You! And So Can You! by Dr Roopleen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dr Roopleen is an eye surgeon among other things. She is an accomplished writer. So why she wrote this book? Because she wanted to read it and it was unwritten. Many books on achievers have been written but none on doctors. So, to fill the vacuum she wrote this book about 17 doctors.

These are chosen from many special fields and across the country. Everyone has different story and background but one thing common: love for medical profession and desire to serve others.

Dr Sundaram Natarajan (never say die) was born to a doctor and raised in a village. He was a cry baby in childhood. He joined Madras Medical college. He believes in four Ps for success- passion, perfection, precision and perseverance.

Dr Anita Panda (resilience) was born in a remote village of Orissa. She read scriptures and mythology in childhood. She joined PG at AIIMS. Her being the woman was never a handicap for her though she has to overcome the dogma and hypocrisy. Passion and dedication to work is her mantra.

There are more such stories. Each unique and identical at the same time. The common theme is medical profession. They belong to different part of India and different streams of medical science, but they all became doctors because of love for medical field. Most of them are from poor or middle-class families and face hardships during studies but it did not deter them from achieving their goals.

After every story there are some advice and takeaways given e.g.

1. Don’t always believe what others say.
2. When in doubt take a second opinion.
3. Aspire to always improve and update knowledge.
1. There is no professional right path for everyone.
2. Never allow your ego to become a bigger part of you.
3. Problems will come your way but do not stop.

These doctors really wanted to be doctors. But it is said that why people want to become doctors is because it is their passion. That is totally wrong in Indian context as parents push children to only medical or engineering. Being an engineer, I know this first-hand.

This book is written in simple language and is sincere. There is no pretence and the stories are of simple people who become successful due to hard work.

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Review: Ramayana: The Game of Life – Book 4: Stand Strong

Ramayana: The Game of Life – Book 4: Stand Strong Ramayana: The Game of Life – Book 4: Stand Strong by Shubha Vilas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“...the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.

That is their mystery and their magic.”
― Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

The Ramayana is the greatest epic ever told (at least one of those). This is my second book of this series. The first book I read was “The Stolen Hope”. I liked that immensely review of which can be found here:
this is just the extension of story which now moves to Rishimukh Parbat where Ram meets Hanuman (Kishkindha Kaand). Whatever I said in the previous review applied to this too.

The story is great because everyone knows it but still a brief outline. Sugriva is hiding in Rishimukh mountain beause of his brother Bali. Then Ram and Lakshman comes that side and he sends Hanuman to find out who are they. Ram befriends Sugriva and kills Bali. The book ends with Hanuman running towards Mahendra Parbat.

The book tells Ramayana and stays true to the original most of the time. The footnotes are life lessons which is derived from the story itself. Some of these are reproduced below:

1. A mature person knows how to neglect disrespect toward oneself and take very seriously disrespect towards others.
2. Luxuries are of concern only when basic needs are met, and basic needs itself are of concern only when need for mental peace is met.
3. Responsibility appears like a cage, but it sets the bird of self-growth free.
4. A fearful person is like a paralyzed person.
5. Where power ends, responsibility begins.
One question which is often asked “why Rama killed Vali from hiding?”. The author tries to answer it by saying that Vali is an animal and Rama is a hunter. The hunter (men) decide the rules and not the hunted. Also, Vali was wrong by laying eyes on Ruma and trying to kill Sugriva. So, Rama was justified in killing him. I am not convinced by the reasoning.

One more drawback is that the interpretation given in footnotes and in boxes are good but they impede the enjoy of reading. The acts as speed breakers and slows down the reading. It would have been better that they would have been given in the running narrative.

Keeping in view the overall reading 4/ 5 stars.

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Saturday, 21 April 2018

Review: Then The Doorbell Rang

Then The Doorbell Rang Then The Doorbell Rang by Capri Jalota
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Death and disease are inseparable part of life. One cannot escape from these. Death, divorce, disease, bomb blasts are the theme of this book. Not a very happy and fun book to read.

I thought it to be a mystery thriller kind of book going by the title. It seemed the doorbell rang and some psycho killer enters to slash. Nothing of that kind here. So stay away if you want that.

Jane is an only child of an Indian doctor father and European mother. He goes abroad for study and falls in love with her mom. They marry young and then move to Dubai. As happens they fell out of love and her mother leave his father. Jane stays back with him. She marries Uday after only one week romance and then he dies in an accident. How she copes and what all happens is crux of it.

The book was a mixed bag for me. It was sad. Told from first person’s POV. Then there is Uday’s diary. He had a girlfriend Radha whom he cannot marry due to family disapproval. There are many other characters. Jane also have some rare disease. It is a thick book. It worked in parts but as a whole I was not very satisfied and as it is thick it became difficult to finish.

3/5 stars.

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Review: My Watch

My Watch My Watch by Mark Twain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is funny for the period when it was written. Now a days it’s the time of use and throw. So there are no repair shops of anything. People don’t bother for that.

The watch is like our life maybe. The more we try to fix it the worse it becomes.

It is a funny story. Nice read.

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Friday, 20 April 2018

Review: 65 Colours of Rainbow

65 Colours of Rainbow 65 Colours of Rainbow by Smit Kapila
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Smit Kapila is an Electronics engineer who works in an MNC.
A declaration first: I am also an engineer so I have a soft corner for engineers. However I don’t work in an MNC but most of my friends do.

Life in the fast corporate world can be tense and boring most of the time. So it helps to have a sense of humour. The purpose of the book is to find fun in normal workplace situations. This is not a full blown novel or even short stories. These are stories culled from daily office goof ups, banter, pranks and foolish episodes.

