Thursday, December 31, 2015

FAREWELLl 2015! And thanks for the lovely year end gifts!

What a year it has been! Lots of ups and downs but it has been one hell of a ride - travelling to new places, meeting interesting people at Hyderabad Literary Festival, Odisha Lit Fest and Rukmini Vijayakumar's Classical dance intensive, releasing my third book Shakti: The Divine Feminine, watching helplessly when a big fat Balinese monkey snatched my daughter's pretty pink crocs right off her foot but redeeming myself somewhat by screaming shrilly and saving the shoe on the other foot, raising hamster babies, portraying Saguni in a thematic classical dance representation and having the chief guest make a special mention of it, a memorable interview where I spoke about men and women, dogs and bitches, dancing at Chidambaram, eating frog legs, interacting with school and college kids, creative writing sessions, motivational speeches, weight loss woes.... WHEW! What a year it has been.
2015 is not done with me though and reserved some special year end presents for me.
I was nominated by Salisonline for "best author of the year" award. Voting goes on till 11.00pm IST January 18th, so if you are reading this please do vote for me and Shakti right here.

Vikas Datta's year end round up of books made special mention of Shakti: The Divine Feminine calling it a refreshingly new take on the primordial Indian Goddesses. You can check it out here.

Finally, award - winning blogger, Debdatta Dasgupta Sahay gave Shakti a rave review.  Sample this:

The author, who was quite good to begin with, seems to only grow with each book. Her language is grand and has mesmerizing moments. But the best part about her narration is that it is almost impossible to figure out which part of her book is fictional. It is easy to get lost in the book and forget that it is after alla work of fiction.
Another shining element of the book is the fact how relevant it is in today’s world while talking about Indian mythology. Many aspects of the book really resonated with me and I would recommend this book to not only women but also to men – to read it and to try and understand how relevant it is.
Do check out the rest of the review here.

Wishing you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR filled with nothing but the good stuff in life. Keep watching this space for all things SHAKTI and exciting news about my next book!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I love this time of the year! It is nice and cool, there are lots of good things to eat, nobody is in the mood to work, you get to catch up with friends, and spend quality time with the family. George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino have been particularly obliging by serving up their especial brand of celluloid magic right on time for the holiday season. The party animals are probably fine - tuning their New year's eve plans which include cutting loose on Yachts, Times Square or the topless beaches of Goa. Others like me are resolving for the umpteenth time to do something wild this New Year's but it is almost a given that they will usher in a new beginning with a slice of ice cream cake in the kitchen so as not to wake the husband and kids.
Be that as it may, I wish you all a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This time of the year (or any other time for that matter), I really enjoy curling up with a book. You are right to think that there is a blatant plug sneaking up on you but it is true, I love me a good book and a plate of goodies on hand. Currently, I am reading Rosalyn D'Mello's A Handbook for My Lover and am looking forward to Haruki Murakami and Eleanor Catton next. In case you are looking for something nice to read, do check out Shakti: The Divine Feminine which is available at discount rates on Amazon India, Flipkart, and Amazon Kindle.
Hubby made this poster for me! Isn't he nice? :) 

Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la la la la! HAPPY HOLIDAYS! And may the SHAKTI be with you! 

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

George RR Martin and I

My interview with Tania Sinha for INDShare, where I outline my strategy for getting George RR Martin to finish his next book among other things . You can check it out here.
PIC courtesy of hubby who was forced into this shoot on a lazy Sunday by yours truly :)
In other exciting news all three of my books are featured on Amazon's bestseller lists. And if you are dying to get your hands on a free copy of Shakti: The Divine Feminine, please do enter the Goodreads giveaway here. Those from the United States of America who have been asking me about copies it is available on Amazon Kindle which you can buy here. or enter the giveaway here.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Plum cake and Praise for Shakti!

Recently, I did an interview with Dinamalar, a leading Tamil daily and the response has blown my mind! Really want to thank my fellow Tamils for the overwhelming appreciation they have showered on me in an endless stream of touching emails. It made me feel absolutely special and wonderful. Thanks ever so much! As STR says to his own legion of fans "Neenga illama naan illa). 
Why on earth do celebs crib about giving interviews? I could do it all day :)

In more good news, blogger Namrata has nothing but sweet things to say about Shakti: The Divine Feminine. In fact she equates it with rich and gooey plum cake. Sample this:
As I end the year 2015 this comes across one of the most amazing reads by an Indian author for the year. It promises a lot of things and it delivers. It doesn't disappoint the reader even a wee bit. 
The author whom I claim to be my favourite still continues to be that as I anxiously look forward to her next book.
Do grab this one - recommended for every one!
Foodie Verdict

This book is like plum cake - the perfect reading for the season with perfectly balanced out tastes.

