Book Review: 7 Secrets of the Goddess

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Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Westland
ISBN13:9789384030582
Genre: Non fiction
Pages: 270
Source: Flipkart

Lakshmi massages Vishnus feet. Is this male domination? Kali stands on Shivas chest. Is this female domination? Shiva is half a woman. Is this gender quality? Why then is Shakti never half a man? Taken literally, stories, symbols and rituals of Hindu mythology have much to say about gender relationships. Taken symbolically, they reveal many more things about humanity and nature. This is the fourth title in the bestselling 7 Secrets series.

The six goddesses in the Indian mythology Kali, Gauri, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Vitthai are discussed in great detail in the book.  Gaia, the Goddess from Greek mythology blends in beautifully in this narrative of the Indian goddesses. The secrets revealed are beautifully woven into the intricate narrative that is Devdutt’s forte’. The book focuses on the  equality of male and female forces in the ancient times and how it tilted towards men as society evolved over time and patriarchy emerged.
In typical Devdutt Pattanaik style the illustrations hold the story together. They take the reading experience to a whole different level.

The author is a Doctor. He worked in the Pharma Industry for 15 years. After that he became an author. With more than 50 books and 500 articles under his belt, Mr. Pattanaik writes about Mythology in the light of today’s times. All his books are illustrated by him too. I am a big fan of the ace mythologist. He effortlessly manages to throw a new light on stories that have been told and retold time and again.

I cannot wait for the next book in the series!

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: The Innovators

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Author: Walter Issacson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN13: 9781471138799
Genre: Non fiction
Pages: 560
Source: Flipkart

A few decades ago, the very thought of having a world of information at our fingertips was unimaginable. The Internet and computers have changed the world forever, bringing a technological revolution with them to sweep us into the twenty-first century. However, the conception of these magnificent creations was a long process. It took the minds of geniuses whose ideas had the potential to turn heads and garner attention. These men and woman shaped the world into its current form with their ideas and inventions. Walter Isaacson begins with the story of Ada Lovelace, the woman who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He goes on to tell the stories of others like her, giants such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J. C. R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee and Larry Page.

The Innovators is an appropriately modest title, because many of the problems solved seem tiny on their own: a different configuration of electrodes, putting a film on a silicon wafer. Much of this is home cooking, solving everyday puzzles with the tools at hand. The story moves from science to the military to management, and the book is half over before the first lawsuit appears, after which they proliferate. The story also tends to travel from East to West. A subtheme is the overthrow of authoritarian chief executives and their besuited courtiers. The casualizing and revaluing of the business world by Silicon Valley cowboys is a founding myth of the tech industry, even as its CEOs grow ever more powerful.

In The Innovators Isaacson identifies several virtues that were essential to his geeky heroes’ success. The digital pioneers all loathed authority, embraced collaboration and prized art as much as science. Though its lessons may be prosaic, the book is still absorbing and valuable, and Isaacson’s  narrative talents are on full display. Few authors are more adept at translating technical jargon into graceful prose, or at illustrating how hubris and greed can cause geniuses to lose their way.

Walter Isaacson is an American biographer known for his books Kissinger: A Biography, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Einstein: His Life and Universe and Steve Jobs. He graduated from Harvard University and during his stay, he was President of the Signet Society, a member of the Harvard Lampoon and a resident of Lowell House. He later went on to study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, reading Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). He has also served as the Chairman and CEO of CNN and the Managing Editor of Time.

The Innovators is about how a group of hackers, geniuses, and geeks created the digital revolution. Its a must read for anyone and everyone looking to be inspired.

Rating 5/5

Book Review: One Life Is Not Enough

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Author: K. Natwar Singh
Publisher: Rupa Publications
ISBN13: 9788129132741
Genre: Autobiography
Pages: 464
Source: Flipkart

One Life Is Not Enough is a searing autobiographic account written by Former Minister in charge of External Affairs, Kunwar Natwar Singh on his life as a bureaucrat, politician, and cabinet minister. He talks about his experiences in Delhi s political corridors and sets the record straight on several events, including the Volcker controversy.Natwar Singh joined the Indian Foreign Service and served as a bureaucrat for 31 years. He joined the Congress Party in 1984, and became a Minister of State in the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s council with the portfolios of steel, agriculture, and coal and mines in 1985.