There are sixty five tales. These are like LAPREK (LAGHU PREM KATHA) of Ravish Kumar. The only difference is that these are not romantic but fun stories. So these can be called LAHAK (Laghu Hasya Katha).

The situations are everyday office happenings with which any corporate employee can identify. Like writing abuses (good words ahem) in mail and using reply all. So all girls vanish from group.

Typing a generic mail and keeping using forward option so the trails also goes to everyone. Sleeping in office conference room and getting up when the meeting starts.

Bet one for me was when a mechanical engineer (who have no female students during college) asking for a change of project. When he is asked the reason the candid reply is that there are no girls on the team. So he is thrown out.

It is a good humours book. 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: Disgrace

Disgrace Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book on recommendation of Jenny Arora. It was a difficult book which she forewarned.

The story started with a college professor who has sexual relations with her student (way younger than her). If it was consensual or forced it is never revealed. He is not apologetic and says he is guilty without proclaiming what it is. He is expelled from college and goes to stays with his daughter. She maybe a Lesbian (almost certain). One fine day she is raped while he is locked in the bathroom. After that she becomes depressed and doesn’t talk to him.

The book is in a different country where there are different standards of morality. So I am in no position to judge. Than another difficulty is the Coetzee is a Nobel Laureate (a brief net search told me that he won it in 2003). So I can’t just dismiss it just any frustrated book.

The book makes you sick and depressed. The professor is a depraved sex addict who can go to any length. He has no regard to his posoit0on. He is just going through the motions and his job is a burden and just a means to earn. When he takes a belligerent stand at hearing it is laughable to say the least because he has no morals.

Then his daughter is happy in his farm comfortable with her sexuality. She is dependent on the caretaker. Though he is already married she is dependent on him in more ways than one (spoilers so no more comment). Then she is raped and goes into depression which is understandable. What is not understandable is what follows after that.

I thought of not writing a review. Then thought of giving it time so that I can make up my mind. I even forgot the name of the characters (nothing memorable about a frustrated professor and his cowards and weak daughter). Booker and Nobel was there after all. Now after almost 4 months i came to the conclusion that I disliked the book. This is bad no matter the Nobel Prize. If sex sells so is misery and depravity. And that is what these big authors do. Better to stay away from these trash. There was no insight for me.

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Review: Disgrace

Disgrace Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book on recommendation of Jenny Arora. It was a difficult book which she forewarned.

The story started with a college professor who has sexual relations with her student (way younger than her). If it was consensual or forced it is never revealed. He is not apologetic and says he is guilty without proclaiming what it is. He is expelled from college and goes to stays with his daughter. She maybe a Lesbian (almost certain). One fine day she is raped while he is locked in the bathroom. After that she becomes depressed and doesn’t talk to him.

The book is in a different country where there are different standards of morality. So I am in no position to judge. Than another difficulty is the Coetzee is a Nobel Laureate (a brief net search told me that he won it in 2003). So I can’t just dismiss it just any frustrated book.

The book makes you sick and depressed. The professor is a depraved sex addict who can go to any length. He has no regard to his posoit0on. He is just going through the motions and his job is a burden and just a means to earn. When he takes a belligerent stand at hearing it is laughable to say the least because he has no morals.

Then his daughter is happy in his farm comfortable with her sexuality. She is dependent on the caretaker. Though he is already married she is dependent on him in more ways than one (spoilers so no more comment). Then she is raped and goes into depression which is understandable. What is not understandable is what follows after that.

I disliked the book. This is bad no matter the Nobel Prize. If sex sells so is misery and depravity. And that is what these big authors do. Better to stay away from these trash. There was no insight for me.

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Monday, 16 April 2018

Review: The Emerald Circle

The Emerald Circle The Emerald Circle by L. Rosenman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Imagine the horror if your child is kidnapped and taken to an undisclosed location. It is kind of a fortress where they are trained to be abused.

Lynn and Joe daughter is kidnapped and taken to a fortress. She is totally broken and vows to get her back. She goes undercover and enter the fort as a prostitute (yes they do that). She has to take hormones and keep track of her Menstrual cycle. There a person named Jaspeth helps her. Her husband Joe is trying from outside to get them freed. Will they be successful?

The premise of book is interesting but it is improbable. It seems like very old but who knows. There might be some secret organisations like that who in name of research does all kind of shady things. This is a onetime read but the editing could have been tighter.

3/5 stars.

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Review: Serial Termination: A Chilling Dark Serial Killer Crime Thriller

Serial Termination: A Chilling Dark Serial Killer Crime Thriller Serial Termination: A Chilling Dark Serial Killer Crime Thriller by Arnon Edelstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Serial killer novels have some unique problems. First and foremost is there is no clear connection between the psychopath and his/ her victims. S/he can strike anywhere on anyone.

a body of young woman is found. Detective Dorit and Moti are assigned to the case. First this looks like an isolated case but soon other bodies start piling up. One thing common amongst them is that they recently has abortions. Dorit and Moti falls in love and when Dorit is also abducted, Moti is devastated. Can he stop the killer before it is too late?

Arnon Edelstein is a criminologist whose interests focus on the connection between immigration and crime, and how that relationship crosses generations. The book is a fast pacy thriller. The love angle is not soppy and the professionalism is maintained. The book tells that a psychopath lacks emotion and he is not necessarily violent. They can be anywhere in management, government, medicine etc.

4/ 5 stars.

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Review: Leave Me Alone

Leave Me Alone Leave Me Alone by Orit Yogev
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being obese can be living hell for many. If you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin because the world tell you that it is not acceptable, life can be miserable. Apart from physical problems it has mental and emotional aspects too.