You can read the rest of it here.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book Review: Margaret Atwood's "The Heart Goes Last"

Margaret Atwood is one of the greatest novelists of the era and has written the book on chilling dystopian fantasies as well as the complex dynamics that characterize the eternally fascinating bond between men and women. Her intensely readable and sometimes enjoyable, The Heart Goes Last is the latest offering from this major writer and it evokes mixed feelings.

Times are hard. A married couple, Stan and Charmaine are living out of a car, filling up on stale doughnuts and coffee while on alert for attacks from gangs. In desperation, they sign up for the Positron project, brain child of Consilience, which is a social experiment that promises them a home and job. The only caveat is they must swap their new home for a prison cell every alternate month because they are informed it is a good idea to “Do time now, buy time for our future!” Since, it is Atwood, of course Big brother is watching. Always. It is exactly the sort of thing that is likely to make Atwood fans, lick their lips in anticipation, in the hopes of discovering another A Handmaid’s Tale on their hands.

Stan and Charmaine convince themselves they are happy as can be with their new lives and remain that way till they develop an unhealthy obsession with the alternates who take over their homes while they are in prison. The sexual trysts that follow, ensuing subterfuge, jealousy, tension, in their domestic life coupled with the fact that something is clearly rotten at  Consilience given that coldblooded punishments are doled out to those who break the rules or are simply in the way or aren’t makes it all suitably creepy and pacey.

However, gradually the proceedings which you expect will take a turn towards the blackly humorous and chilling becomes increasingly farcical and bizarre. The reader will encounter men who enjoy intercourse with chickens, illegal organ and baby blood trading, fake Elvises and Marilyns used for sex, succour and entertainment, prostibots that deliver so much they promise to make prostitution redundant, and lasering technology which will manufacture sex slaves who are not really sex slaves because they want nothing more out of life than to be sex slaves. The material is wickedly funny till the laughs dry up.

Regular readers may be aware of Atwood’s propensity for selling even the most outlandish of concepts but this time around she seems to be a little off her game. It starts with the characters. Stan is an average Joe who is solid and dependable as a rule. Then he pimps out chickens and starts to develop alarming notions of convivial bliss. Charmaine is docile and disturbed before becoming downright disturbing in her job as Chief Medications Officer, a euphemism for Angel of death which is a euphemism for something far worse. She is a case study of the potential risks posed by those who are singularly susceptible to the pressures of conformity and a pathological need to please, before devolving into the vapid, subservient spouse, she originally was.

The dysfunctional duo limp forward in search of a happy ending with other twisted characters for company who are far too similar to the ‘talking heads’ that hand out death penalties at Carmaine’s job. These are not people you can root for. In fact, then can hardly be called that.

This dystopian saga which starts out as sinister begins to lean towards stupid and insipid. Atwood is sly and self – aware as ever, seemingly having a whale of a time but that somehow does not translate into a riveting read, perhaps because she seems to have lost control of the plot which romps ahead recklessly and heedlessly into the realms of the extraneous, which stops it from being satisfying or spectacular. Instead it is merely readable and somewhat disappointing. 

An edited version of this review appeared in The New Indian Express which you can read here.

Monday, November 02, 2015

The Sheer Joy of Hearing Back from Readers!

There is nothing quite like the feeling you get when somebody you have never met in your entire life reaches out to you from the murky darkness of the internet! For those with a more twisted frame of mind allow me to clarify - I am not talking about pervs who think your profile pic is good and 'want 2 make frandship with you' but about readers who pick up a copy of your book (or order it online) and actually take the time out from their lives to share their thoughts on it.

It is soooo sweet, the gesture always reduces me to a quivering pile of mush. This applies even if all the said individual wants to say is that 'YOU SUCK' and in his/her considered opinion ought to take up another career. In such cases, I console myself with the words little girls are told when an uncouth classmate tugs on carefully tied up pigtails "He likes you!" or rather "SCORE! You got through to them enough to make them reach out even if it is with a machete!" But thankfully acid - soaked emails are rare and most are very encouraging.

Sample this email from Lavanya, which has been shared with her permission. She is currently preparing for her NET Exams in December and grabbed a copy of Shakti: The Divine Feminine while buying exam guides.  Do check it out! And to all my readers out there, thanks so much for the love!

