Asura-The tale of the vanquished

Author: Anand Neelakantan

Publisher: Platinum Press
Pages: 500 
Price on Flipkart: Rs. 190

Ramayana re-told by the vanquished seemed like an interesting premise and I picked it up with a lot of expectations. However, I was disappointed.The book begins well, then drags, then picks up in bits and parts but finally drags so much that you want to just quit reading. 

The story unravels through the voices of two persons- Ravana and a commoner Bhadra. The concept of having a third-point view of the story, told through a common man, seems novel and keeps you engaged. Some of the parts where he (Bhadra) brings out the voice of an ordinary citizen in the backdrop of an unjust life, braving against the odds and his grouses with the government of the country seems very relevant and realistic. Yet, Bhadra sometimes assumes a profile than is even larger than the main protagonist and you just want him to mind his own business after a while.

Ravana, according to the original mythology, although portrayed as a demon-God, was known to have shades of goodness in him. He was an intelligent ruler and a Shiva-devotee with a great love for arts. However, in Asura, these very qualities are just mentioned in some parts and that too sketchily. Ravana comes across as a very confused person, always with conflicting thoughts, even though he has a fierce and strong ambition to succeed. His goodness rarely comes across except in his thoughts. His decisions, action and their results seem quite accidental. You don't really feel any sympathy towards this Asura who is telling his side of the story. The plot seems far-fetched in many areas and the parts where the final battle is depicted is quite outrageous. I can understand that since it is Ravana's story, Rama has to come out as an evil person. Yet, it is difficult to stomach the twisted details towards the end.

I couldn't help comparing this book with The Shiva Trilogy, also a mythological fiction. Although, the third book was a let down, the book overall had a well-rounded effect with the plot flowing out naturally. 

The twists and plot of Asura seemed contrived and laborious in comparison. The book also was found wanting in the editing part with quite a few grammatical errors.

There are quite a number of good reviews for this book and I seem to be on the minority side. So, probably this is just me and you may like it.

Have you read this one? What are your thoughts?

Sangreh- a store tour

Since the time I nose-dived into planning the decor for my home, I've been on the look out for interesting home decor stores on the net and within my locality. To my delight, I discovered a few stores around the area I live, that sell some exclusive stuff. 

I plan to feature the stores here for the benefit of people like me, who are eager to set up their homes, live in and around Whitefield area, but are loathe to venture into the city traffic to buy great looking stuff despite best intentions and keep wishing for such stores to come up in the vicinity.The first among them is a store called Sangreh that has been recently launched at AECS layout, close to ITPL junction, Kundalahalli and Marathahalli areas.  

Now, a good blogger always roams about with a handy camera to click away interesting finds, add lovely captions and tidbits, to make a story on their blogs. Sadly, I don't fall in that category. I'm always rushing out of home and only manage to stuff in the water-bottle and snack box for the young chap. Only after I landed at the store, did I realize that I had missed an opportunity to capture the store and its products. However, upon request, the store owner, Priyanka Mehra, was kind enough to not only permit me to feature her store but also use her photos.  

A little more about the store in Priyanka's own words:

"Sangreh, as the name suggests, is a collection of artifacts. An art for us is any item where a creative mind has worked to provide craftsmanship with hand or machine.  We believe that we can get  good artifacts for our customers and can work to provide a unique shopping experience. Our store-we ventured into this business about 5 years ago- is an experiment of our beliefs. After holding exhibitions at various places in the past 5 years we began to understand what the market wants and how quality artifacts can be made available for them. Setting up our own store was thus a natural progression of our venture and here we are at AECS layout now. Our intention is to provide a personal touch in our services and enhance the shopping experience for our customers. This, we hope to achieve by providing a home-like ambience to the store, personally attending to our customers, setting up a play area for our little customers, and providing unique and eco-friendly shopping bags"

Now, for the tour:

A view of the entire store
I'm in love with this antique clock-might buy this in the next visit ;-)
An eye catching attractive lamp

Musician figurines

Won't your books look even more lovely with these bookends?

Nested tables and unique elephant trunks
Attractive pottery drawers to hold your jewellery and knick-knacks

What bright colours!!!

Isn't this pretty?

The artifacts are directly outsourced from Rajasthan, which makes the pricing too quite economical. Apart from Home decor stuff, Sangreh also houses some lovely women's wear (kurtis, leggings, skirts,etc), chunky jewellery and soft furnishings. That's not all.  They also undertake orders for Solid wood furniture ( like coffee table, side tables, dinning table, bed, etc…)

I have to add another interesting thing that happened. As mentioned, the store had a small play area in their backyard and I heaved a sigh of relief that R could entertain himself which meant the husband also could join me in shopping which is a very rare occurrence. As I got talking with Priyanka, a little lad, about R's age, pottered in. Turned out that he and R are almost of the same age, go to the same school, albeit different classes, and also take the same bus route!

Not only this, but the apartment they stay in and the place we are about to move into are constructed by the same builder. Now, isn't this a LOT of coincidence?! Now, I can tell the husband that I share some karmic relation with this place and use the excuse to frequent it ;-)

Love happens...when nature wills

She braved the odds that nature threw at her

Bowing graciously to the harsh winds of summer

Wilting away slowly with every passing day

Biding her time until heat gave way

The summer was brutal and so were His men

But she clung on to hope, she had some then

Waiting to be kissed and loved

By a benign dark cloud

But, alas! The clouds were just passing by

Her redemption, was not so easy

Green turned into yellow and then brown

She soon began to lose faith,

Into the ground of sorrow, she was to drown.