Orit Yogev is a Clinical psychologist who has treated hundreds of adults, teenagers, and children who suffer from morbid obesity. I get a peek into the mind and heart of the fat. This may not be a physical thing only. Fat people are fat because there is an emotional void inside them which they try to fill by eating incessantly. The abuse can be sexual or any other which manifest in the form of obesity. Orit stresses on addressing the underlying symptoms and the fat goes away automatically.

A very helpful book for all the people who is fighting this demon of obesity. 4/ 5 stars.

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Review: Kedesha: A Timeless Tale of a Love Priestess

Kedesha: A Timeless Tale of a Love Priestess Kedesha: A Timeless Tale of a Love Priestess by Ohad Pele Ezrahi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kedesha is erotic and sometimes links erotica to spirituality. The ancient temples have sex slaves who are elevated to the level of goddesses. She blessed her for becoming a temple,for having become a kedesha, a scared prostitute. Their bodies became a temple. This is somewhat similar to Indian Devdasi system.

The story alternates between ancient times and modern one. Story starts with Yehoash having sex with his wife Eglah. She a priest’s daughter and married him just to get an heir. She despise having sex with him and he is sexually frustrated. In modern times we have an American returned lady Tara who needs to face her demons. She meets Yoni a Shamanic sexual healer. He is married (in Shamanic way) to Hagar and has a very open marriage. She gives her Yoni (vagina) massage and then she becomes liberated.

The book alternate chapters are ancient and modern times. It has historical information and the writer claims that if it is true that is not a coincidence. Shamanic sexual healing of yoni massage is based on the fact that many memories accumulate in the inner folds of the yoni.

The book is racy and erotic. It has many threesome, homosexual scenes. But after sometimes it becomes rather boring and repetitive. A tighter editing could have helped. 3.5/ 5 stars.

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Thursday, 22 March 2018

Review: Transit Lounge

Transit Lounge Transit Lounge by Sunil Mishra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The world is a wonderful place. There are countless cultures, customs, dialects and ways of life. There is no one right or wrong way. This book gives as a glimpse of the diversity around the globe.

This is a travelogue and written as a non fiction mode. Sunil Mishra is fortunate to be a software engineer, which allowed him to circumvent the globe for his work. Africa is amazing and so is Middle East. Iran I liked in in particular as they are so anti American and they have an equivalent of almost all American products.

US of A has got the detailed mention. I liked the analysis of American way of life and Sunil’s theory about rise of Trump. The X=X+1 hypothesis is wonderful and funny for Indian immigrants as he keeps thinking to return to India next year.

The horrible service at UK hotels is appalling. Eastern Europe is so dull and it seems time has frozen there.

The book is written in simple English a la Chetan Bhagat style. The coverage is brief and it can be more interesting. The emphasis is more on facts and less of scenic beauty and emotional connect. There are many typos in book and the pictures are drab. It must have been color photographs.

4/ 5 stars.

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Review: Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts

Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts by Anuja Chandramouli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prithviraj was the last Hindu ruler of India before Muhammad Ghori established the Muslim rule in India. There are many myths associated with him. Chanderbardai, the court poet wrote “Prithviraj Raso” which project him as a legend. This book is not a copy of Bardai’s work.

The book does not start with Prithvi as a king. That comes much later maybe after half the book is done. This shows his father and uncle and how he grew up from a kid. There is palace intrigue, wars, assassinations and his training. His uncle Kanha is not ambitious and is happy to serve his brother. There are rumors that Prithvi is his son as he is very handsome unlike his ugly father. He saves a girl named Yogita from bandit like thugs and brings her to his palace. They fall in love only to grow apart. Then there is attacks from Shabuddin Ghori and famous battles.

The book is pretty thick and cannot be finished in one sitting. But that is all right. I came to know many new things, which are against popular myths. Alha Udal for instance have legendary status in this part of India (I live in Meerut UP). They met their death from Prithvi’s hands. Then Yogita is not Sanyogita and Prithvi never kidnapped her from Jaichand’s home. She was not even his daughter as per popular myth. Prithvi was also not against Muslims as such but only fought bloodthirsty plunderer Ghori. He never pardon his life but it was a mistake that Ghori was left alive.

The horrible practice of showing the blood soaked bed sheet after first night to prove virginity of bride was a new revelation to me. So were dialogues of Prithvi and Chisti. The sufi sect represent soft peace loving Islam which is different from the Islam practiced by the likes of Ghori.

There are few hiccups as well. The book took too much time to come to the point. The book is about Prithvi but Anuja wasted (harsh word but true) almost half the book till he ascends the throne. That left very little time to show him in action. Also the character of Ghori and other adversaries got just passing mention and they were not fleshed out. Prithvi and Ghori are like Ram and Ravan and Ghori needed more detailing. Then Jaichand and all others were given no importance whatsoever except when Yogita comes to Prithvi in fag end. I am also sure that Anuja must have done her research (the references are given in theend) but the story is slightly deviating from the popular stories of Prithvi. Then the story was too slow at many places where not required. On the other hand it was rushed at some important junctures. One instance is the climax where Prithvi is executed.

I have read mythological books from Anuja and I can’t resist the comparison. I read to historical fictions from Anuja: “Padmavati” and “Prithviraj”. The overall quality as compared to her myths is lesser. The book has inferior language and plotting. However I liked this one better than “Padmavati”. Maybe these books were written in deadline pressure.

All in all a very enjoyable read barring few hiccups. 4/ 5 stars.

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Thursday, 8 March 2018

International Women's Day

In India women is either a goddess or a doormat. We worship her as Goddess Durga and in the form of mother. But when it comes to real life ours is a patriarchal society. It is a paradox. We kill her in womb or treat her as a slave in our homes.

During International Women's Year in 1975, the United Nations began celebrating International Women's Day on 8 March. This is to affirm the principle of equality between women and men.

