When the world turned blind

I recollect that my school syllabus included a chapter on history of World War II and the dictators, Hitler and Mussolini, and I also remember wishing that they were never born – so that I didn’t have to cram all these stupid dates. I vaguely remember my sister urging me to read The Diary of Anne Frank, but I know I was so stuck up with Nancy Drew & Famous Five and Secret Seven that I didn’t want to read something that made her cry for several days.

Finally, I caught up.

Yes, I’ve been drowning myself in Holocaust books and the debate going on these days about Holocaust being one big fat lie, scripted by the Jews to get sympathy. There are articles out there which say that 6 million Jews were massacred. Then, there are articles which say there weren’t so many of them to begin with. And then, there are articles which say that along with 6 million Jews, 6 million other people also died and it was all attributable to war and not some crazy idea of Hitler to have a Jew-free Germany.

There are articles which say that the gas chambers never existed and there was no “systematic” killing of Jews. And there are pictures and countless survivors repeating eye-witness accounts of smoke from concentration camps and stench of burning flesh and sonder-kommando (Jewish prisoners in concentration camps forced to be a part of eliminating group) who passed it on to others in the camps that they were a part of the group that were forced to stuff people in gas chambers and take them out for burning later on.

Frankly, I am confused. I know that the winners always tell the story and that it is often exaggerated but are the Jews really winners here? Because there is no contesting the fact that millions of them, if not 6 million, were indeed killed. There are pictures of people thinner than zero-figure models and their eyes – God! Their eyes appear haunted by the devil himself! There are also videos on youtube taken by the Russian army while liberating some of the camps. Equally horrifying.

But I am glad I read both sides before deciding that it doesn’t matter even if the Holocaust deniers don’t agree with everything the survivors say and if their creed continues to grow. Because the books written by these survivors are so capturing, you know they are not lying because the words come straight from their nightmares. There is something about reading a real experience that is different. You know its not made up.

This is not exactly a book review but if someone is interested in reading about Holocaust, I suggest you start with The Diary of Anne Frank, which is about a girl in hiding with her family. Then you can go ahead with A Nazi Officer’s wife, which is of a Jew girl marrying a Nazi officer and her survival outside of the camps. Test what kinds of horrors you can digest and what sends you into depression. The concentration camps memories are certainly the most horrifying. Although, The Pianist (it was also made into a movie) which is about a Jew pianist hiding and evading camps, is also a very good read. The other two books which I loved because of their language and clarity of memories were All But my Life and Rena’s Promise.

I’m still hooked to Holocaust books. Have read a few others too. I want to read some book written by Germans. Maybe Mein Kamph will give some insight. I’m not sure.

Have you all ever been intrigued by the Holocaust debates or Holocaust books? Which ones do you recommend?

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Sometimes, I want a fairytale ending!!!

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Yes, well so much for believing in no happy endings and happily every afters and fairytale like stories! So I read Princess Diaries. All 10 of them!! In 3 days. By sacrificing my night sleep. And I don’t regret it! I loved the happy ending! And now I am eager for the last part “Royal Wedding” that comes in June.

I love Mia and Michael’s pair. And even Lilly though she was a bit too judgmental for my taste. The plot of the books is pretty different from the one in movies. And now I can say, the movies suck! They let Michael be lost into oblivion just after the first part! And there is so much more to Michael than shown in the movie.

The movie was all about her being a Princess and abundant wealth and palaces but the books were much more than that! I mean I did love that amazing wardrobe room of Princess Mia they showed in Part II of the movies and I was hyperventilating with pure jealousy when she opened the shoe drawers with a remote control and then those tiaras! *swoon* But hey, even a Princess has much more to do than just roam around in a closet full of amazing clothes, shoes and accessories right? Just like any other person!

Oh I loved the books. Too much. But I am supposed to be an independent woman who does not believe in fairy tales. But I so want to!!! Do you know what I mean?

This may be an after-effect of reading the book which may worn out in a couple of days but I still wanted to let it be known that I am a fairy-tale girl!! ❤

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

There’s a new movie in town which your friends are talking about. You cannot go and watch the movie in the first two weeks for some reason. And an English movie dies away in Gujju-land real fast. So, what do you do?

You pick up the book it was based on and satisfy yourself. Afterall, books are always better than movies!! 🙂

The selling-points of this book:

#1 Perfect timing of the twist! Oh-so-crisp!

