Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review: The Disappearance of Tejas SharmA and Other Hauntings by Manish Mahajan



Book: The Disappearance of Tejas Sharma…and Other Hauntings

Author: Manish Mahajan

No. of Pages: 85

Genre: Horror, Fiction

Publisher: Cinnamon Teal Publishing


I received this book as part of a book review program at The Tales Pensieve. When the opportunity came up, I was already waiting for another collection of horror stories up for review in Dec. I have read very little of horror genre – although a lot of mystery. I am not sure if I will want to read a horror novel but I am definitely game for short stories!!!

Although I knew that the book was only 85 pages, but when the book arrived, I realized how thin an 85-page book is. I had almost forgotten that. Having read novel ranging from 200 to 600 pages and occasionally even longer, holding a 85 page book in hand to read stories is different.   

Another pleasant surprise was the 'foreword' of the book … it was written by someone I personally know. Rohit Gore (author of 4 book – Circle of Tree, Focus Sam, The Guardian Angels and The Darker Dawn) is someone I have worked with in my previous job – we were part of the same team. It was kind of nice to see a known name in the book.

So now, let's come to the book. The book has a longish title so I will stick to 'DTS'. It has 12 nice eerie short stories and each one has its own style and backdrop. The stories range from modern ages to times of the British in India (about 100-150 years ago). The plot ranges from ghostly trees to dead people to ancient spirits to plain scary people, from haunted houses to haunted railway stations, from strange photographs to stranger amusement parks (which wont amuse).

 Manish has used the typical Indian horror stereotypes in his stories in a nice manner. There is a nice quality to the stories which I couldn't really put my finger on but enjoyed nevertheless. Manish has even managed to inject some nice humor in the 'horror' stories.

I have always been impressed by short stories where the author has the challenge of building up a plot and surprising you in the end. Often the end surprises you by not doing so. Manish Sharma has done the job pretty well. He has been able to weave stories in a manner which hold your attention and grip you.  

Incidentally, the story which appears in the title of the book 'The Disappearance of Tejas Sharma' was although an interesting one but not really the best of the lot (read scary). There are others which are better. Dunno why he chose to name the book after that story.

My personal favorite is 'Her Unkempt Promise' where the short stories of an author begin to come true. My other favorite is '13, Church Street' because it has the ghosts with the touch of humor when it is least expected.

Another thing was the cover design. In itself, the cover design was really good. But after reading the book, I was unable to connect the cover to any of the stories. Wish they would have designed a cover to 'cover' at least one or some of the stories together. It would have been worth the effort.

It is just 12 stories spanning 70 off pages so if you are looking for around two hours worth of nice reading, pick this one up. Although I did find the price point of 250 bucks pretty high for 70 pages of reading joy

The author advises the reader to read the stories in the solitude of the night. I did that and it only enhanced the experience as every little sound coming from the window not only got amplified by the state of my mind but also made me pause and pay attention. Something I might have never done before. Do it at your own risk (of gaining more 'pleasure' out of the book).

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve

Monday, October 28, 2013

Duryodhana's Story by the one who told Ravana's Story

A week ago, I wrote the review for 'Arjuna: Saga of the Pandava Warrior-Prince by Anuja Chandramouli'; and the review ended with the following para …

The author of Asura is coming out with another book, the focus this time around is the Kauravas. I want to give that book a shot since the potential to weave a great story around Kauravas is immense. I hope he does not bungle up the opportunity like he did in Asura. It might be interesting to reach out to him and ask directly :)

Well … I have sent my questions to the author through the publisher and now wait for his response. Based on the response, I might send in some more questions. And yes, I have asked the questions I wanted to ask.

Also, here is the cover of his forthcoming book, "AJAYA – Epic of the Kaurava Clan" which is actually Duryodhana's story – so Anand once again writes the story from the villain's perspective … and I am definitely interested if it is Mahabharata from the eyes of Duryodhana.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book Review: Baramulla Bomber by Clark Prasad

Book: Baramulla Bomber
Author: Clark Prasad
No. of Pages: 316
Genre: Science Fiction Espionage Thriller
Publisher: Niyogi Books