Equality is all we need. She is neither worse nor better than men. She is equal to men and we have to ensure equality of opportunity for her. But sometimes the second wave feminism takes things to extreme and that is also counterproductive for equality of sexes. There are a plethora of laws to protect women from Dowry, domestic violence and workplace sexual harassment. These all are necessary but sometimes these are misused.

Somewhere the balance is missing. The law sometimes is misused and other times it does not reach the intended beneficiaries. Both cases are equally bad and this skews the equation.

Equal opportunities and safe society for women is must and then they can do wonders.

Happy women’s day.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

My worst nightmare

Aayush was in 8th standard. He was fond of toys like every kid. But he was from a lower middle class family so his father could not afford many fancy toys. His father felt necessary to spend on his education whatever limited means he had.
Amit came to his house one day.
“Aayush come I want to show you something” Amit said. Amit was friend of his and from a financially well off family. Aayush went with him and Amit showed him a brand new football. It was beautiful beyond words for him.
“Can I hold it, Amit!”
“Why not”.
Aayush took it in his hands and he had no words to describe the feeling. He had no metaphor for it. But one fine day he will have it.

Time passed and both of them went their separate ways. Aayush completed his MBA from IIMA and got a handsome package. He met Ramya during MBA and both of them married. Ramya was into books and one day she was reading Hindi novel “Sati Maiya ka Chaura”.
“How can you read such thick books? I get head ache after five minutes dear” Aayush asked Ramya.
“If you like something you don’t get tired. Just like I love you and tolerate all your idiosyncrasies” Ramya teased him.
“Is not it the time we should start a family?”
“Why not?”
Aayush was in front of the delivery room of Max hospital. Finally the doctor came out.
“Congratulations. It’s a girl. The burse will bring her out in a short while.”
“Thank you doctor. How are they?”
“Both are alright Aayush”
Aaysuh was waiting impatiently for the nurse to come out. Finally the nurse came out and asked “Who is the Father?”
Aayush came forward and she handed over to him the most beautiful girl of the world. Aayush was speechless and overwhelmed with emotion.
“When can I meet Ramya?”
“In a short while sir.”

Finally he went inside to Ramya. She was weak but beaming.
“Thank you for giving me the most beautiful gift of the world” Aayush kissed her on the forehead.
“Thank you too” Ramya replied.
“Ramya! When Amit gave me the ball that day I had no words to describe it. But today I can. It felt like when a father takes his first child in his arms.”
Ramya smiled. Aayush was overcame with emotion and there were tear drops in his eyes.
“What happened Aayush? Why the tears?” Ramya asked.
“One day when we were playing the ball came under a car wheels and it burst. We were sad for weeks. If something happens to my little daughter? Then what? It will be a nightmare. My worst nightmare.” Aayush looked into Ramya’s eyes.
Ramya held his hand and said “Don’t worry. Nothing will happen to her.”
They both embraced the small bundle of joy.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Business of anti-corruption

Vishnu Sharma told that once upon a time in the land of Mahilaropya there was a crusader of anti-corruption named Anant. He was an army veteran who commanded a lot of respect. People even called him second Mahatma Gandhi.

His right hand was Amar who was very talented and disgruntled bureaucrat. There were 29 princely states under Mahilaropya and Vivek headed one of them in the western part. Shyam, the king of Mahilaropya ruled it from Indraprastha, the capital. Anyway Anant protests bore fruit and Shyam was overthrown. Vivek became king and Amar became head of Indraprastha.

One fine day Mitesh, a crony of Anant fled Mahilaropya with  a lot of public money. There was a lot of hue and cry in public. To divert attention Mitesh sent his emissaries to Amar. Amar had a trick up his sleeve. He staged a drama where his ministers pretended to rough up a public servant. Now everyone forgot about Mitesh and all the media was busy talking about assault of democracy. Everyone was happy again. To top it all they accused Vivek of abetting and aiding Mitesh in first place.

Moral of the story: Vishnu Sharma said that as happens both were paying lip service to anti-corruption and talks of development were farce. People should keep their eyes and ears open and use their common sense and brains rather than to fall for fancy words.

---to be continued

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Karma or Destiny or Neither

I immensely liked this post and wanted to add something to it. I accept what she wrote but the concept is not totally useless.

कर्म प्रधान विश्व करी राखा, जो जस करई सो तस फल चाखा ।।

Firstly  I know that I have to pay for my bad deeds, I will refrain from that. Similarly my good deeds will be rewarded so I will try to be a do-gooder. This is the law of cause and effect or “As you sow as you reap”. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction (Newton’s third law). So Karma principle can be a natural deterrent against bad deeds as it has religious sanction.

Secondly this places emphasis on action rather than on luck or destiny. So it inspires us to work hard to achieve goals. Karma principle doesn’t let us become lethargic and fatalist. Instead of waiting for God’s grace we should strive to achieve things/ success by our own hard work. God help those who help themselves.

So far so good. But and this is a big but. What she writes is true. The theory is only god as a theory. There is no direct cause and effect relationship. There are many factors which decides the outcome. We can only work hard but we have no control over the results. Even Lord Krishna says that:

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ४७

कर्तव्यकर्म करने में ही तेरा अधिकार है फलों में कभी नहीं। अतः तू कर्मफलका हेतु भी मत बन और तेरी अकर्मण्यता में भी आसक्ति हो।

So we have no control whatsoever on the results. So it all boils down to God’s wish, destiny, luck, providence or kismet.

But this is not the real catch either. The real catch is as given below:
वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय
नवानि गृह्णाति नरोऽपराणि |
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णा
न्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही || 22||

 "As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones."(Bg 2.22)

So there is a cycle of life and death which is never ending till we break free from it. So even if something bad happens to good people it can easily be attributed to bad karma from past lives. Nobody knows what happened in past lives (or if these is such a thing as past life) so this has to be accepted at face value.