Dear Anuja,
I enjoyed reading the book because I love to read stories of the Divine. 70 percent of the stories were known to me (by reading Devi Mahatmyam) but the spin you gave them were phenomenal. I have always wondered why somethings happened the way it  did (as written in the holy books) and your characterisation was very convincing and answered many of my doubts but I feel you could have downplayed some regions which may not go well with the average Hindu psyche and minus those gnawing issues dealt in here, it is a great read.
Greatly enjoyed reading abt the platonic love of Vishnu and the equations Shakti had with Shiva and Vishnu. 
I found some words in the book didn't gel well with the rest as they were very contemporary (acc to me) for a primeval story. (Can't give examples as I was too engrossed in the book and didn't note down- yet I could feel it at some places) Yet I can't blame you for it as you have stated that the story never ends, it goes on in cycles, and is still going on and hence such timeless beings can't be held in a boundary of our making. 
About Indra's curse, I read in Devi Mahatmyam - malayalam version , that the Brahmahatya paapam he incurred was because of the death of Dadichi Maharshi (though he willingly committed Self sacrifice - Indra's selfishness was the reason why he had to commit self sacrifice). Thus cursed Indra seeks the support of Trimurthis to take him to Kali's abode for purification. After serious repentance by Indra, Devi forgives him and grants him his lost prosperity and vitality. No disagreement here as it's in line with what you have mentioned but the witchhunt was really depressing though it is very much a possibility.
I read a review of Shakti in The New Indian Express and I am pleased after reading it. Sometimes the reviews can be very deceptive. But I am very glad that I got my lazy self to buy your book as reading it was a real new experience. Believe me, I am no great reader - I have got books And left them untouched after the first few pages. Especially the widely publicised retakes on Indian mythology have always disappointed me and coz I don't get the intent of what they are trying to imply- I sometimes wonder - why the hype?
Shakti is very marvellously written and it was very easy to understand and identify with the primordial mother.
The part I loved the most - was the interaction between Durga and Mahisasura . His ultimate deliverance was very touching - which melted my heart.
I hope you continue to write more such stories adding your special ingredients to it that appeals to people like us who love to read such divine-stories yet get perplexed by the sheer volume and complexity of the sacred texts. 
All the best!
With love,

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Book Review: Karen Campbell's RISE

Scottish police – officer turned novelist, Karen Campbell’s Rise opens with the protagonist, Justine on the run from her psychopathic pimp/lover, Charlie Boy, with a big chunk of his money stuffed down her pants. It is a cracking opener, packed with tension and evocative detail. Shortly after, Justine blunders into Kilmacarra and straight into the heart of domestic turmoil and political unrest.
Campbell is a talented writer with a gift for creating characters that are honest, flawed and likeable. Justine witnesses a hit and run and she is sucked into the troubled marriage of the Andersons, whose elder son is the victim, when she is roped in to babysit their younger son, Ross having passed herself off as a certified nanny. Thanks to the peculiar circumstances in which she finds herself, Justine is in a place where she can either be the guardian angel who delivers them from evil or a satanic figure who is the harbinger of doom.
The drama plays out very well set as it is in the 2014 campaign for Scottish Independence and is chock full of narrative tension and emotional high notes. Till the bitter end, Hannah Anderson is convinced, Justine is nothing but trouble, come to tear her family apart. She and her husband, Michael have a typically troubled marriage. He is a former clergyman who currently serves as the local councillor. She is the writer who cuckolded him. They have two young sons and the duo are trying desperately to put together the pieces of their marriage not suspecting that the upheaval in their lives has only just begun.
Michael is being pestered by a ghost and Campbell lifts this conceit out of the morass of all things ludicrous with consummate skill and pathos. For instance when he finds out about his wife’s infidelity, he winds up swallowing his outrage: “Her grief melting him. Making him take his own and fold it smaller and smaller until he could tell himself that it was unimportant. Selfish even.”

 A particularly poignant theme in Rise, involves the tendency of overprotective parents and caregivers both to encumber their charges with the baggage from their lives, thereby inadvertently putting them in harm’s way. Little Ross is a child who has the love of his parents and Justine both, yet he is the one who is pummelled when the parents are fighting tooth and nail and it is his life which is endangered when retribution catches up with Justine. His plight is moving, heart – stopping and entirely hopeful.
Charlie Boy is a terrifying antagonist and seems to have been modelled along the lines of a rabid dog – all infected fury and savage brutality: “If he finds her…if he starts kicking, he won’t be able to stop.” His presence in the course of the narrative is fleeting and yet, packs a wallop in terms of sheer, unadulterated menace.
However, despite the fact that Rise has so much that works in its favour it fails to really soar, especially after the glorious opening and engaging middle portions. Inexplicably running out of steam, it sputters weakly over the finish line. The plotlines are resolved with varying degrees of success but it is all rather disappointingly pat. This, despite the fact that Campbell rises above literary cliché and refuses to settle for easy solutions.

Rise can be counted on to get a rise, all the way to the fag end, when it falters and leaves the reader, inexplicably deflated and unsatisfied. 
This review originally appeared in The New Indian Express and can be seen here.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Interviews to Remember and the EYEBALL GRABBER of a Headline!

It feels kind of nice to be peppered with interview requests! Especially on the eve of your new book release. Celebs just don't appreciate this enough. Do take a gander at my interview for New Asian Writing where I talk shop and discuss the intimate relationships I have formed with coffee and ice cream cake at length which you can find here.