I have actually waited for a very long time for this book. Much before it was being talked about in media. A very good friend of mine, Shraddha was giving the author review inputs in the early stages of the book writing process so I was looking forward to the book release. But a long time had passed
When the book came up for review on, I snatched up the opportunity and the moment it got delivered, I rushed straight to the 'Acknowledgement' section which I hardly read in books. It was nice to see my friends name in there. I clicked a pic of the page and immediately sent it to her.
Then began the reading of the book - It was fine at first and then slowly gradually things started to happen and mysteries and suspense began to build … The build-up was good. I began speculating about the climax and the plot and the type of biblical-vedic weapon being talked about and the loyalties of the various characters. But then the book lost its pace. It seemed to drag without much happening. And then again a flurry of events hurriedly fit into the climax which left me more disappointed than fulfilled. Why disappointed you ask?
Lets take a step back and look at the book blurb: "AN ANCIENT WEAPON FROM THE VEDAS & BIBLE ONCE HUNTED BY THE NAZIS POWERED BY THE SOUND OF UNIVERSE REBORN WITH HELP OF QUANTUM PHYSICS GOING TO BE UNLEASHED ON TO THE WORLD AND KASHMIR HOLDS ITS SECRET Multiple intelligence agencies are tracking Mansur Haider, a god-fearing aspiring cricketer from Kashmir. His girlfriend, Aahana Yajurvedi, is trying to locate her missing mountaineering team, who vanished after a mysterious earthquake strikes Shaksgam Valley. Investigating Mansur and the Shaksgam Valley incident is Swedish intelligence officer, Adolf Silfverskiold, whose only relationship to god consists of escorting his girlfriend to Church. A dual China-Pakistan battlefront scenario facing the Indian Home Minister, Agastya Rathore, whose ancestors carry a prehistoric secret linked to the stars. He is faced with the challenge of finding a lasting solution to the Kashmir crisis. Which Biblical Weapon was Tested in Shaksgam Valley? Why is Mansur Haider Important? Is There a Solution to the Kashmir Crisis? Can Destiny be Controlled? Does a Cosmic Religion Exist?"
You know, it is practically impossible to ignore the book and the potential of the plot after reading the blurb. The book is touted as a 'Science Fiction Espionage Thriller' and also as 'the world's first ever techno mythology thriller' with a tag line that says 'Quantum Physics meets Bible and Vedas in the background of Kashmir and Cricket' !!! WOW !!! Right ???
Wrong !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Let's take it one by one …
1. "AN ANCIENT WEAPON FROM THE VEDAS & BIBLE ONCE HUNTED BY THE NAZIS POWERED BY THE SOUND OF UNIVERSE REBORN WITH HELP OF QUANTUM PHYSICS GOING TO BE UNLEASHED ON TO THE WORLD AND KASHMIR HOLDS ITS SECRET" – Frankly speaking, there is quite a lot of 'mention' of the Vedas and Bible, but the weapon is not really coming out from there. Nazis are mentioned in the passing and I think I missed the quantum physics in the novel and also the Kashmir holding the secret part. Did I miss reading some 100 pages or so of the 300 page novel ????
2. "Multiple intelligence agencies are tracking Mansur Haider, a god-fearing aspiring cricketer from Kashmir. His girlfriend, Aahana Yajurvedi, is trying to locate her missing mountaineering team, who vanished after a mysterious earthquake strikes Shaksgam Valley. Which Biblical Weapon was Tested in Shaksgam Valley?" – When you realize why multiple agencies are tracking Mansur Haider in the climax, you don't know whether to laugh or to pull out your own hair from the head. And yes, Aahana is supposed to be locating her missing team … well, I think I missed that too. I didn't find the team in the novel by the way. The earthquake finds mention all across the book and so does the 'biblical weapon' … But you do not get a conclusive answer to what caused the 'earthquake' and I don't understand why that weapon is referred to as 'biblical weapon'. It is like calling the Atom Bomb a vedic or Indian mythological weapon because the devastation caused by the weapon matched the description of the destruction described in the Mahabharata in the context of the famous 'Brahmastra'! Come on … really ??? And imagine a weapon so powerful that its testing causes a powerful earthquake (even the nuclear weapons testing did not cause an earthquake) … exciting – isn't it? But then, why isn't the weapon actually part of the story. Everyone in the story talks about the earthquake and the possible weapon testing … but no one is actually chasing this earth-quake causing weapon.
3. And now coming to the last part of the blurb … "Why is Mansur Haider Important? Is There a Solution to the Kashmir Crisis? Can Destiny be Controlled? Does a Cosmic Religion Exist?" …. Well, frankly speaking, the book did not answer any of those questions. These questions seemed to have come up by some copywriter who was given a 2-minute brief about the book (and did not really read the book).
Now lets look a the labels applied to the book.
First one being - 'Science Fiction Espionage Thriller' – is a decent fit. Espionage – yes, thriller – yes, science fiction … maybe.
Second one being 'the world's first ever techno mythology thriller' is highly debatable. Our mythologies cover a lot of ground mentioned a whole range of divine weapons and 'miracles' which are a reality today. Let me give you an example, if I write a novel in which a scientist invents a new engine or technology for flying machines (airplanes / fighter planes) and claims that his new technology is based on the same principle as the ancient 'Pushpak Vimana' mentioned in the Ramayan – used by Ram to travel to Ayodhya after the war with Ravan … without any mention of how I got the ancient technology, from which scripture or how I decoded it and what its secret was and why was it hidden from the world for 1000's of years … do I qualify my piece of fictions as 'techno mythology thriller' ???? By adding a single paragraph referencing some mythological occurrence of similar phenomenon, most science fiction novels will immediately become 'techno mythological' !!!!!!! Come one …. Give me a break.
Third tag line … "Quantum Physics meets Bible and Vedas in the background of Kashmir and Cricket" … as mentioned earlier, I think I missed the Quantum Physics part in the novel. Bible and Vedas are mentioned in the novel but not really part of the story as in being referenced and researched for clues o technology. Kashmir and Cricket are also there but they end up being the reason you want to scratch your head and pull out your hairs.
So all in all, Baramulla Bomber bombed for me. It turned out to be a very big disappointment. The author had an interesting premise and a good set of characters and he could have woven a fantastic story taking you across India, Pakistan, China and Middle-eastern countries where he could have traced the origin of the biblical weapon and the earthquake business and the aliens too (Yes, there is mention of aliens too and also a mention of the UFO's).
Clarke Prasad lost an opportunity to create some legendary piece of literature. If you are a very regular reader with a long reading list, don't waste your time. If you are the reader who picks up books on whim and who reads Chetan Bhagat books because movies are being made out of them and everyone around talks about him … you can pick this one up. With the right kind of marketing effort, this book can actually climb the charts.
This review is a part of the biggest 
Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Not Just another safety tips article for women


