Friday, December 27, 2013

The Almond Tree

This book review by Trisha Ray is part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program. To get free books log on

Rating: 3.5/5

In war, there are no winners. There is only bloodshed.

The Almond Tree traces the rollercoaster-like life of AhmedHamid, eldest of 7, an Arab-Palestinian growing up in Isreali-occupied territory. Ahmed has a gift for science and numbers, graduating from school with a scholarship. But circumstances change one night, triggering a series of events that slowly destroy his family.

I’ll be frank with you: this is not a happy story. The author,Michelle Cohen Corasanti, lulls you into a false sense ofsecurity, and just as you begin to think that things are starting to get better for Ahmed, you get a literary slap in the face. Isuppose there is no other way to tell a story set in the backdrop of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The staccato tone of this book keeps you grounded in reality (yes, I am aware this is a work of fiction but it imitates life pretty well). Ahmed watches as the violence and horrors of the conflict gradually corrupts his mother and siblings, and with only his father on his side, he forges ahead, from the slaughterhouse to the hallowed classrooms of MIT (Massachusetts, not Manipal).

It is not easy to write about a conflict so steeped in complications that it has been deemed in academic circles as “irresolvable”. Corasanti is careful, for the most part, not to delve too deeply into the political antecedents, deciding instead to focus on the human element. She shows how the same set of events can have profoundly different impacts on different people. On one end of the spectrum is Ahmed: who takes the Gandhian route and decides to let go of his fear and hatred and instead work within the boundaries of his circumstances toward a promising future. His brother Abbasis his polar opposite. He decides to fight fire with fire, eventually joining the Hamas. One point to note, however, is that Abbas seems to be demonized by the author. Her choice is interesting because it reflects a very old moral debate. Is Ahmed the better man to have ignored the conflict? Or isAbbas better man to have fought for the freedom of his people? Are the darkest places in hell truly reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bless You.

I want you all to experience what I do when I read Dagny Sol. I turn into a sponge that wants to soak in her wisdom.  Her words inspire me to try harder and expect less in return. To live deeper,  cherish more and be the sunshine that we crave for in our lives. 

In this post she talks about how a simple word of blessing, a genuine thought of goodwill towards another person, an authentic hope that someone would find joy, is one of  our life's most fulfilling accomplishments. 

A freelance corporate trainer, Dagny Sol also blogs here 

A couple of years ago I read a newsletter from one of the inspirational websites I keep stumbling upon from time to time. The fact that I still remember the gist of the mail’s contents shows how powerful the message was. Yet, there was nothing spectacular about the message. It was as simple as a child’s spontaneous hug; as soothing as a gentle, misty rain after a parched, dusty day.

The mail contained an excerpt from Kate Nowak’s book May You Be Blessed. In this excerpt Kate talks about the unfolding of the events that led her to write the book. It is a simple but powerful story. Let me recount it as best as I can, from memory.

A few days after her father's death, she had gone grocery shopping. She was standing in an empty aisle of a large store when she suddenly sneezed. Almost instantly, from the next aisle she heard a voice call out, "Bless you," and then another, and another, and yet another. In the span of a few seconds, she counted eleven different voices coming from every possible direction in the store, blessing her.

For some reason, perhaps because she had recently lost her father and was still feeling lost and vulnerable, this simple event made a deep impact upon her. She knew that the idea of blessing someone when they sneeze is rooted in superstition, an archaic belief that in the act of sneezing the soul is thrown from the body, and a blessing is needed for spiritual protection. Hence she also knew that saying “Bless you” when someone sneezes is more a polite, automatic response than a deliberate calling down of blessingand grace on the person. Even so, she was overwhelmed.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Baramulla Bomber- Read At Your Own Risk

This book review by Trisha Ray is part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program

Plot- rating - 3/5

Quantum Physics meets Bible and Vedas in Background of Kashmir and Cricket

This super snazzy description paired with that sexy cover photo will pique the interest of even the least bookish. It’s the literary equivalent of a suspiciously colourful cocktail at a bar with questionable rep. You have no clue how it’ll taste, or if you’ll even live to see another day, but damn it, you’ll just have to die trying. That said, I must confess I went in with minimal expectations, given my previous experience with amateurish attempts at thrillers.

Baramulla Bomber is the author, Clark Prasad’s, very first novel. We follow the meteoric rise of Mansur Haider (the titular Baramulla Bomber) through to the ranks of the Indian national cricket team, in the backdrop of a joint terrorist plot involving both China and Pakistan; spanning Oslo, Mumbai, New Delhi, Kashmir, a little cove in Scotland and Islamabad; along with the underlying theme of ‘primordial sound (aka Om)’ and a bunch of people called the Guardians. Confused? Well take an aspirin, down an espresso and forge ahead.