In this much-awaited autobiography, the former cabinet minister talks justly about his experiences and services in various ministries. Singh has played a significant role in Indian politics for more than twenty years and has been a part of some of the most epochal events of independent India, including Indo-China talks and the formation of Bangladesh. In 2002, when the Congress party came back to power, Natwar Singh was appointed as the Minister for External Affairs. But his eventful career saw its end with the Volcker Report in the year 2005. His name appearing in the Iraqi food-for-oil scam forced him to resign from the cabinet and eventually from the Congress party.
Singh talks about all these events and the ups and downs of the Congress party in One Life Is Not Enough, an account of an insider. His association with the party allowed him to observe some of the historical events closely, and he talks about Pakistan in the 1980s, under the rule of President Zia-ul-Haq, Indo-Chinese and Indo-USSR relations among other sensitive developments.

The book has candid details of the party bigwigs which was why it had a controversial release. It shows you a side of the political system that is not visible to an outsider. If you are an avid follower of the happenings in New Delhi, this book is treat for you. Political reads are an acquired taste, if you are a rookie to this genre, this is where you should start.

A pot boiler in its own sense, One Life Is Not enough wins my vote.

Rating 4/5

Book Review: Play With Me

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Author: Ananth
Publisher: Penguin Books India
ISBN13: 9780143423621
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 252
Source: Flipkart

Play With Me is a racy, contemporary read on love, lust and sex. The protagonist, Sid, is a successful photographer in a boutique agency he co-founded. He seems to be living the dream, has almost everything; work that he so passionate about, money, a lavish lifestyle. But the one thing missing, perhaps the most important, is love. And one day, a stunning, independent, free-spirited woman called Cara walks into his life. The two get involved in a thrilling affair, sexually obsessed, which drastically changes all of Sid’s ideas about love. The relationship completely alters the way he thinks about the natural, sensual pleasure. Another twist in the story changes everything because something strange happens in Sid’s life he discovers himself falling intensely in love with another woman, leaving Sid in place where he has to decide between love and lust.

The character of the protagonist is described in handsome detail. Sid is a charming personality, passionate about his work, oscillating between love and lust on his moral pendulum. Cara is the free spirited intern, who breezes into Sid’s life, oozing of sexuality. While the very married Natasha fills the emotional caring spot in his life.

Ananth’s writing is crisp. He manages to keep the plot cooking nicely, spicing it up with sex every once a while. A little more seasoning is all it needed to be a perfect lip smacker. Play with me is an erotica written from a man’s point of view. This makes it different from the others that have been making book store rounds. It also marks a sensational debut for Ananth.

Read the book for the meat or read it for the spice. The book makes a perfect quickie!

Rating 3/5

Book Review: Fade into Red

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Author: Reshma K. Barshikar
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN13: 9788184005547
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 376
Source: Flipkart

Fade into Red is a story of Arya, a smart and intelligent modern day girl, an investment banker who dreams of being an Art Historian. In-spite of being stuck in a job she doesn’t like, she is successfully juggling her family, her career and her long distant boyfriend. On a monsoon day in June, she is suddenly sent packing from Mumbai to Tuscany to buy a vineyard for a star client. The four day trip turns into a two week treasure hunt that finds her in the middle of midnight wine deals, dodgy vintners, rolling Tuscan hills, and a playboy millionaire whose swirling plans don’t just include the wine. A twenty nine year old, Arya jay walks on the road of happiness realising how elusive the end can be.

The author has described every scene the book in beautiful detail. If you let it, your imagination will take you right into the gorgeous vineyards of Tuscany. All characters are almost alive and Arya speaks to you through the authors words. Her dilemma of choosing between things she wants to do and things she has to do is very well portrayed. The loud family and the banter with the boy friend add the air to the book, making it a breezy read.

Reshma K. Barshikar was a former investment banker. She completed her B.A. (Honours) at the Oxford Brooks University, Oxford and started her career as a journalist for The Hindu and Business Line. But she left the job to complete her MBA at the Indian School of Business. Reshma now works as a freelance travel and lifestyle writer. She currently contributes to India Today Travel Plus, Harper’s Bazaar and Grazia among other publications of repute. She is also the co-curator of a prominent e-commerce website.