If you are a women / lady / girl who needs travels on her own to work / college, then I am sure that you would have read several 'safety' articles … especially in the past few months after the much publicized Delhi rape case and the more recent Mumbai rape case and the countless others that happen around the country. You might have also attended some session on safety and would have seen more vigilance measures adopted by your company or society. You might have found yourself being more alert and often paranoid about your own surrounding when returning late to home or when travelling alone in early mornings.

Well … this article is for you. The lady who is worried about her safety and is slightly confused after reading the countless articles about safety and almost on the verge of buying or already in possession of the 'pepper spray' !!

I write this article in response to the various 'safety measures and advice' that is floating around. Some I find very very useful while some I find not so useful and some even foolish.

Please Note: these are my personal feelings and thoughts only and are not based on experience but pure speculation. Please use your own head and use the tips you feel comfortable with. Your own ready presence of mind is your biggest and most efficient defense.  

Let me first begin with the usual ones and my view on them ... then move to some of my own ideas (just one or two) and then close with regular ideas. I might not stick to the number 10.

1. Pepper Spray - somehow this features in almost all the article that I have read. This seems like the most recommended one but I have my doubts. My question is … when you are sure that a guy is going to pounce on you or has already done it … Will you have enough time to open your purse, locate the spray (I m sure you realize the challenge of locating anything in your purse in under 2 seconds), hold it the right way and spray in the eyes of the threat ????

I hope u have heard of the girl(s) who sprayed it in their own face since they were not holding it correctly. Suddenly, the pepper spray does not look like a great defense mechanism. Also, another problem is that the assailant might just grab that from your hand and spray it in your face using sheer muscle-power!!! And what if all goes well and when you actually spray, nothing comes out because the nozzle was clogged since it had been lying in your purse un-used for several months.  So I have my doubts. I would love to hear their opinion from some lady who had hands-on experience with using the pepper spray herself when needed.

On the other hand, a slim bottle/can of Deo can prove a nice alternative to pepper spray. It might scare your assailant away, he might not have time enough to register in his mind that it is a deo and not pepper spray. And of course, you can spray it in his face too.

2. High heels recommended since they are good weapons ... but how do u propose to run in them?? Can you really run in high heels? My thoughts - If you are wearing them, they can be good weapons but try not to wear them for the sake of using them as weapon

I am not sure how much time you will have to remove the high heels, hold them properly to attack the assailant. But, if you are wearing one and can remove them to strike the assailant properly striking him on his face or head with the pointed heel … that is good. But remember to remove the other one too before you begin to run !!

3. Carrying sharp objects is another recommended one ... but if your job requires you to travel in flights, they will be screened at airports and dumped in bins. Some other security checks at theatres, offices also might screen it away. And of course, the sharp object may damage your purse and you might accidentally cut yourself while rummaging through your own purse. So I would say NO to sharp objects like knife in purse.

Rather, empty your purse and lay out all the items in front of you. Look at each one and see if you can use anything as weapon – something that will not get screened at security and something no one will suspect as a weapon even if they saw u holding it in your hand. Look at the comb you might be carrying or a pen or a pencil which can act as defense mechanism. Even a bunch of old keys can be mighty good sharp weapon – just ensure that you have a nice key ring and key chain attached so that you have a nice grip when hitting your assailant.