Then there was the one done by Saket Suman for THE STATESMAN with a headline that made me gasp aloud and  the recipient of angry phone calls regarding the use of appropriate language. Be that as it may, it was a very interesting interview and so many folks called or messaged to congratulate me on it and said they found it "interesting", that I was an "inspiration for the younger generation" and showed a lot of "clarity and maturity". Big hug to all the lovely people in my life. Do read it in its entirety right here.

Shaifali Agrawal did an interview with me for IANS and it has been carried by the Business Standard, World News Network, Chennai Online, News Now, Pro Kerala etc. Please do check it out right here.  


According to Vikas Dutta's review of SHAKTI: The Divine Feminine for IANS, "Old beliefs can however be surprisingly resilient and find a gifted storyteller to re-emerge before us - in this case, Chandramouli, who has earlier profiled the best-known of the Pandavas and the Hindu god of love, uses her imagination and a rare sensibility to spin a gently-provocative but more importantly, a considerably thought-provoking account of Shakti, and her manifestations as Usas, Durga and Kali." 
The piece has been carried by The New Indian Express, Business Standard, The Statesman etc. You can read it here.

 Supriya Sharma of ‪#‎TheNewIndianExpress‬ says of my Shakti: The Divine Feminine, "The author’s interpretation of Shakti as a spunky Goddess, her depiction of the damage done by patriarchy and puritanical morality to both men and women makes for a delightfully stimulative read." Do check out the rest of the review here.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


Hey people!
My third book Shakti: The Divine Feminine will be out later this month. You can preorder it on Flipkart and Amazon . You can also enter a giveaway on Goodreads to win free copies. Place your orders, share and make your Navaratri and Durga Puja celebrations extra special with Shakti! 

In honour of the big release there are giveaways for Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince which was named by Amazon as one of the top 5 sellers in Indian Writing for the year 2013 and Kamadeva: The God of Desire which is ranked 47th on Amazon' s Historical fiction bestsellers list. 

You can enter here and here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Anthony Doerr's All the Light we cannot See: Book Review

Mind Games in Light and Darkness
Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer prize winning All the Light we Cannot See is a niftily crafted WWII tale which is an exuberant celebration of innocence amidst the ravages of war while simultaneously managing the excoriation of a corrupt civilization that makes killers out of children. It is not without niggling flaws that include occasionally overblown prose and an indulgent pace but the characters are so engaging and the story itself is so enthralling that all will be forgiven by the time the reader devours the last sentence.

            The plot follows the lives of a blind French girl, Marie – Laure and an orphaned German boy, Werner, with a gift for science and an uncanny understanding of the intricate workings of radios, against a timeline set before, during and after the German occupation of France. The former is forced to flee Paris with her father, a locksmith and keeper of keys at the Museum D’Histoire Naturelle to his Uncle Etienne’s home in Saint Malo. He is in possession of the fabled Sea of Flames, a rare diamond with a bloody history which has been in the museum for 200 years. A Sergeant Major of the third Reich is hot on their heels in pursuit of the diamond which supposedly carries a curse.
            Werner’s talent for fixing things gets him noticed and he is packed off to a National School to learn how best he may serve the war effort. All too soon, his brilliance is employed in tracking radio transmissions across Russia and Central Europe, while fellow soldiers rack up an appalling body count. Eventually, the war takes him to Saint Malo and the blind girl with whom he had forged a magical connection, long before either was aware of it, in the forlorn hope that he might somehow recapture the best part of him that had been leached out by forces beyond his control.
            The rich material has been assembled with great care into crisp, concise chapters designed to hold the attention of the reader. Doerr zigzags his way through various points in the narrative building suspense in parts and killing it in others with both approaches achieving similar degrees of gut – wrenching potency. His careful exploration of the factors that led to ordinary German citizens becoming the instruments of so much horror is without judgement and thereby, effective. 
            Doerr’s balances with consummate skill on the knife edge as he portrays the angels and demons that war seems to churn out. For every kind old lady who opens the door of her heart and larder to the needy and making sure she does her part to aid the resistance there is a blackguard who will sell his soul and rat out innocent neighbours in order to curry favour with the oppressors. Portions involving the schooling of Nazi youth, who are brutally honed into unthinking and ruthless killing machines to be used in service of the fatherland, constitutes a powerful portion of this tale.

            Is there anything else that can be said this remarkable book? It made me care deeply about some of the characters, one in particular. I prayed for them all to make it through the bombing of Saint – Malo as well as the malign forces aligned against them and wept unashamedly when my favourite did not survive. Doerr’s devastating portrayal of what the war did to dreamers is heartbreaking in the extreme but also a towering testament to all that is good in human nature which will always carry the promise of redemption. 