This theory also propagates the most heinous system of caste. This is Varna dharma based on Guna and Karma, lower castes can easily be said to have bad karma from past lives. Later on it degenerated in birth based.

So I agree with Harpreet partially. This system has good and bad shades both.

Monday, 26 February 2018


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Sometimes, it is not love that propels us in life. It is hate.”

This is a post-apocalyptic story. The earth is dying and so is human race. But the good news is that there is another earth like planet which has 90% water and 10% land mass. So NASA launches an evacuating earth mission. Rafshar Alizen choose Zaria Pebel to be a part of the mission. Zaria has her own agenda of taking revenge

When the planet is dying what matters. Nothing. The story is gripping. I understands Zaria motives and she is absolutely right in what she did. Denash and Misha (though I think Misha was caught in cross fire of Zaria and Denash) deserved their fate.

The story is short and there was so many unanswered questions. The pace was quick and it could have more detailing. I enjoyed it very much. 5/ 5 stars.

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Friday, 23 February 2018

Padmaavat the movie review

So much is written about the movie even before its release that I felt no reason to write anything else. Then I read this wonderful review.

I agree with almost all the points in the review by @Lavanya Nukavarapu but I liked the movie nevertheless. I am adding my view point in continuation of her review:

1. Ranveer Singh was hamming and over acted. Way over the top…. He was a caricature of Allauddin. Ranveer reminded of Shahrukh from Devdas. I liked both of them. Shahid was inadequate and Deepika was optimum, big watery (or was it glycerin) eyes notwithstanding. Rest of the cast was just ok, especially GORA and BADAL. They are mythical characters and Sanjay Bhansali casted unknown actors. Malik Kafur was given too much importance and the Gay angle was unnecessary to the plot.

2. Bahubali has set the bar so high that other filmmakers will take at least a decade to reach there. CGI and war scenes were so poor in Padmavat when compared to Bahubali. Even casting is poor comparatively. Bahubali is the BAAP of all period/ fantasy movies. Padmavat fell woefully short.

3. This movie is at the cross hairs of left and right both. I read this article from Swara Bhaskarhttps://thewire.in/218456/end-magnum-opus-i-felt-reduced-vagina/. I think this misses the point totally. Padamavati is the feminist of 13th century AD. It is true she was the second wife but that was acceptable at that time. She married Ratan Sen on her own volition. Her decision of Jauhar is not about Vagina. This is about consent. She said no to Khilji but Khilji would have raped her and would have stripped her off from her dignity. At point of time there was no court, police, women commission to protect her from evil attackers. The king was the Almighty. Khilji killed her husband and was only one step away from raping her. She had no other way except Jauhar and it was her choice. That is the act of supreme defiance. Padmavati is like Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev and Chandrasekhar Azad. It was not suicide. It was true example of “NO MEANS NO”. Her act of asking permission from Ratan was out of love. Otherwise she has shown her own independent thinking throughout the movie. Be it showing her reflection to Khilji or traveling to Delhi to free him.

4. The protests by Karni Sena were unnecessary. The movie was best possible extolment and glorification of Rajputs. If somebody should protest, they should be admirer of Alauddin (if there are any), because his portrayal was one way dimensional.

5. I liked “Binte Dil” the best. Arijit keeps amazing me. Other one was “Naino wale ne” by Neeti Man.

6. By now everyone knows Padmavati was the figment of imagination of Malik Muhammad Jayasi, a Sufi poet. Padmavat (or Padmawat) is an epic poem written in 1540 by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi, who wrote it in the Hindustani language of Awadhi, and originally in the Persian Nastaʿlīq script. The philosopy is called “Tasawuff”. The whole poem Padmavat is symbolic. Padmavati is God and Ratan Sen is Sadhak. Raghav Chetan is Satan and Allauddin is illusion (Maya). If we get a Guru we will attain Padmavati i.e. Nirgun (Formless, omnipresent and omniscient God) after defeating Maya.

"तन चितउर, मन राजा कीन्हा
हिय सिंघल बुधु पद्मिनि चीन्हा ।
गुरु सुवा जे पन्थ दिखावा
बिनु गुरु जगत को निर्गुन पावा ।
नागमती यह दुनिया धन्धा
बांचा सोइ न एहि चित बन्धा ।
राघव इत सोई शैतानू
माया अलाउदीन सुल्तानू ।"

So much for the hullaballoo about honor and pride. The whole poem was symbolic which by the way even Sanjay Leela Bhansali failed to show. He is a good director never the less.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Review: Fate's Design

Fate's Design Fate's Design by Subhashish Dey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will start this review with the author’s introduction as given on Good reads.

Subhashish is a 14 year old student of Chinmaya Vidyalaya Anna Nagar. He has been regularly contributing short stories to his school magazine. An avid reader, Subhashish believes that books open the doors to some wonderful insights in life. An inquisitive boy, Subhashish loves to explore different places and spends time trying to understand the culture of the people there.

The reason is the age of the author. He is just 14. This book sure reads like it is written by a much older person.

The story starts in Moscow, Russia. Anastasaai is a alcoholic loser who cats as a hit man of a mysterious Mafiosi. He is given the job of kidnapping an infant girl and then kill her after getting ransom. He kidnaps Natalia and they get ransom as well. Her father Andrei Federoff is third wealthiest person in town. His wife Irina Federoff is devastated after the kidnapping. After they pay the ransom a corpse of a two year old girl is found floating in Moskva. Their marriage which was already shaky, could not stand this blow. She leaves him and goes to USA. Their son Felix remained back with his father. But there is a twist in the tale. Ansatasaai though a scum on earth could not kill Natalia. He develops cold feet. He grows her up with the help of her old mother. She considers him her father. When he dies Natalia gets a letter from him which tell her the truth. Meanwhile Felix also come to know about his sister. What happens next?