First, the positives-The author irrefutably has an impressive repertoire of information. There aren’t many novels in the market that deal so extensively with Indian intelligence (no pun intended), and it’s a nice plus seeing our (surprisingly competent) security forces and government portrayed in a positive light. The plot has all the potential of being the sci-fi espionage thriller it promises to be, and a cast of consistently good-looking, tall and multi-talented characters. I was genuinely intrigued by the entire concept of primordial sound and its ability to both heal and annihilate. The entire book was littered with factoids about warfare (from border skirmishes with Pakistan and China to US’s invasion of Iraq) and religion which were enough to sustain my interest, despite the negatives. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Making your death a truly memorable moment of your life

Death is a very special occasion in our lives. Like birth, it is a once in a lifetime occurrence. Unlike birth, people have seen you for a lifetime before your death. So, when you finally breathe your last after keeping the world on tenterhooks, it’s hardly a surprise to see the world erupt in a tsunami of carefully crafted grief. Nelson Mandela’s was one such demise where millions took to social media to express their admiration to honour his extraordinary life. 7.2 million tweets were generated and 39 million Facebookers shared something besides their selfies. Of course, you have to be a Mandela to have David Cameron, Obama, Bill Clinton call you inspirational and a hero of our times. You can always trust an American senator to accord the highest possible honour and call Mandela “George Washington and Abraham Lincoln” of his country. An enthusiastically grieving Tweeter even went to the extent of RIPing him using Morgan Freeman’s picture. I suppose it was their skin tone and their being around for a while that confused the guy, but both have stature – one famous for playing God on celluloid and the other to South Africans exploited and discriminated against in their own country. 

Image courtesy - Twitter

It was as if everyone, from media houses to the common man, was impatiently waiting for Madiba to bid goodbye, for them to finally vent their grief that they had been storing for so long. In fact New York Times’ obituary had been in the works since 2007. You can imagine their immense relief when he finally obliged. Quite like Tendulkar, an innings a tad short of a century. But unlike him, Mandela got only one chance.

It pays rich dividends to keep the world waiting and not taking them by surprise by popping off suddenly. Everyone gets time to collect their wits, keep the right things ready and not sob like a blabbering fool trying to cope with unexpected loss.

Here lies the catch. Of what use are all the kind words eulogising you and singing paeans to your greatness, when you are no longer alive to read them. Who, beside you, cares enough to google all 1687970 articles, 7.2 million tweets and 39 million Facebook updates written in your honour! It was like everyone around you was waiting for you to die to admire your life.

What a terrible waste of your demise if you can’t experience even a fraction of that hysteria that you generated with your departure!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Madam, there’s a drone hovering in your backyard.

For all cyber junkies and Amazon faithfuls, the week couldn’t have started on a better note when Amazon announced its ambitious plans of turning into Dominos. Before you start counting the toppings on your pizza and your calories, let me clarify that it is the 30 minutes delivery or else that Amazon plans to emulate. The very concept that Domino lifted from your trusted Kalu’s kirana store that delivers Kurkure, 6 bottles of Banta and three unopened packets of Haldiram’s Masala peanuts, in ten minutes or else you call Uncle jee again. As for Chicken Makhani Tikka pizza, you’ll still have to rely on your neighbourhood Pijja corner.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos revealed the giant online store is developing a drone-based delivery service called Prime Air that will deliver orders half-hour after you click the "buy" button.

It is comforting to know that The Federal Aviation Administration operates at the same efficiency levels as its Indian counterparts and will take at least 4-5 years to sort out the rules and regulations for these commercial drones to be operational.

I feel, for Amazon to succeed in their ambitious plans they have to change their products’ profile. For instant delivery of books, we already have Kindle versions that take under 2 minutes to download. Why would I pay the extra money for speedy delivery of gadgets, shoes, toys when I can either walk down to the nearest store and pick it up instantly or be a little patient and save money!

It has to be a craving that demands instant gratification. Like when you’re stuck in a traffic snarl for over four hours, frothing like an over-fermented toddy; before you can scream – Saale, tere baap ka rasta hai kya, a drone appears in the horizon, snaps a pair of wings on your shoulders and off you fly away from this unholy mess and into your wife’s waiting arms, the car be damned. Or you’re climbing the Everest and longing for Maa ke hath ka khana or even Maa. In just 30 minutes you can head to the nearest cave and gobble up Rajma-chawal with your Maa beseeching you with – Beta, sweater pehno. You’re stuck in a dull meeting with your Boss’s screechy voice driving you up the wall and you wish he relocates to a Tibetan monastery and never comes back and voila Amazon drops the complete series of the Dalai Lama’s teachings on his head! Imagine you’ve been kidnapped by Maoists and are tied to a tree waiting to be executed, wouldn’t it be brilliant if Prime Air airdrops Arundhati Roy to mediate on your behalf! Instead of deploying the state police to stalk his lady love, a certain Saheb can use drones to snoop on her.