Monday, September 14, 2015


My third book! 
Hey there folks,
Absolutely delighted to announce that my third book, Shakti: The Divine Feminine will be hitting the stands this October. It is a book that is very close to my heart and unlike anything I have attempted before.
Can't wait for you guys to read and give me your feedbacks. Keep watching this space for more details!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Inside the Mind of a Tyrant

Book Review: Alex Rutherford’s Empire of the Moghul: Traitors in the Shadows
Having successfully completed a quintet of books skilfully chronicling the rise and fall of the Moghul Empire, Alex Rutherford is back with Traitors in the Shadows which examines the reign of Aurangzeb, one of the most contradictory and vilified figures in Indian history. Rutherford is on familiar terrain and his reverence for the historical material shines through in his narrative as he paints an enduring portrait of the tyrant who was not without redeeming qualities all though one clearly has to hunt for them with the help of a powerful microscope!
            Capable of unbelievable cruelty evinced by his imprisonment of his father and sons, the ruthless hunting and killing of his own brothers, his penchant for torture and careless imposition of the death penalty, the emperor was also just a man haunted by the fact that those in his line had always been forced to choose between Taktya Takhta – Throne or Coffin. Aurangzeb was a brave warrior and a brilliant strategist, possessed of a subtle and devious mind. But those fine qualities notwithstanding, he will always be remembered as a tyrant thanks to his intransigence in all matters regarding religious beliefs.
A devout Muslim, whose stern and extreme adherence to the strictures of his religion saw him undo all the hard work put in by his ancestors like Akbar to cultivate the bonds of brotherhood between those of all faiths by adopting a policy of religious intolerance. Aurangzeb banned the celebration of Hindu festivals like Holi and Diwali, ordered the destruction of temples and re-imposed the dreaded Jizya – higher taxation for all non – Muslims in order to drive home his power over them. His actions were motivated by a misguided sense of political acuity as well and intended to make a strong statement against rebels like Shivaji and later, Sambhaji who were Hindus, the Jats, Rajputs and Sikhs, to discourage his other subjects from throwing in their lot with them.
The extremist policies forcibly implemented by Aurangzeb and the bad blood it engendered opened up a chasm between the various religious factions in India that has proved difficult to bridge to this very day. If his actions were hard on his subjects they were even harder on those closest to him like his long suffering sister Jahanara, his sons and closest, most trusted advisors like Wazim Khan who bore the brunt of the hardness of character that saw him snuff every threat to his power with a terrifying savagery reminiscent of equally bloodthirsty ancestors like Genghis Khan.
Rutherford has done a fair job by staying faithful to the material which is pure gold. The historical facts are juicy and the pace is crisp, making for a riveting read and yet it is hard to shake the feeling that something is missing. Despite all the factors, going for it a certain dryness creeps in which has the result that even when an orgy is being described, it is with so much blandness that it detracts from the succulence of the story.
While history itself is always fascinating, history textbooks are less so and this book has some of the more tedious attributes of the latter. It merely touches on the emotional core of its characters while shying away from plunging the reader into the very depths which can be mildly frustrating. That minor grouse aside, Empire of the Moghul is a triumph that brings to life one of the most glorious epochs in all of history and is definitely worth a read. 
This review originally appeared in the New Indian Express which you can read here.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

My Interview with WriterStory!

My interview with Nikhil Narkhede of WriterStory, where I talk about a few of my favourite things namely, books, writing, Arjuna and Kamadeva! How fun is that?

What inspired you to start writing?

I have absolutely adored books and stories from the time I learned to read. There are few things in life more satisfying than a really good yarn and my favourite pastime is curling up with a nice novel. Writing was the natural progression of my lifelong passion for reading as I simply wanted to make my own contribution to the literary world and take my place among the storytellers.

What did you like to read when you were a girl?

Enid Blyton was an especial favourite and so was Amar Chitra Katha. I also read Frances Hodgson Burnett, Louisa May Alcott, Susan Coolidge, Elinor Brent Dyer, and Charles Dickens. At one time, I was really into the Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene), Three Investigators (Alfred Hitchcock) and Sweet Valley series (Francine Pascal)!
I started reading Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer, Stephen King, Wilbur Smith, Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle) Agatha Christie, Jane Austen during my teens and I am still partial to them.
You can read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Baahubali: The Real Story

Director Rajamouli's magnum opus starring Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anoushka and Tamanna Bhatia is shattering box office records all over the world. And it is only the beginning, Baahubali: The Conclusion will be released in 2016 and is likely to do even better. I watched it on opening weekend and was left somewhat underwhelmed. As a huge fan of the directors earlier offerings - Magadheera and Eega, I felt this wasn't his best work.

Baahubali chronicles the tale of an ousted Princeling who grows up and inadvertently stumbles upon his origins, lured by a provocatively clad apparition with hips that just won't quit to make his way past a spectacular waterfall to the forbidding mountain Kingdom that is his birthright. The film started off impressively enough before getting hopelessly enmeshed in a love story that is so bad it is embarrassing. Despite that particular hiccup, there is just enough to keep you invested in the happenings on screen thanks to fine performances from veterans like Sathyaraj and Ramya Krishnan.