4. Setting important numbers (Dad, Brother, Best Friend etc) on Speed dial is another recommended idea. I like it. It is easy, practical and easy to use. BUT (there is always a but), the problem is the changing phones. Nowadays your smart phone doesn't really have a key pad. Touch screen phones are a vogue and you are using one I suppose. This means, to use the speed dialing, you will have to first unlock the phone, call up dialing screen and then 'precisely' press the required number button. I am again not so sure if you will have time for all that in a crisis situation. I am not saying, don't do it. Do it by all means and use the speed dialing facility of the phone, crisis or no crisis. In cases where you feel threatened and the assailant is not right upon you, this can prove useful.

5 Keep someone informed of your whereabouts. Always! Yes, calling up someone after something has happened is reactive. Proactive is keeping someone informed beforehand. I have the habit of calling home when I leave office and telling them expected time of arrival which is usually 1.5 hours. Trust me, my wife or my mom will call me the moment the ETA is up. Yes, they may worry for a few minutes but allowing someone in family to know your whereabouts is a good idea. If you are in some crisis and you are not able to reach them for whatever reason, they know when to call you and when to 'panic' and reach out for help. If they just assume that you are working late when in fact you are surrounded by 4-5 assailants who have kidnapped you and taken to a secluded spot … they can't do anything, they won't suspect anything; they won't be able to help.

The young girls reading this post might discard this as 'invasion of privacy' but my dear friend, believe me. This will help you a lot and also cement your relationship with your mom/brother/father. A 1-minute phone call made couple of times a day can do wonders to the relationship and of course protect you too.

6. Apps that send message to key contacts in case of emergency. There are a couple of apps that have this unique feature of sending your 'Help me' sort of message to some selected numbers along with your GPS coordinates. This is an interesting one. I am assuming that the apps have a easy interface, you unlock the phone, fire the app and it shows u a large button to hit. And the message goes out to 5 pre-selected people along with your GPS coordinates. It's a good idea but you should be mindful of it.

One – inform all these 5 contacts that you are setting their number on your emergency app and if they receive an sms from you with the GPS coordinates, they should immediately rush to help you and possibly inform police first so that policemen from nearest police station should rush to the spot before they arrive. Second – hardly any point of sending such a message to a non-smart phone user since they may not be able to appreciate the GPS coordinate thingy. Lastly, don't depend on help to arrive because of the sms. Sms delivery can be affected by network traffic and people who are busy may post-pone checking out sms on phone if they are busy, so your sms might not be seen immediately (although with msg going to 5 people, someone ought to see it right away). In summary, a good tool that can bring help but not immediately !!!!

7. Maps – If you are taking the cab and the cabbie takes you through an unfamiliar route; the maps functionality on your phone can actually help you alert yourself early on. You may or may not know that part of the city and the route to a new place and the driver might offer to take you by a short-cut or a route with less traffic ... especially at night. Avoid. You never know where the journey might end.  

If you have a smart phone, you have maps and you have GPS. Together they will tell you where you are and where you are supposed to be going (once you key in your destination). If it is a unfamiliar route you are taking, you can track the movement of the cab and enquire with the driver whenever he is going off track or too much away from regular route. Your questioning will make the driver feel that you know the route and he won't veer off.

8. Inform someone about your cab. I have read about this one several times and kind of like the idea. When you get into the cab, call up a friend or family member, inform them that you have taken a cab and will reach home/destination by approx. time; also asking your friend/brother/family member to come and pick you up from the spot (which can actually be your destination). Ask the driver his name and vehicle number and inform the person at other end so that they can identify the cab easily when you reach. This tells the driver that someone knows his name and cab number and is expecting you to reach destination in certain amount of time. He will have to think a 100 times before attempting mischief.  It's a good idea, do this !!! <Even if you have no one to call up, put your phone on silent and just make a fake call. Putting your phone on silent is important temporarily so that it does not ring while u r on the fake call>

9. Smart Phone Battery Life and Power Banks – In the 2-3 earlier points, I have talked about using your phone with the GPS on. Smart phones are battery guzzlers and GPS along with different active Apps (including your 24X7 whatapp) are all guzzling your phone battery faster than you think. So if it is dark and you are exhausted at the end of the day, chances are that your phone battery is also similarly exhausted and you won't be able to call for help, send SOS message through an app or track your cab movement with maps if your battery is already in red.

This is where I recommend that you carry a power bank with you which you can use to charge your phone if running low. Power Banks are available from 200 to 2000 INR range. I would suggest you pick a good one which can charge your phone fully and if you think it is worth the investment, spend a little more and buy one which can charge your phone fully several times. Good travel companion. Not just emergencies, but a power bank will be handy in daily life too. Pay attention to the power bank and ensure that it is always fully charges. Charge it whenever you have used it.

10. Learn self-defense: You have surely heard this before BUT who has the time to go and attend martial arts or judo-karate classes in this super-busy life. Right?