The language is first rate and there are no mistakes. Story flows smoothly and the descriptions and vivid. The plot is tight and doesn’t waver. It keeps you engrossed from beginning till end. Young author Dey has a long way to go.

4/ 5 stars.

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Review: I think I know you...Karunya, Do I?

I think I know you...Karunya, Do I? I think I know you...Karunya, Do I? by Ajit Panicker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Rebirth and terrorism can make a good story. Who cares if we are born again and again? However Geeta says that we have countless births till we attain freedom from cycle of birth and death. However there is no scientific proof of the same. But then again this is fiction and can have fantasy.

There are three tracks in the story:

1. Boy (Karunya) meets girl (Aasma) in Gurgaon DLF cyber city office. They fall in love as expected and make out. Aasma keeps seeing visions which troubles her. They set out on a journey to a small town of Rajasthan.

2. Vishal was studying in IIT but was thrown out because Dimpy complained against him of sexual harassment. He picks up his life again and goes to Mumbai to be a professional photographer.

3. Varunya is elder brother of Arunya. He is in Indian army. There a terrorist plot being hatched to hit India hard at many places at once. STF is formed and they try to neutralize the threat.

These tree tracks run in parallel and nothing wrong in that. but these should intersect somewhere in the second half. That happened (for track 1 and 2) but the link was tenuous at best and seemed forced. Love story of Karunya and Aasma had a ludicrous rebirth angle. Vishal was also forced into that who was clearly a misfit. Third track was totally independent of first two and added nothing to the story. this just slowed the pace down.

Language is just ok. There were many mistakes and Hinglish is used even at places where it is not required. At some places whole dialogues are written in Roman Hindi for no particular reason. Translation given at end is not helping the cause.

It seems the book is publicised directly from the author’s desk and there was no editor. It lacked coherence and has a haywire story as explained above. The ultimate revelation i.e. the identity of sleeper cell head was surprising but there were no clever hints in between.

2.5/ 5 stars.

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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Review: Three Minutes of Eternity

Three Minutes of Eternity Three Minutes of Eternity by Alon Amir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Israel is surrounded by hostile countries. Pop culture there is also affected by this. When their delegation goes to Azerbaijan they have remain under security whole the time.

Yarden is a young talented singer who is representing Israel in Eurovision. Yanni is the head of press who is her support. She is not liking all the restrictions on the movement. Then they are taken to Russia secretly and all the weird things happen. Will Yarden come out on top?

The book gives an inside peek into the lives of famous pop stars. This is not all hunky dory and it is a tough life out there. Everyone covers their own ass and blame others when they fail. The strategy of press handling is very cunning. They send out a press release and let the media talk about it and play the youtube clip of the interview.

The book is funny and witty. 3.5/ 5 starts.

A quick search on Google told me that Azerbaijan, the nation and former Soviet republic, is bounded by the Caspian Sea and Caucasus Mountains, which span Asia and Europe. Its capital, Baku, is famed for its medieval walled Inner City. Within the Inner City lies the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a royal retreat dating to the 15th century, and the centuries-old stone Maiden Tower, which dominates the city skyline.

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Sunday, 11 February 2018

Review: You Don't Know What Love Is

You Don't Know What Love Is You Don't Know What Love Is by P. David Hornik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The love after marriage is a taboo. It is called affair for a reason. Why do people do it? Maybe because of lust, boredom or adventure. Sometime we marry and then the flame of love and sex dies down after 4-5 years. Then someone like us enters into our life who is equally desperate and the game of lust and sex starts. It is like a forbidden fruit which tastes very sweet initially. Bit sooner or later things takes a nasty and sinister turn.

Lou and Hettie has their own affairs in past but somehow they did not undergo divorce. Their three wards Treenie, Ross and Alan has their own affirs/ pass time. Then Hattie goes for a wallk in the woods and tragedy strikes. What happens next?

The book has many characters and their affairs. The reasons are sometimes vague. But that is understandable because that the way extramarital affairs works. The crime of passions are common occurrence. The things described in the book are real and may touch many lives. 4/5 stars.

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Review: Money: Physics and Distributive Justice

Money: Physics and Distributive Justice Money: Physics and Distributive Justice by Oded Kafri
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has a very interesting premise. Physics is the study of laws of nature. Economics is the study of money and finance. Can it be explained through the laws of physics? More importantly distributive justice.

Oded Kafri says that the concept of money has not been defined and hence economics is centuries behind the hard sciences. Now he presents the concept of money as two of physics principles:

1. Money as Energy- the Gas Economy : This is similar to Maxwell-Boltzman bell curve. But this concept has many issues.
2. Money as Heat: This is a better system.

There are many interesting concepts like in near future there will be no cash transfers. The distribution of money of a nation is universal and independent of total wealth of a nation. The system of constraints weather by Governments or religion or moral principles tries to limit money’s movement.

The author claims that it is widely agreed nowadays that wealth should not be equally distributed.

The book is interesting but somewhat farfetched. There may be a parallel between energy or heat and money movement but it made the book very complex. It assumed that the reader is well versed with both Physics and economics. Though the author gives a disclaimed that this knowledge is not required, that is not correct. The book is more for an academic exercise and amusement and not for general readers.

Still the book gives some interesting points to ponder. 3/5 stars.

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Review: Ben O'reilly

Ben O'reilly Ben O'reilly by Adam Peled
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Social media is a dangerous place. At least it makes a good thriller.

Whatsapp has taken over Facebook. Mark Zukerberg was so terrified of it that he bought Whatsapp at exorbitant price.