The second half gets started on the flashback and just when it begins to heat up veers into an inexplicable item number and a gorgeously mounted battle sequence that teeters precariously between terrific and tedious, before limping to an abrupt ending. Its flaws notwithstanding, the film is definitely worth a watch for the jaw - dropping special effects and the care that has been lavished on it by the director and his team.

While watching the film, I kept trying to recall the story of the real Baahubali (strong - armed) and drew a blank. All that came to mind was a huge statue, the location of which I knew was at Sravana Belagola. So I looked it up and decided to share the story with those interested. It was quite fascinating and mythology lovers are sure to agree!

Baahubali is a revered figure in the Digambara Jain tradition. His father was the Tirthankara, Rishaba. There are 24 Tirthankaras and they are the founding fathers of Jainism credited with steering their follows towards nirvana by means of their holy teachings. Mahavira was the 24th and last of the Tirthankaras. Rishaba had two wives. He had a hundred sons with the first wife and the eldest one was named Bharata. His second wife bore him Baahubali. Rishaba divided his Kingdom between all his sons, though he gave a larger portion to Bharata. Not satisfied, Bharata made his brothers submit to him one by one. Baahubali alone held out, refusing to yield and the Kingdom stood on the brink of civil war and ruin.

Urged by their ministers and elders, and in the interest of preventing a bloodbath the belligerent siblings decided to slug it out mano y mano. They fought many duels which included gazing into each others eyes till one blinked (Dhrishti Yuddha), debate (Vak Yuddha), hand to hand combat (Bahu Yuddha), boxing (Mushti Yuddha), wielding staffs (Danda Yuddha) and discus (Chakra Yuddha). On and on the behemoths duelled till, Baahu lifted up his sibling and held him aloft in those mighty arms for which he was named and stood poised to turn his brains to mush. At the penultimate moment, he paused. Deeply ashamed of himself for being ready to kill his brother over a measly piece of land, Baahubali decided to exorcise his anger demons through asceticism.

Not to be left behind, Bharata took up asceticism and in the friendly spirit of sibling rivalry that had come to define their lives, Baahubali and Bharata raced each other to see who would achieve moksha first. We can safely assume that it was Baahubali who triumphed, since it is his name that has gone down in history and mythology both and he is the one in whose honour massive statues have been erected in Sravana Belagola and Udipi. Jai Baahubali!

Fisher, Mary Pat. Living Religions: An Encyclopaedia of the World's Faiths. London: LB Tauris and Co Ltd. 1997
Jones, Constance A, and James D Ryan. Encyclopedia of Hinduism. NY: Infobase Publishing. 2007.
Mehta, Jodh Singh. Abu to Udaipur: Celestial Simla to City of Sunrise. Delhi: motilal Banarsidass. 1989. 

Sunday, June 07, 2015


Book review of Patricia Duncker's Sophie and the Sibyl: A Victorian Romance
Sophie and the Sibyl is set in Berlin, 1872 and is a charming reimagining of the twilight years of literary powerhouse, George Eliot who unfortunately has come to be viewed with a touch of annoyance by later generations who were in all likelihood force fed Silas Marner, in the classroom thanks to an exacting literary curriculum.
In Patricia Duncker’s tale, the celebrity author is unlikely to be loved although her magnetic pull will be felt. At the outset, the lady of letters has fled to Germany to escape the scandal when she made the choice to live with a married man. Meanwhile, her German publisher, Wolfgang Duncker, orders his handsome if feckless, younger brother, Max to visit the great lady in Homburg and acquire the rights to Middlemarch. On the personal front, Max is to marry the young Countess Sophie Von Hahn who is also at the spa town. Wolfgang hopes that between them, Sophie and the Sibyl (as Max refers to Eliot) will succeed in giving his brother fresh purpose and lure him away from the brothels and gambling tables that he has taken to frequenting. And thus the three main characters take their positions for the “sexual triangle of Middlemarch” and the reader is led on a merry dance at the urging of a nameless narrator.
Duncker has a penchant for mixing fact and fiction in “outrageous ways” and her wicked ingenuity is delightful. Max is initially disappointed on meeting the Sibyl because not only is she old but ugly as well which is why he is unprepared for the powerful attraction he comes to feel for her. Sophie, who originally worships at the altar of the Sibyl, comes to loathe the lady as “La belle dame sans merci” who has her man in thrall.
In exploring the dynamics of Max’s relationship with the two women who come to define his life, as well as the narrative asides that detour into the rich landscape of historical fact and classical art, music and literature, Duncker examines the bare bones of the creative processes that birth great fiction. Drawing on her acute observations from life, and using the raw power of words, the Sibyl exorcises her personal demons by lashing out at those blessed with things she does not possess, painting them as vain and vapid creatures for whom she believes doom to be just comeuppance, denying them the happiness she herself has always felt entitled to.