So, I do not recommend you attend a full-fledged judo-karate-whatever program and become an expert fighter. You don't need that for self-defense. All you need for self-defense is knowledge of a few basic moves and techniques. If you were to attend a 2 hour self-defense seminar and just observe carefully and practice a few times (hopefully finding a volunteer in your friend, brother, boy-friend or husband – god help them); that should be just fine. THIS, I will strongly recommend.

The best offense you can mount on the assailant is with your bare hands with basic self defense knowledge. More than 50% of the time, the assailant will retreat and run for his life, the moment he sees you in action. Another 25% will be put out of action by your moves. I hope you don't encounter the remaining 25% who are tough to overcome.

Never think for one moment that you are not strong enough. can go take a hike. A correctly placed hand-jab or kick or a straight-up punch below the jaw-line can effectively incapacitate the assailant for at least half a minute – giving you enough time to RUN. Mind you, if you have hit him and sent him reeling (in short if he sees stars – din main taarein nazar aana) then you can run as fast as you can and most probably he is not going to follow you. Remember, your knee and elbow are the strongest point in the body and so are your knuckles, while the soft targets of your assailant are many – nose, face, ears, lower jaw, groin, fingers (bent backwards).   

Well, this has become quite a long post and you might be tired if you have reached till this point; or may also have discontinued reading at some point already. Anyway, I have a lot of more points to share but they are mostly run-of-the-mill and you can google and find them all.

I wrote the above points, because I felt strongly about them. Some widely recommended ideas which I did not agree with and some which I think are far more feasible. Let me just list down a few more which you will find useful.

11. Maintain a confident body language: Projecting a confident body language is going to send a signal to a possible attacker that you are possibly a tough nut to crack. He will rather stay away or divert attention to an easier soft target

12. Report crimes: If you are the victim or know someone else or have seen some anti-social activity in a particular area of your routine travel; figure out a way of reporting it to the police. It may not help you directly, but chances are that the police will probably start monitoring the area and increase their patrolling of the areas. THAT will definitely discourage the anti-social elements in the area,

13. Be Careful. Be alert. One can always blame the assailant for what he did but that does not absolve you from the responsibility of taking care of yourself. Be alert and mindful of your surroundings, dress appropriately, don't travel alone if you can avoid, don't travel lonely lanes and by-lanes if you can avoid. The list is long but intuitive and you already know it. Don't throw caution to the air and take risks. It's not worth it. I am not saying live a scared life, but just be alert. Avoid lonely areas and use paths which have some crowd or people walking by. There is always safety in numbers.

14. Phones are a distraction. While we have talked about your phone coming in handy; it is also a great distraction which will only reduce your alertness towards your surroundings. So many times, I have seen people with 100% attention on their phone screen, while walking dark alleys, crossing the road and so on. When on the road, focus on the road. Don't make the phone screen the center of your living life.  

15. Be Fit. Last but not the least; Be fit and healthy so that you can not only defend yourself but run for your safety if required. Not being fit can cost you dear in crisis. Be fit, be healthy.

Well … now this post is really very long so let me end here with a short note on why I even wrote this post. The post was inspired by a blog post on where they encouraged people to post their 'smart suraksha' tips.

I am sharing my Smart Suraksha Tips at the Favorite community of Indian Bloggers - BlogAdda - in association with the Smart Suraksha App 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bas itna sa khwaab hain …