The book is a definitely worth a read. Pour yourself a glass of red, and take a dreamy walk through Tuscany with Arya while she searches for happiness.

Rating: 3/5

Book Review: Once Upon a Crush

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Author: Kiran Manral
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd
ISBN13: 9789382473916
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Personal Copy

“Once Upon a Crush” is a story of twenty-nine year old free-spirited, Rayna De. Things aren’t going her way, a runaway friend is bunking with her, she has a boss who is a Satan reincarnate, her thirties are running towards her with all their might and to add to it, her love life is non existent. When Devan Ahuja enters the workplace, Rayna quickly falls head over heels for him. She tries telling herself otherwise, all in vain. Responses from the office hunk who has a model-turned-actress for a girlfriend are hot and cold at the same time, it confuses Rayna further. Meanwhile. he parents put in front of her, a Sid Bose, all with a fat pay pack and three bedroom house. The choices that she makes the story take interesting turns.

The author has described each character with a funny twist. Be it the overly dramatic friend Pixie or the highly irritating colleague Mathur, the boss Aparajita or the crush himself. You empathise with Rayna, a girl coming to the city of dreams from Kolkata. Its simple yet vivid at the same time. Kiran has added a new spice to an old recipe, making it very interesting.

Kiran Manral is an Indian writer, blogger, media consultant and the founder of India Helps, a volunteer network which works with disaster victims. She has also worked with several publishing houses as a features writer and journalist. A self-professed school gate mom, she lives in Mumbai with her family. This is her second book after ‘The Reluctant Detective’.

I picked up the book because I love the way Kiran Manral writes. Simplicity in writing makes it an easy on the eyes read. This one qualifies as a perfect Bollywood pot boiler. Its a nice light read. The pretty cover gets it placed in the chick lit section, but just like crushes aren’t gender biased, the book isn’t either!

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Review: Sita, An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana

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Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN13: 9780143064329
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 328
Source: Personal Copy

Ramayana is one of the two mythological Indian epics that have been told and retold over the years. It is the story of Rama, the son of King Dasharatha. He was the heir to his kingdom, an empire. Yet, due to the malice prevalent in the palace, the Prince was exiled for fourteen years. The Ramayana is all about obeying the rules and laws of Dharma, even at the cost of personal loss and unhappiness. She plays a prominent role in the epic, but is a very quiet and restrained character. Her abandons her in the end because of the persistent gossip among his subjects about Sita’s fidelity. Sita remains quiet, does not lose her composure, and does not vocally demand retribution. Sita’s silence is not the silence of the weak. It is the silence of the ascetic, who knows the truth, and so is patient. She knows her husband loves her, and she is indispensable to him. Moreover, she knows she is the Goddess who makes him the God, the woman who makes him the whole man.

The book explores the enigma of Sita and explains her real strength of character. “The journey to discover Sita makes you realize that the Ramayana is not a book, as most people assume, but a vast tradition manifesting itself in written, oral and visual traditions. And for some reason, children of India have been kept away from it. Yes, we are told of the Valmiki Ramayana, but we are not told that there are several versions of this original story itself a northern version, a southern version, an eastern version, which have barely a third of the verses common between them. Then there are Sanskrit plays written by dramatists like Bhasa and Bhavabhuti where Ram is a great hero, not necessarily God. Then we find Ramayanas of the Jains, the Buddhists as well as from South East Asia, which retell the same story but with a very different emotion. From the tenth century onwards we find the Ramayana in each and every Indian language, written by several authors, in different scripts, with different styles, all deeply immersed in bhakti. It is through these regional narratives, not the Sanskrit ones really, that ideas related to love, valour, fidelity and wisdom spread to every corner of India.” says Devdutt Pattanaik  in an exclusive article for Flipkart

Devdutt Pattanaik is a doctor who became a writer. Other books by this author include Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management, 7 Secrets of Vishnu, Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata, The Book of Ram, and Hanuman’s Ramayan.

Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana is a brilliant read. The illustrations add character to it. It makes you rethink the pre-set social norms of right and wrong. Devdutt is a master story teller. With this book he gives detailed insights about stories that have been told for ages. Yet again he effortlessly manages to makes you fall in love with mythology.

Rating: 5/5