The Sibyl leads a brazenly unconventional life with courage and grace, though in her books she exalts conventionality as morality and uses her formidable tools to punish characters who dare to stray. Later, she is soundly berated by a furious Sophie who pulls her up for living one life and believing in another while urging her susceptible readers to settle for self – sacrifice and subservience. Neither woman will give any quarter though and are both determined to wrest whatever they will from life, thereby sounding the clarion call for female empowerment in this intellectually enriching saga.
This review originally appeared in the New Indian Express and you can access it here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Book review of Ahlem Mosteghanemi's Choas of the Senses

Ahlem Mosteghanemi’s Chaos of the Senses is the second instalment in an award – winning trilogy that cemented her reputation as the bestselling female author  in the Arab world and a bona fide literary phenomenon. Set in the early 1990s at Algeria, which was being rocked by relentless political upheavals and mindless violence, the novel tackles the immortal themes of love and death, somehow infusing it with freshness and a robust heartiness.
            Hayat, the daughter of a war hero and wife of a high – ranking government official whose job it is to snuff out any threats to the ruling regime seeks to detach herself from the unfolding strife around her and the iron fist of her husband by escaping into a world of heady passion that she herself has constructed with reckless abandon within the pages of her book, content to pour out the flames of her endless desire into a river of ink.  
            When one of Hayat’s characters steps into her real world, following a bizarre collusion of strange circumstances and stranger coincidences, she sees the opportunity for the romance of a lifetime and throwing caution to the winds, rushes headlong into a torrid affair. As she herself puts it so succinctly, “... the writing process in which I’d sought refuge from life would take me, albeit obliquely back towards life itself, thrusting me into a story that would one page after another, become my own.”
            The happy blurring between the boundaries of reality and fiction takes a turn for the worse when her loyal driver of many years and a military man is killed during one of her reckless flights of fancy. But Hayat is too drunk on forbidden love and even as tragedy overtakes her homeland as well as family and threatens to consume herself as well, she is too far gone to even think of turning back.
            Sucked into a swirling vortex of tender emotion and perfect kisses, Hayat is a willing captive content to ride, “the untamed steeds of longing (that) took her to him.” Her make – believe reality is powered by the language of silence and dialogues that take on the attributes of a supremely satisfying monologue played out in the private recesses of the mind and the exquisite lovemaking has an almost masturbatory quality to it taking the reader along on her on a tumultuous ride into the stormy depths of unshackled love and the overwhelming wonder and puzzlement it engenders.

            Needless to say, in keeping with the precedent of every great love story ever written, death awaits at the final turning rather like the cold shower that has successfully doused many a heated loin and to return the player to a reality that has been stripped clean of every hint of passion, robbing it of flavour and leaving it as starkly unpalatable as ever. Thus, it is in allowing Chaos of the Senses to succumb to cliché that Mosteghanemi, succeeds in bringing it full circle.

An edited version of this review originally appeared in the New Indian Express. Check it out here.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

All the Walls Around us

Book Review: Boualem Sansal's Harraga
Lovers of Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood trilogy who have often wondered what it would be like to tuck into a few google buns, shock toffees and pop biscuits have only to pick up Boualem Sansal’s wonderfully evocative Harraga, which means ‘path burner’ in Arabic. This hauntingly beautiful tale about two diametrically opposing personalities, Lamia and Cherifa will make your taste – buds sing with hits of sugar as well as spice and your eyes sting with its acid bite.

            The protagonist, Lamia, is a wounded animal, having lost her parents and elder brother in quick succession. Her younger brother, Sofiane is a Harraga, who has run away from home, hoping to leave the country and find a better life or die in the process. Resigned to spending a life, licking her wounds having stockpiled more than a fair share of sorrow, she retreats to the colonial mansion she calls home. Barricaded within its crumbling confines she has only the company of the ghosts that roam free from the shackles of life if not death. By day, she is a paediatrician and it helps stave away penury, despair and encroaching madness, but barely. It is then that a pregnant waif, sent by Sofiane blows into her life like a runaway tornado. Cherifa is just as destructive and departs as quickly leaving Lamia reeling from her encounter with a prodigious force of nature.  
            The chronicle is propelled forward more on the strength of its central character, ably aided by the beauty of the prose, rather than a suspenseful succession of endless revelations. Lamia is a self – proclaimed “hateful bitch” whose prickly exterior, which could easily rival a porcupine at its most bristly, belies a tender core, spilling over with repressed passion and a mother’s endless compassion. Her scathing indictment of Algiers, which according to her is a “trollop who gives of herself the better to take”, the corrupt government that has allowed their country to go to seed and Islamists, who “dream of the glorious crimes against humanity yet to be committed” will have the reader lapping up her observations and asking for more.
            In direct contrast, Cherifa is the blithe spirit, who breezes through life, helping herself to all she needs without so much as a thank you, unmindful of the fact, that in their world, an unwed, knocked – up mother, who dresses skimpily and has no trouble picking up men even in the advanced stages of her pregnancy may well be looking at the death penalty. Like Lamia, the reader will have trouble warming to the child – woman but will eventually become fond of her for refusing to kowtow to the draconian laws of a spiteful civilization.
            Cherifa is not meant to be tied down and she flees the bonds of Lamia’s affection, leaving the latter devastated and unable to come to terms with the loneliness she had foolishly believed to be her shield. Gravitating towards the other victims, who had been affected by the tornado, one of whom is named Scheherazade, Lamia struggles in vain to recapture the moonbeam that had slipped through her fingers or at the very least figure out what had become of it, on the road leading to the enormously moving climax.