Whatsapp group are funny things. Anybody can add you if they have you number. Ben O’ Reilley our protagonist (the book is named after him) is added to a mysterious Whatsapp group. Only known member is Eddie. Then she meets sexy and beautiful Sharon. Members of group starts getting murdered one by one. It is up to Ben to solve the mystery and save him and Sharon.

The book is fast paced and has short chapters (like James Patterson’s novels). This keeps the proceedings quick and moving. Language is simple and the suspense is nice. You keep guessing the next move of Ben and his opponents. 3/5 stars.

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Review: Three Voices

Three Voices Three Voices by Nora Sarel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“I put the distance of time between us and I went, I thought that the distance of time would heal..”
-N. Israeli

This is an autobiographical fiction. This is divided into three parts called; first voice, second voice and third voice.

Lena is a Jew, caught in the world war. Mr Stefanik takes Lena to woods to partisans. They fight Nazis from the woods like guerrilla fighters. She is only 6 or 6.5. they don’t accept her and Mr Stefanik has to take her back. He gives her a new name: Elka Isdebska and declares her Christian. The war was never ending as seemed to her.

The description of passion of the priest for Tosha is superb. He is totally blind with passion and she is totally oblivious. He is consumed by carnal desires and when he grabs her, she resists with all her might. He becomes morose and vengeful. This episode reminded me of the deplorable behaviour of our so-called Hindu saints. Asharam bapu, Dixit of Ishwariya vidyalaya and Ram Rahim came to mind.

This is a story of grit and determination. I like the story. 4 /5 stars.

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Tuesday, 6 February 2018

The Wild Cat

The online world is very dangerous place because of the anonymity it provide to the persons. One should be very careful while being on internet,

Tanya is a happy go lucky gallery owner who is searching or love and some fun in her life. Her mom died at a very young age and her father brought her up. Her friend Dorothy takes her to a party in the opening scenes. Dorothy is dating online through an app which matches with a person of similar interest and lets them talk in a group or one on one. The account is created using voice so that a person can not create multiple accounts. Tanya also creates an account and meets a mysterious person named PHANTOM. Then the story takes sinister turn and rest you have to read for yourself.

Online dating can a good plot device especially if you use it for thrills. Throw in a rogue lover and you get a good thriller. There are a lot of steamy scenes also. This is part  1 of a trilogy and it finished on a cliffhanger. It was good initially but later on dragged. There was not much going on and I got bored after a while. 3/5 stars.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Review: Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata

Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I could not finish this book as this is a not a retelling of Mahabharat. This is an ego trip. The conclusion drawn are absurd, illogical and have no basis in the text of original Mahabharat. That is not the only defect. The story telling is for kids it seems. There is no story. This is just a description of series of events. That is not fiction. There are hardly any dialogues.

Some absurd conclusions:

1. Shiva is considered ardh narishwara, a god who is half woman. The children born through his grace possess both male and female qualities. He gives example of Shikhandi. But what about many other like Hanuman.

2. Kunti insists they marry the same woman because she fears if Draupadi marries only Arjuna, sexual jealousy will cause a rift between the brothers. (Later on he tells besides Draupadi, each pandva had other wives. )

3. The epic ends not with the victory of the Pandavas over the Kauravas but with Yudhishtira’s triumph over himself. This is spiritual victory or Jaya. This is the ultimate aim of the great epic.

4. Vyasa is well aware how the old are treated by many families especially when they do not have children of their own and when all their power is gone. Yudhishtira symbolizes how things should be, while Bhima personifies the grudges the youth bear towards the older generations for actions in the past that have left them scarred for life.

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Review: Letters in the Rain

Letters in the Rain Letters in the Rain by Anubhav Shrivastava
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aman Malhotra is a studious nerd who is social misfit. His parents are from North and South India. His only friend is his diary where he pours his thoughts. He lives in defence colony of Delhi and study in DPS RK Puram. He is taking coaching for IIT in FIITJEE. He scores 98.7% in boards but couldn’t crack
IIT, he crack ENAT Manipal and goes there. He meets Kiara Mehta there. She is a hazel eyed girl who needs only good food and good music to be happy. Her happy exterior conceals a dark past. They go the Agumbe “Cherapunji of South” where Malgudi days was shot. Aman feels that Kiara has romantic feelings for him. Kiara choose Girish as her boyfriend and angry argument takes place between them. What happens next is the story?

The story is fast paced and kept me hooked. The language is very good. One example is the letter he wrote to Kiara:

“I am in a state of shock because of the incident that unravelled between us this evening. I might have used wrong words for conveying my absolute dismay at your actions but I firmly hold my opinions.”

The book is a good read and highly recommended. This is a college romance and will appeal to teenagers more but adults can also enjoy. 4/ 5 stars.

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Review of Wedding Pickle

 What is love? Does true love exist or is it just the figment of imaginations of poets? When are we ready for marriage? Why today’s generation is commitment phobic? The book tries to answer these questions.

Avni is almost 24 year old girl who is not yet ready for marriage. She is an introvert and is happy in here small circle of family and friends. That’s why marriage seems a herculean task to her. She meets Siddharth and he ask her what ring she wants. Diamond of course, was her reply. But then Siddharth cheats of her and breaks her trust on himself and love. Enters Ansh and now she is not able to trust him.

The reluctance of Avni is of every girl. She is bit apprehensive of marriage. She has to leave her set life and adjust amongst strangers. Till now she is the master of her own destiny and lived her life on her own
Terms and conditions. Avni made a plan to go party with her friends on outskirts of Delhi. Ansh forbids him due to security reasons but she feels that he is curtailing her freedom. Is she right or wrong? Maybe both. Marriage is name of adjustments and both partners have to adjust them according to wishes of each other.

