Book Review: Sirens Spell Danger

Self-published books are not my choice of reading material. In fact, I would prefer not to read them at all as my experience of reading such books has not been a very happy one. I know it sounds like a sweeping statement, not to mention prejudiced, but…

Now consider this scenario. A fellow blogger and a friend, Suresh Chandrasekaran, whose writing I admire and like very much, comes out with a self-published book. This leads to a dilemma or what can even be called a “situation”: I really want to read the book, but the self-published tag is a big deterrent of sorts. While I am mulling over this, Suresh (who I think is aware of my views on self-published books) requests for my feedback on the book. I agree, buy the book, read it and one afternoon over a long FB chat give him feedback on the book. This happened about 6 months back.

Sirens Spell Danger, ebook, Suresh C

Recently, I participated in an excellent discussion on “Self-Published Books” (do click on the link to read more about the discussion) at The Sunday Book Club (TSBC). It was an enlightening discussion and one that spurred me to to convert the feedback I gave Suresh on the book, Sirens Spell Danger, into a full-fledged book review.

Sirens Spell Danger (2013, Amazon eBook) is a collection of three longish short stories edited by Suresh. As the title suggests, all the stories in the book have women or “sirens’ as the pivot.

The sirens are not necessarily the protagonists of the stories; instead, they are characters without whom there would have been no story in the first place.

Continue reading

Ladies compartment, 8.47 local: Book release function and review

Sometime early last month, Mumbai experienced a few days of gloomy, cloudy, rather funny weather.Though this type of weather was quite uncharacteristic for Mumbai, it was  typically London weather. And suddenly I was remembering and missing my days in London. On a whim, I put a status update on my Facebook wall about missing London, which elicited some responses. One of the responses I got was this:

You really miss England, don’t you? Go back, Sudha. Steep yourself in the legends and the history, touch the old walls and let them flow up your finger-tips into your heart, let the lakes and the streams and the little sudden springs soak into your soul, let the 40 shades of green fill your eyes and mind, let the cathedrals and the quaint corners whisper forgotten secrets and fervent prayers to you. Then come back home again.

As I read these beautiful lines, I did “travel” back to England, experience all that it said I should and came back “home” rejuvenated. And excited. Excited, because these lines had been written and posted by Suma Narayan, whose first book I had agreed to review. If these lines were a preview of what Suma’s writing would be like, I knew that the book would be a good read.

Continue reading

Puranic tales for cynical people and humour for all

How often do you pick up a book on the basis of its title? I do that sometimes, often to be disappointed. But Puranic Tales for Cynical People (Indialog, 2005), written by Parashuram and translated from the original Bangla by Pradip Bhattacharya and Shekhar Sen, was an exception. I purchased this book in 2005, read it from start to finish, and loved it so much that I was all set to read it a second time. That never happened, and after a while it got shelved with my other books, hidden but not fully forgotten.

Until recently, that is. My brother unearthed it recently during a raid on my bookshelves in search of some reading material. Thanks to him, I was able to once again delight in the book’s sometimes light, sometimes acerbic, and sometimes irreverent humour.

Parashuram was the pen name of Rajsekhar Bose (or Basu, if you please) (1880-1960). Under this nom de plume, he wrote a 100 short stories, which were published in 9 collections. Twenty of these stories have been put together in this collection of Puranic Tales for Cynical People by the translators.

The basic premise of most of these stories revolves around the intriguing possibility of placing “well-known characters from the Puranas in situations that might have been”. In other words, they cater to the question of what happened next or a behind the scene narration of a famous story or incident. For example: what happened to Surpanakha after the Ramayana? Did the celibate Hanuman ever consider matrimony? Did Vishwamitra and Menaka always have a lovey-dovey relationship? Do apsaras always stay young?

In the process, Parashuram pokes fun at everybody—from the Creators (Hindu, Christian and Muslim) themselves, to venerable sages and other characters that any reader who is even reasonably acquainted with Hindu mythology will be able to identify and relate to.

Some of the lesser known characters that Parashuram breathes life into are Yayati (‘Yayati’s Senility’), Revati (‘Revati Gets a Husband’) and Maharishi Jabali (‘Jabali’). Two of the stories actually make caricatures of two of the crankiest,  hot-tempered and feared sages—Durvasa (‘Bharat’s Rattle’), and Vishwamitra (‘The Clay Girdle’).

Two stories explore the possibility of what happens when (i) the creators of the world’s 3 main religions meet (‘Three Creators’); and (ii) the 7 immortal men from the Puranas meet—Ashwatthama, Vyasa, Hanuman, Vibhishana, Kripacharya, Parashuram (the sage that is, not the author), and the Daitya king, Bali—at ‘The Gandhamadan Conclave’. Both these stories are absolutely delightful. While the former hits out at the claim of comparative superiority of one religion over others, the latter story emphasises the fact that all wars are essentially unfair.

Continue reading