            In addition to exploring the perils of being a single, woman in a patriarchal society, extreme solitude and disillusionment with an unpalatable reality, Sansal seeks to answer his own question, “How far can your life take you when there is nothing to hold you back?” and the revelation will leave you with a lump in the throat, a smile on the lips and a fervent desire to become an honest to goodness, Harraga.  
This review was written for The New Indian Express and you can check it out here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Do join me at EasyLib Koramangala for snacks and some great conversation on 21st Feb, Saturday at 5pm! Hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Sweet and Sour Old Man

Book Review: Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank With You
When a Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner – winning author, Richard Ford returns with a new novel or rather four novellas set against the backdrop of Hurricane Sandy featuring his career – making and famously irascible character, Frank Bascombe, ominously titled Let Me Be Frank With You, it begs the question of whether the said author has retained his form or is merely flogging a dead cash cow. Ford, mercifully, sets such unseemly fears to rest soon enough as becomes a writer of his calibre.
Frank is retired, living in Haddam, NJ with his second wife and dealing with the attendant worries of a man on the wrong side of his 60s such as grappling with a problematic prostate, a certain condition called “ being fartational”, the crisis of impending death and so on. In these linked novellas, Frank, who thanks to happy happenstance was able to sit out Hurricane Sandy has to oblige an old client and visit the ruins of his former beach house, suffer through encounters with his ex – wife who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and lives far too close for his comfort and an old acquaintance who has a bombshell to deliver on his deathbed and in easily, what is the most poignant of the novellas Frank is visited by an African – American lady who had spent her childhood at the same house, and has returned to confront her horrifying past that has long remained buried in the basement.  
Plot takes a backseat in the rambling narrative of this ageing gent who is in no particular hurry to get anyplace but it is hardly a complaint given the richness of the writing, the fizz and pop of dark humour and precious shards of crystal – clear wisdom that are scattered liberally across Ford’s latest offering which provokes outright laughter and epiphany – filled moments in equal measure.
Like all truly memorable characters, Bascombe is far from perfect. There is a definitive touch of the unrepentant racist in him which is painfully apparent when he uses the ‘N’ word, refers to Obama’s “little black booty” even though he has voted for him or compares his Pakistani doctor’s laugh to a chimp’s and there are moments when his indifference brought on by a certain world weariness that followed the death of his son, borders on cruel. He also panders to the dirty old man stereotype when noting that the sliced fruit featured in his ex wife’s paintings were reminiscent of female genitalia “cracked open and ready for business”.
However it is hardly possible to get too mad at him when his unerring observation reveals an acuity that is often edifying. At the conclusion of his bittersweet meeting with his ex – wife, the final line says it all, “Love isn’t a thing, after all, but an endless series of endless acts.” Whether he is reassuring his wife of his love for her from beneath a sink or dryly insisting “what I mostly want to do is nothing I don’t want to do”, it is a hard task to remain impervious to his brusque charm.
This review appeared in the New Indian Express, which you can check out here. 

Monday, February 02, 2015


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Kamadeva by Anuja Chandramouli


by Anuja Chandramouli

Giveaway ends February 14, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Monday, January 05, 2015

My Latest Interview!!!

My interview with Bhavesh Bhimani, a noted editor, freelance journalist, cricket writer and blogger!
he Shiva trilogy, The Krishna Key, The Palace of Illusions, Ajaya, Asura, among a plethora of other books, has really helped spark a keen interest in Indian mythology among Indian readers. Another book in the same genre, ‘Arjuna- Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince’ by 30-year-old author Anuja Chandramouli, had created quite a buzz when it had released a couple of years back (it was listed by Amazon India as one of the top 5 books in Indian writing for the year 2013). The book, which retold the story of the epic Mahabharata from Arjuna’s perspective, met with a favourable response from readers.

And now, Anuja, who apart from being a passionate writer, is also a classical dancer and mother to two little girls, is back with her second offering: Kamadeva: The God of Desire. Very little is known about Kama, who is more renowned as the Indian version of the cupid than a standalone God in his own right. Thus, a book entirely dedicated to him should be rather interesting. In this interview, the talented author from Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, tells us more about the book, shares her views on this current fad of Indian mythology books, elaborates a bit on her fears as a writer and much more. Read on!

You can read the excerpts right here.