Then he came, like a whiff of fresh air,

Blowing soft kisses, riding on a pregnant cloud

Every drop of love, wet her, healed her.

Caressing his beloved,

He washed away the dust,

Reminiscent of the painful past

Her face was awash in his selfless grace

Carrying droplets of pearls,

 Oh so many!

They danced in joy, happy and gay!

Making a promise, all in silence

To wait, hope, love and surrender

To bloom in abandoned joy

To let go in unrestrained ecstasy

A romance that is incomplete

Without him or her

And, such is nature’s legacy

* Tried to capture the love affair between a young sapling and the first rains. This was written for a contest hosted by Atta galatta. And, nope, this is not a winning entry :-)

What's your good name?

If someone can be named Sitara then why does Guitara for a name sound so funny?

If a person named Ram is no where close to having the personality or qualities that the original bearer of the name possessed, then why does it mean any one with the name Raavan will be anything like the original?

Names have always fascinated and baffled me. I fail to understand the frenzy with which modern day parents name their offspring with the most difficult-to-pronounce and unheard of names-in the quest to be more unique. Since the time I've stepped into parenthood, I have come across some really bizarre names of which I'd rather not allude to here for obvious reasons.

Names have come far from the olden times of carrying forward the grandfather or grandmother's name resulting in having at least five subramanians, krishnamoorthys, Lakshmis or Kalyanis from the same generation in the family and having funny nicknames like Paapa, Echimi (short for lakshmi) or Ambi or even having the residing city attached to the name like Delhi mani to different each one from the other!

Naming children after mythological figures have been the most favourite since time immortal. Yet, one does not come across anyone named Duryodhana or Shakuni or Draupadi. There is a lot of baggage attached to these names, no? I don't claim to know a lot of people but in my limited circle too, I have come across just one "Abhimanyu" so far. I love the name, actually. Does the superstitious fear of a short life attached to the name surmounts logical thinking? Maybe, so. One never takes a chance with one's children.

And, of course, while talking of names, how can you go without mentioning those dubious first names of a male that can also be names in full for a female causing confusions about the gender of the person and causing much embarrassment to the carrier of that name? I can see the male and female Lakshmi-narayans, Uma-shankars, Vidhya-shankars, and Radha-krishnans nodding away furiously. 

Indian English uses forms like asking, "what's your good name?" - something that doesn't make much sense since we cannot substantiate the answer by further asking, so what's your bad name then? If History or Mythology has any bearing on the goodness of the names, then perhaps there are many 'bad' names out there. Of course, they way many politicians with lovely sounding names behave today, a lot of 'good' names are going to be dumped in future.


Rudderless and some dreams

The school has begun in full-swing and I am left with some precious time in the mornings in which I fit in my yoga-something I wanted to get back to for a very long time now, the little content writing that I do, some reading and some browsing. The husband casually mentioned about maybe taking up something for serious-like further studies or maybe a more serious work profile. That left me thinking about myself and the options I have. I can go back to what I was doing earlier or try out something totally different.

I have never been ambitious. Yes, never the kind that imagined myself to be in a certain profession, passionately pursuing a self-marked goal. Actually, I never knew what would make me happy. I still don't know. In my younger days, I loved listening to the radio, to the old Hindi film classics and had many a film trivia on my finger tips. Zee Antakshari playing would have me sway and jump in excitement with the answers even before Deewane, Parwane or Mastane could press the buzzer. The Sister used to refer to me as having some kind of "filmi dimaag". Really, History dates or Math equations could baffle me but any tune or part of a movie scene would have me spitting out the name of the film, and other sundry trivia-for no particular audience as such, just to amuse the family members around and to revel in some false glory of housing such tremendous talent!

But, of course, such interests are best nipped in the bud, or at best pursued as a second or third interest, probably only in addition to a trophy job. These cannot be gloated about in public and do not really help in the more serious and realistic career paths like that of being a MBA, CA, doctor or Engineer. Which, of course, never really featured on my radar. For a very long time, I swam dispassionately and unattractively in unknown waters, trying to find the anchor which will have me rooted; in search of the cliched call of life.

Stumbling along, living patches of life doing things that interested me for that particular phase of life, believing that I have found the career goal and path, has been the story of my life so far.  Motherhood and post let me dabble more with the internet and I found myself writing on this space. This side of me has been the most surprising revelation-to me and those who knew me during my more confused and rudderless times. Again, I'm not sure if this is my calling because aside from showing bits of my prowess with words here (amidst many bouts of total paralysis to think and write coherently), I really don't know what more can be done. Again, a classic case of inability to dream big. 

Talking of dreams, of late our new home and its decor has been on my mind. I've been working with our designer to get close to what I've envisaged for my home. It's exciting and nerve-wrecking at the same time. Exciting, because its our first home and the canvas is new and fresh. The opportunity to make the best is too tempting to be ignored. Nerve-wrecking, because there is the fear of going overboard, of getting things right yet not losing our sleep over the bills. I am worried about things like how the final look will turn out to be, if I'll be able to translate all that is in my mind into the real, financial constraints, space constraints of the new house-yes, we haven't even moved in and already certain elements don't seem to fit in due to  shortcomings in the floor plan.