#2 Superb description of the characters (in their own words, of course!) because the book is in first person i.e. through the eyes of two people Amy and Nick (wife who goes missing and her husband)

Usually when the narrator / the story keeps on alternating between characters, I find it very irritating but the balance here is so well maintained, I actually enjoyed both!

Here is the plot:

Amy goes missing on her 5th Anniversary, the police finds her diary, Nick doesn’t seem as shattered as he should appear to be and the diary is a heart-breaker. The police think Nick killed her and though you know he didn’t, you don’t think this is unfair! You think you connect to Amy so well and you hate Nick. And you think you’re so smart, others who go gaga over this book must have been plain stupid! Just about then, plot twist!

(spoiler ahead) Amy is a nutter and has been writing diary to frame Nick while she has gone missing deliberately and has been in hiding somewhere! Haah! You’re not so smart now, are you? I shall not disclose the end now but I hope this gets you to buy the book and get going! You won’t be disappointed by this roller-coaster ride!! (spoiler ends)

The book takes you through the ride makes you feel a little of love, a little of romance, a little of madness, a little of resentment and some dark humor!

Have you read it? How did you find it?

Book Review: Half Girl Friend by Chetan Bhagat

This review may contain spoilers i.e. if you consider Chetan Bhagat’s books to have gripping plots which can be spoiled by knowing about it!!

To CB fans: You are anyways going to love it like no other book ever written, so don’t bother with the review!! 😉

To CB haters: I know you’ve been waiting for this book more than the fans so that you can dish out your ‘critic’ review on goodreads and you might already be through with that! Maybe, you’d debate with me over mine, but I’m all game!

To indifferent folks: Here you go:

I have started writing this review several times in this week, then deleted it and yet, it kept nagging me to write!

What the book says about itself: Once upon a time, there was a Bihari boy called Madhav. He fell in love with a rich girl from Delhi called Riya. Madhav didnt speak English well. Riya did. Madhav wanted a relationship. Riya didn’t. Riya just wanted friendship. Madhav didn’t. Riya suggested a compromise. She agreed to be his half-girlfriend.

Did I love reading the book?

I can read almost any book. Almost. And since CB’s books are comparatively thinner / smaller, it was not an issue completing it. Although, it was too dramatic and unrealistic for my taste. I felt like he was writing a perfect bollywood masala movie script, which infact, he was! That the script was selected by Ekta Kapoor proves that there is nothing extraordinary about the script!

Except that there might be some takeaways afterall:

#1 That it is based in Bihar, the state thought to be populated by the most English-averse people in this country.

#2 That the English is simple and probably, would enable the people in Bihar to connect to the Protagonist (Madhav) and again, probably they would try reading this book and yet again, probably inspire them to read simple English novels or join “high-class” english schools / colleges and probably help to create education awareness in Bihar. Too much left to probabilities, too much.

#3 That it touches upon a topic which is seldom discussed in India: Sexual Expoloitation by family members which makes the victims sexually averse, or socially awkward, or unable to build trusting relationships, or unable to talk about it due to fear of being hushed down / looked down upon, or all of these. He has not discussed at length upon this, but all the above is evident from the character (Riya) which faces social exploitation by her own father. The good thing is, it was mentioned. The bad thing is, that to be politically correct, or to avoid unnecessary attention on the sexual exploitation and hence, awakening the so-called “culture police” in our country, the effect it has on the character or the horror of it is hardly visible in the book. It is almost a layer beneath the words which describes the effects of such sexual exploitation.

The end of the book was probability defying. The protagonist managed to find his lady-love by going at / talking to every pub which offers music in Manhattan. hmm.. Realistically, he should have taken at least 5 years (60 months) before he found her (by the way, she had also changed her name!)!!! But as goes the Bollywood rule, there must be a happy ending! And hence, he managed it in 60 days!!

Edited to add: The lows:

CB couldn’t get lamer in describing places / emotions / people. The characters seemed distant people because he failed to describe Madhav’s / Riya’s personalities more convincingly, it was hard to connect to them.

Reading description of some places in books makes me want to visit them, like after reading The Da Vinci Code, I just wanted to start earning and save enough money to do a tour of all the places described in the book! At least he could have described the college, its general vibrance better! Just to make us feel connected to the plot. Sadly, that never happened.