Prayers are something we all grow up with. Almost all our festivals in India (and we have quite a few in India) have the element of religious touch and prayer is an integral part of it. We have plenty of Gods in all shapes and sizes (literally) and dedicated festivals for them and related worshipping methods. From dedicated day of the week to 10-day festival seasons; we have them all.
So in effect, we pray a lot – with or without the festival. Our parents try to inculcate the praying habit in us right from early childhood and it becomes an integral part of our lives. Praying becomes a part of the early morning rituals and we seek blessings from Gods for every small and big challenge of life.
In the past decade or so, I have kind of 'standardized' my prayer. I ask for the same thing over and over again from all the different Gods. Yes, the same single prayer asking for the same set of things. So what do I ask for you ask ???
I ask for Happiness, Peace, Prosperity, Health, Wealth, Wisdom/Knowledge and Success. And very recently I have added the 'joy of having a child' also to the list.
You must be wondering if that is all I ask, what is really left to ask for. Because that about covers everything a person might want J Well, call it asking for everything in one go J
But this blog post prompted me to think about all the funny, stupid, serious, unnecessary things we keep asking God in everyday life. It is said that there are moments in life when Gods grant wishes and it would be such a waste if God were to be looking at you while you were reeling out one of those stupid wishes.
School children sometimes ask for their school to collapse or their teacher to fall sick or the rains to come down heavily and flood the city … because they are not prepared for the test and don't want to go to school. I won't be surprised if some of the office-goers also ask for similar things when they are not ready with their 'deliverable' on the set deadline and they have a tyrannical boss. Girls and Boys in college keep asking for their 'crushes' from God … and fortunately / unfortunately they keep changing their crushes every few weeks. Guys ask for a bombshell as their girl-friends but a 'seedhi-saadhi Indian girl' as their wife; while gals ask for a 'handsome stud' as their boy-friend and a stable straightforward high-income professional as their husband. Parents keep asking God for things for their kids … they should be good in sports, in studies, in hobby classes, in summer camps, in dance, in singing, in playing a musical instrument, in (u can fill in whatever u want); while those kids keep asking God for some 'space' and freedom from their parents pressure … and sometimes for better parents. Elders ask God for good health and continued support from their kids while the daughter-in-law might be asking God for a nuclear family without the mother-in-law … with the guy crushed between the two … simply asking God for some peace.
We live strange lives; asking something or the other from god, every day, every hour … most of the time never realizing that most of it is in our own hands. We keep sending our wish-list to the almighty wrapped in prayers and we make our prayers elaborate with so many things and ingredients starting with the simple diya and agarbatti to the full fledged pooja consisting of over 100 ingredients including fruits, vegetables, flowers, leaves, milk, curd, water and the list goes on.  
When I see my father doing the Diwali pooja, I am amazed by the sheer number of things that are needed for the pooja, the mantras, the process etc. I often wonder how will I manage to do it in future. I often wondered if there was a 'user guide' or a booklet to guide through the whole process with clear cut instructions. A visit to introduces you to one such product package that solves this problem. The Cycle brand of agarbattis has been around for a long time and is their website where they are prominently promoting their product package Sampoorna Lakshmi Pooja Pack which brings together all the pooja ingredients and also includes help for people for conducting the pooja.
Sampoorna Lakshmi Pooja Pack is a pack containing everything that you would need to perform the Lakshmi Pooja. Do the pooja yourself, with your family. This pack contains all basic materials required for the pooja as mentioned in the Skanda Purana. The booklet (script in 6 languages) and audio CD have the procedure, necessary shlokas and Shree Vinayak Ashtottarashata Naamaavali for performing the pooja.This pack comes with instructional booklet & CD; with options to recite the shlokas along with the CD if you wish. The traditional way made easy for today's generation. Recitation of shlokas and steps for performing Lakshmi Pooja along with all that is needed.

I am sure, the GenNext is going to find this product interesting and helpful. They are a generation which has not yet broken away from tradition but they can't ignore them either. And in their 'simplified' lives, a diwali pooja is a complicated affair J  
So comparatively, I have kept it simple; a very standardized wish … asking God the same things every day - I ask for Happiness, Peace, Prosperity, Health, Wealth, Wisdom/Knowledge, Success  and the 'joy of having my  child'
Bas itna sa khwaab hain …

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Corporate Dilemma on Training

Saw it on an email group forward and liked it.Sharing it here. The creator is not known so if you know who did this or if you are the creator, let me know. I will add the credit here. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book Review: Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince by Anuja Chandramouli

Book: Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince

Author: Anuja Chandramouli

No. of Pages: 364

Genre: Mythology / Fiction

Publisher: Platinum Press, Leadstart  


I had certain expectations from the book but it did not really turn out that way. I had expected Arjun's story in there but it did not feel like that.
The story seems to swing from present to the past and then to the future throughout the book making it not-so-easy-to-connect-the-dots – for someone who is not familiar with the Mahabharata.

Also, the author has shown his prowess in the English language by the use of several words in the book that make you think of the dictionary (and a lazy bum like me would rather assume a word than look into dictionary). And what the author/publisher may not realize is that that those difficult English words break the flow of reading and comprehension. They are like speed-breakers which make the journey of book reading jerky.

Wish the author had stuck to simple English focusing more on the flow of the story (which gets torrential with several simultaneous eddies at time).

Mahabharata is a complex story with literally hundreds of interconnected characters spanning several generations and with their own past and future and celestial connections. I do release the challenge in front of the author while narrating such a story but that cannot mean that you mash up the whole story taking about the Kurukshetra and its events in almost every other chapter – describing some events or the role of a character in the war. It makes for a very confused reading.

Also, I was looking for something in the book that the overall Mahabharata epic might not have focused on – especially from Arjuna point of view. But having read the book, I did not really find any. It was supposed to be the story of Arjuna but it neither seemed biographical nor did it seem to have Arjuna's perspective of Mahabharata. I was expecting to read what Arjuna thought about the various events and people but the story dwelt on events rather than Arjuna's view of the events. The book ended up being another re-telling of the Mahabharata with hardly anything to add (events as well as perspectives). So why title the book from Arjuna perspective?? Why call it the 'Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince'???

Leave along Mahabharata, barring a few minimal facts or events, the book did not even enlighten me 'more' about Arjuna. Everything I read in the book was known to me courtesy B R Chopra and other comic book versions of Mahabharata. The character of Arjuna portrayed in the book is very similar to the one in B R Chopra TV version so I did not get anything out of the book. 