The book deals with issue of Ex lover also. If a girl made a mistake with one guy who is bad, what does it mean for her future? Sidharth was clearly a mistake and Ansh helps her to get over him.

The book is a breezy read. It is fast paced and used simple Hinglish. Though the story is predictable and have been told thousands of times in movies and novels, this book can be read as this is entertaining. A treat for lovers of romance. 3/ 5 stars.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Review: The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story is written around 1890. The awareness about depression must not be there at that time. It is a short story of a new mother who is battling Postpartum depression.
Wikipedia defines it as such:

"Postpartum depression (PPD), also called postnatal depression, is a type of mood disorder associated with childbirth, which can affect both sexes. Symptoms may include extreme sadness, low energy, anxiety, crying episodes, irritability, and changes in sleeping or eating patterns. Onset is typically between one week and one month following childbirth. PPD can also negatively affect the person's child."

The couple shifts to an abandoned country house for three weeks after birth of their daughter. The man of house is a physician and have some understanding of depression. The story is told in first person. The woman is depressed but as it happens she doesn't know it. I can totally relate to story and found it a very accurate description of depression.

Instead of describing it, I find it apt to reproduce para showing various features of depression. I will also try to decipher the metaphors used (as per my understanding which maybe wrong).

Three most common symptoms of depression are: Insomnia in the night, felling bad and not hungry in morning and thirdly the situation and appetite improves slightly in the evening. See it beautifully described:

"I'm feeling ever so much better! I don't sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the daytime."

In extreme cases there is paranoia and hallucinations. You have irrational fears who have no basis in reality and you see or hear things which are not there. You feel ever so weak, helpless and try to fight it off with assuming different identities. See the passage below:

"I don't like to LOOK out of the windows even—there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?"

The yellow wallpaper is a metaphor for depression and dread and green is of happiness and normalcy. Once you are depressed you are even afraid of feeling good and you feel guilty to feel happy. See below:

"For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow."

The final stage is complete breakdown and detachment from reality. You lose hold on reality completely and do all the outlandish things which is frightening even to your care givers.

"Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.
Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.
And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads."

She become so paranoid that she locks herself in a room away from her baby. The description is very accurate and heart wrenching. People who have no knowledge about depression might find it outlandish or horror story. But it is not. Depression is hell and only those who have gone through it and survived to tell the tell like Charlotte know the truth.

PS: Thanks Jenny for suggesting this beautiful short story.

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Friday, 26 January 2018

Review: Rani Padmavati: The Burning Queen

Rani Padmavati: The Burning Queen Rani Padmavati: The Burning Queen by Anuja Chandramouli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things

Padmavati aka Padmini is not a historical figure. There is no historical account which proves that any such queen existed. This is a part of popular folklore of Rajasthan though. The name of Padmavati is found in the book called “Padmavat” written by a Muslim poet Malik Mohammed Jayasi. But myth or reality doesn’t matter when the issue is of faith. Sometimes myths are more powerful than reality. Because they give us courage and hope. Padamavati is a symbol of resistance against barbaric Muslims and devotion to religion and husbands.

Alauddin kills his father in law and uncle in cold blood. His wife Malika Jahan (Daughter of Jalaluddin Khilji) is equally cruel and is beaten by Khilji. Khilji is ambitious and want to expand his empire in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Rajputs know the ambition of Alauddin and try to put up a united front. Ratan Sen of Chittor is married to Nagmati. Padmavati is married to him in second marriage. She is like an incarnation of Laxmi and they both love each other deeply. Nagmati doesn’t like it naturally and she nurse a grudge against Padma. What happens afterwards is the story.

The book is a huge deviation from Padmavat and the pre conceived notions. Rajputs are not as smart as folk tales and Allauddin is not a lustful looter. He is ambitious and wants to be monarch. He has no intention of raping Padmavati.

Language of book is simpler than Anuja’s previous mythical books. That makes it a quick read and it can be finished in one sitting. The story is well paced and romantic scene between Ratan and Padmini are very well told.

That is the good part. But there are some glaring mistakes logically as well as historically. Religion was a rallying point in medieval period and Delhi sultans have clear agenda of expanding Islam by hook or crook. Allauddin was a cruel looter who was a religious fanatic. He broke many temples and plundered every city he invaded and conquered. He killed Jalaluddin after looting Devgiri and it shows how ruthless he was. Rajputs were no better either and they were a divided house. Treachery was common and it helped Islam to spread. But it was a Hindu-Muslim conflict. They broke, looted temples and converted Hindus by force. They raped Hindu women and took them in their harem. In fact the Purdah came after Islamic invasion. In the book it is shown that the conflict was only because of power lust and had no religious or lust angle which is totally wrong as per my understanding of history. We cannot wish away the horrible things done by these plunderers only to buy peace. If we want to have peace between Hindus and Muslims the right way is to admit the differences and atrocities carried out in the past. As for Padmini and her Jauhar all I have to say that there is no evidence of Padmini in history. But Jauhar was practiced. The book shows that Nagmati is the prime culprit and both Padmini and Ratan knew that Alauddin has no intention of raping her. That makes the logic of Jauhar untenable. There are logical fallacies in the book and in the end I found out it a confused book. Maybe Anuja was in two minds in trying to balance the rift between two communities and then showing Jauhar of women. This is a paradox.

3/ 5 stars.

P.S: A brief mention of Sanjay Leela Bhansali magnum opus “Padmavati”. The movie is since then renamed “Padmavat” (Jayasi book). Karni sena, a Rajput army has waged a war against the movie. They has done most reprehensible act of attacking a school bus. Though their method of brute force is wrong, this shows the power of myths. Maybe we should not try to rewrite history to suit present day reality. We should accept the historical wrongs and take it forward from there rather than to wish away the things.

Holocaust never happened I guess.

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