He also completely failed at emotions. Neither did I feel sad when Riya denied to be his Girlfriend, nor when I read about her father sexually exploiting her. Nor did my blood rush on reading the sex-scene he describes at the end. It was very thanda.

Verdict: Not a must-read. But since I would want you to agree with my review: If you have 6 hours and 150 Rs. to spare, give it a shot!

If you have read other CB books, I rate it 3rd, after Two States and Five Point Someone. The rest two fictions are pretty shitty (it rhymes!) and complete waste of money and 6 hours each! (If you have absolutely detested the above two books, please don’t read it even if I were to send it to your address!)

Ramayana series – Ashok Banker : My take!!

Do you love reading books?

To me, reading is leaving this real world and going into the world created by the author! And thats why watching movies adapted from books makes me want to kill the maker! It is just not possible to do justice to a well-written book by making a movie out of it!

These past few days, I have been gobbling up Ramayana series by Ashok Banker! And reading 8 book series took me …. …. around 8 days 😀 I can’t put a book down after taking it up!

I know its a bit too late for a review and that the first book came out in 2003 and the last in 2012 but yours truly didn’t know of its existence till 2014!! *sheepish* But nevermind! I will still go and rave about it!

Ok. So the series consists of 8 parts:

Prince of Ayodhya, Siege of Mithila, Demons of Chitrakut, Armies of Hanuman, Bridge of Rama, King of Ayodhya, Vengeance of Ravana and Sons of Sita.

Almost all Indians know bits and pieces of the epic and those who stayed with their grandparents know more than that. I stayed with grandparents and an hour every afternoon was dedicated to epics like Ramayana, Mahabharat and various other mythological stories. Plus, who hasn’t seen the Ramayana series on television?

What was different in this series is the way it is depicted. In the last part “Sons of Sita”, Rishi Valmiki is the guru of the sons, Luve and Kush. He tells them of the travels of Raja Ramachandra, literally rama-yana. When they begin judging the king, Rishi Valmiki tells them that it is not possible to know what someone does, why they do so, what led them to the decision unless the one passing the judgment has walked in the padhuka (shoes) of that person. And that Ramayana, which was indeed written by Valmiki, is only a perception of Rama and his travails which Valmiki had. 

The author (Ashok Banker) writes in his preamble about the Ramayana that Valmiki had written and the stark contrast with later adaptations like Ramcharitmanas, which was the basis for the famous television serial. In Valmiki Ramayana, King Dasarath has 350 untitled wives or concubines (meaning women who live with a man having lesser status than wives) which was deleted in the later versions or adaptations of Ramayana! He says that in Valmiki Ramayana, Rama is shown as a great man, but a man nonetheless, while in various adaptations, Rama is shown as a God! In Valmiki Ramayana, Rama and Sita converse as equals, adaptations make it different where Sita is shown revering and praying to her husband. There was no Lakshman-rekha in the Valmiki Ramayana, which is crossed by Sita! While in the adaptations, we see that Sita crosses the Lakshman rekha and hence, by violating that rekha (line), she is kidnapped by Ravana!! Isn’t it bewildering?

What made me thinking and what I am still thinking about is how much do we really care about real epics? The ones written originally? How do we know that the facts were not distorted in later versions? We are made to believe that Sita violated the Lakshman rekha and hence, she was kidnapped! This somehow sounds like women are supposed to stay within the lines drawn out by others, or else they face consequences! Doesn’t it? 

I do not wish to make this post about equality and relating things but the thing that concerns me is that I want to read the original! The way it was written!!! So to know, how people thought then. I suspect, it must not be very different from today. Afterall, all epics are about war between good and evil. So was Ramayana. And even today, there is good and there is evil.

Ok enough of that banter! Now, my take on the book.

Its a refreshing read. The author has tried to keep a fine balance between originality of the epic (that is, the various “originals” including the ones where some of the above mentioned facts were distorted, or so they say) and his imagination. I would read it again, someday.

And it certainly made me want to read the original Valmiki Ramayana, which is not available on the face of this earth! So, something as close as it can get to the original! It has been centuries since the epic was written! The preamble itself is enough to open my eyes to think how much must have been twisted in these many centuries!

I just wish, I so wish, I can get my hands on original epic!! It must be so insightful!