I wonder what prompted the author to give so much book space to Karna, Abhimanyu and other characters in a book which was learly titled 'Arjuna - Saga of the Warrior-Prince'. The interaction between Karna and Krishna as well as Karna and Kunti could have been and should have been reduced to mere mention and wrapped up in half a page in a book which is telling Arjuna's story. If not, how is it different from the telling of the Mahabharata which does justice to all characters?

I almost felt that somewhere along the journey of writing the book, the author forgot the Arjun-focus and ended up in a retelling of Mahabharata in a compact haphazard manner.

Earlier in the year, I had read Asura expecting Ravana's version of Ramayana. This book did justice to the theme but portrayed Ravana as almost foolish or stupid in certain sections which took the charm away. Ravana was an extremely powerful character and a story around him should have been equally powerful. The author missed that chance. 

Same happened with Arjuna too. Arjuna is a very powerful character and his story or his perspective on the events of Mahabharata would have been pretty interesting. Another lost chance

The author of Asura is coming out with another book, the focus this time around is the Kauravas. I want to give that book a shot since the potential to weave a great story around Kauravas is immense. I hope he does not bungle up the opportunity like he did in Asura. It might be interesting to reach out to him and ask directly :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

God and Logic and Free Will!

Read this 'comment' while some random internet surfing on the topic of rational thinking …
I was trying to explain to an atheist that both theist and atheist are illogical because it cannot be proven that god exist and it cannot be proven that god does not exist. The atheist focused on the statement - "it cannot be proven that god does not exist". So he replied with a string of profanities accusing me of trying to convince him that god does in fact exist when I had not said or even implied anything of the sort. In fact, I was surprised at how many people were very confused by this simple logic. Several defended atheism on the idea that if a theist cannot prove god exist, it therefore follows that god does not exist. Of course the former is no proof at all of the latter. The only LOGICAL position is that we cannot know or prove the existence of god one way or the other. It is very hard for people to understand this. (Comment by Intrepidd on this page)
When I read this comment, it gave me a perspective I never had before and I also realized that we apply this kind of erroneous logic to many things in life. Think about it ?
Another thing which struck me at a tangent is Free Will. Our thoughts are a result of our upbringing, context, situation, the influences around us at that moment and so many other factors that ultimately influence our thoughts and thought process. So where does 'free will' stand in the middle of all this?
The article on this page has an example of subscription offer for the Economist. Even if you do not read the while article (which I would definitely recommend); at least read that portion and then think about 'Free Will' in that context.
We live in a strange world and we live our lives based on the directions of a weird and strange mind which (practically speaking) anyone can manipulate.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Time Travel … huh !!


Last month, I completed a collection of Philip K Dick stories and rather than picking up another one of his, I picked up Asimov this month. Started a collection of 17 short stories by Asimov titled "Earth is Room Enough" and ended up reading half of them in a single month. I had to struggle with myself to not complete the other half within the month itself.

This is the first time I am reading Asimov short stories (consciously. I might have read an Asimov short story randomly or as part of some collection or magazine). I think I read one of his novel but did not like it much.

The stories have a certain element of intellectual debate or paradoxes in them. The very first story 'Dead Past' is about viewing a past event (through a device) that is time travel without the actual travel. The story revolves around an individual's pursuit to build a chronoscope which will enable him to 'see' events of the past. His reasons are purely academic – historical research - where he wants to confirm the events of the history as passed on to the world. He feels that the government is preventing free research by not providing him with access to the chronoscope and wants to build one. He enlists the help of a physicist who ultimately builds a small chronoscope for him.

The moment the chronoscope is built, the researcher's wife's perspective comes into play along with a few other ones and we realize the trouble the chronoscope can get many people into. The researcher and his wife have a history of a lost baby and the researcher feels that with the chronoscope, his wife will want to see their child and then get so drawn into it that she would start living her present life 'in the past' over and over again and not come in the present. The researcher realizes how people around the world who have lost someone close to them would use the chronoscope to live in the past and the world would cease to 'move forward. He promptly destroys the chronoscope.

I am not sure if you ever thought about time travel or 'viewing' the past events like that.

But the story does not end her …  

The chronoscope is destroyed but the physicist does not want the knowledge to disappear so he persists and to stop him, our researcher goes to the regulatory body and brings them in the loop. They promptly arrive to arrest our physicist and present their own perspective and reasons for NOT allowing chronoscope to become more common place. It was the first time I was reading of this perspective and it really shocked me that I had never really thought of it before.

I have read several stories about time travel over the years but none presented the perspectives and moral dilemma that Asimov highlighted through this story. I am floored by Asimov. I would really recommend that you read this short story by Isaac Asimoc - "The Dead Past" – to get the perspective.

While I was writing this blog-post, I also thought of another application of the chronoscope – how about viewing past crimes and convicting the right person responsible. Wouldn't the chronoscope provide irrefutable proof which can help get a fix on the criminal and justice can be served faster with minimal doubt. Result would be that people would be discouraged to commit any crime since they would be surely caught. Only the crimes of passion and on-the-spur crimes which are not pre-meditated would happen. What do you say ???

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Many Mahabharata’s



The Mahabharata has always fascinated me. It is one epic with a thousand threads, literally. Its an epic with literally 100's of significant characters spanning several generations; each with a history and eventful life. 

Every event has a connection to the past and a bearing on the future. Every good deed results in something that ultimately save the individual's a$$ or even his/her life and at the same time every bad/evil deed results in something that ultimately leads to the downfall or even death and of course certain bad things result in good things and vice versa.

The huge number of relationships and the extensive banyan tree like 'family tree' is truly astonishing. I rally wonder what the Kuru clan family tree look like. I really wonder the brilliant minds who concocted the epic in the first place.

In the past one decade, I have come across quite a few versions of Mahabharata written focusing on different characters.

I am currently reading one which focuses on Arjuna. There was a version focusing on Bheem as well another which was around Karna. When I picked up this one – Arjuna – I expected it to be autobiographical in nature; with the story being a narration by Arjuna or at least the story being told from Arjuna's perspective. Sadly, it turned out to be a story of Arjuna and not Arjuna's story.

The one version I am really really interested in is Bheesma's Autobiography. Bheeshma is the longest playing actor of the Mahabharata with the longest life span and you find making his presence felt right from the beginning till the end. He is one of the 'strongest characters' in the epic and I am not referring to physical strength here.

He had the great responsibility of looking after the kingdom entrusted to him by his father and also had the boon to decide his TOD (time of death) – making him practically invincible. He saw the many folly's of the kings and prince's of the kingdom and endured it. He was witness to the entire Mahabharata story seeing it in action at close quarters.

Who would be a better narrator of Mahabharata other than Bheesma?

And most of all, not just the story, I want his perspective.
I want to read about the hundreds of inner turmoils this one character went through at each and every folly committed by the members of the family. His pain and suffering was omnipresent in the epic and he might have never had a moment of true and sustained happiness … ingredients that would make a great autobiography ! !
Hope someone someday brings out the Bheesma's side of story ...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

September Reading Summary


Summary of novels, novellas, short stories read during September


1              Novel: The Plantation by Chris Kuzneski

2              PKD Shorts: Small Town by Philip K Dick

3              PKD Shorts: Souvenir by Philip K Dick

4              PKD Shorts: Survey Team by Philip K Dick

5              PKD Shorts: Prominent Author by Philip K Dick

6              3I Series by MZ- Novella: Mystery of Hitchcock Inheritance by Mark Zahn

7              Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: Day of the Tiger by Jack Webb

8              Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: Opportunity by Bill Pronzini

9              Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: The Magic Tree by James McKimmey

10          Novel: Fog Over Finny's Nose by Dana Mentink

11          Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: Vintage Murder by Vincent McConnor

12          Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: Where Have You Gone, Sam Spade? By Bill Pronzini

13          3I Crimebusters Novella: Shoot the Works by William McCay

14          Hitchcock – Home Sweet Homicide: What You Don't Know Can't Hurt You by John Lutz

15          Hitchcock – Home Sweet Homicide: In the Bag by Ralph McInerny

16          Novel: A Vision of Angels by Timothy Jay Smith

17          Hitchcock – Most Wanted: The Roughneck and the Dead Guy by Brent Haywood

18          Hitchcock – Most Wanted: Greek Town by Loren D. Estleman

19          Hitchcock – Most Wanted: Poor Dumb Mouths by Bill Crenshaw

20          Hitchcock – Home Sweet Homicide: A Candle for the Bag Lady by Lawrence Block



Read the last story from the collection of 24 short stories by Philip K Dick (PKD) titled "The Complete Stories of Philip K. Dick Vol. 3". Now I will give PKD a break for a couple of months and pick it up next year. The current ACD collection is also coming to an end and I am not planning to start a new ACD collection this year.


Instead of PKD and ACD, I will probably pick up some other short story series by a particular author or by genre. Something like Asimov short stories ...


Read the last story from the collection of 12 short stories titled "Alfred Hitchcock - Home Sweet Homicide". Surprisingly it had one story in common with another series that I have been reading this year. The remaining 3 titles also will be completed in coming months.

You might wonder that although there are a couple of novels shown in the list above, the reviews of the same are not there on my blog. Well … the recent months have become more and more busy and the time I get for myself is getting more and more limited. Even weekends are gutted by office work and occasional family demands. Reading numbers have also fallen but they are still there since I read during my daily commute to and fro office and that hasn't changed yet.