Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Black Tiger by Srijan Pal Singh

Title: The Black Tiger                                
Author: Srijan Pal Singh
Category: Non-fiction (Economics)
Publisher: Fingerprint Publishers
Price: Rs. 163/Free on Kindle Unlimted
Pages: 198

Corruption is easily one of the biggest challenges that our nation faces; it is a drain on resources, capability, as well as morale. It is a cancer that eats into individual and collective values, ethos as well as ability and skills, as people abandon the process and the basic values & ethics, and choose to  go into a direction where they see greater personal benefit. Corruption corrodes the national capability, and creates a cancer, a festering cancer teeming in our midst, living among us as one of us. That is why, given the nature of the challenge, it is always welcome if any person contributes to the literature on this vital subject of national interest.

If this literature is written {Srijan Pal Singh} by someone who has been in close proximity to one of the finest leaders we have ever had – a role model, a person of the caliber of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam; then it creates a hunger and desire to read and understand – along with the expectation of a strong, data & fact oriented fair and balanced presentation. It was with this deep desire and passion that I chose this book; and can honestly state that it has made a tremendous value addition, as well as made me think. It took me a week to find the words to review this – and I have so far reviewed 180+ books, all of them almost on the day I finish reading.

The book blurb on the back cover calls it fascinating, absorbing, and informative – you can justifiably add disturbing and stunning to that. This isn’t hyperbole; for what is very likely the first time, someone has systematically dissected corruption and placed it in front of the public in a tour-de-force presentation of mind-blowing bluntness and numbing relentlessness in its indictment of everyone who is  a party to this cancer, this serious issue in our midst.

This book is a comprehensive description of corruption, its genesis, and its many parameters, contributory sources, as well as its many offshoots. It will have you transfixed in stunned shocked attention as the author systematically bluntly lays bare the source and the edifice or body of corruption. Let me quote a small sample of the book in one short sentence to underscore my point : The unfortunate reality of today is, inferior men have now filled up a sizeable space in today’s corporate world – men who know how to make a sale, but not how to follow values”.

The book is divided into a few chapters, which define the scope of the problem : it starts with a searing and true indictment of Modern Society, in a chapter titled Fading Conscience, Unrestrained Greed. The research on The Psychology of Corruption leaves you numbed with shock & disbelief at the capability inhumanity and depravity of the Modern Human. It is a chapter that is burned into my memory, one of the most brutal indictments I have ever read. Read the book to find out what is was!

The next chapter is on Governance; this chapter is a mix of Socio-Psychological realities admixed with Administrative realities, looking at how corruption starts in an officer, how it grows and is supported by internal factors – all in the backdrop of a solid sociological study that enables a deep understanding of the problem. These first two chapters are the finest in the book, as they enable a deep understanding of corruption and its genesis in our hierarchical society, and in the backdrop of an all-round drop in the value belief matrix of our society. This is an important point – keep it in mind.

The next three chapters are on The Political and Legal system of our country, an in-depth internal look at the hard truths of our nation’s key institutions of Governance. Here you will be on familiar territory, but the content will still draw your breath away. It looks at the need for and the role of Black Money; and includes a plaintive lament asked by a legislator– how can I work with integrity and succeed in such a situation? Nepotism, lack of inner party democracy, etc other factors have been well supported with facts and solid analysis to buttress them. On the Legal System – I much prefer the reader reads for himself; I am silent on that. Suffice it to state that this chapter is very thought-provoking with real workable solutions and deep insights; not meant for a review article.

The next two chapters are, alongwith the first two, defining chapters of this landmark tome :Corporate Corruption, and Ethics and The Media. For the first time in my memory has someone in the mainstream taken on Corporate India and The Media in so blunt a fashion; enclosed here is a no holds barred, ruthless and brutal stripping of these two much vaunted segments of our society. The systematic takedown spans theCorporate-Political / Corporate-Corporate / Corporate-Government / Corporate-Employees / Paid News / Fake News / Cartels or Conflicts of Interest / Greed aspects of the transactions and relationships in these two sectors.

The book ends with a chapter on Black Money Stashed Abroad followed by two heart and soul searching chapters on Righteousness and What Each Of Us Can Do, wherein an attempt has been made to find a solution of sorts, alongwith the many many suggestions in the previous chapters. But the question that comes to mind is that we have already seen how Corporates, Media, Politics, Society is corrupt; we have seen the acceptance of corruption in society; we have seen how it is hard for people to uphold values both in our real lives, as well as in the at time terrifying examples given in the book. In the light of that, will these solutions suffice?

These points covered pretty much cover all aspects of life; this paints a picture of corruption as a deep seated endemic issue –reaching into our homes, places of work, governance – all of it. This we have already seen, as I talked of in my recent article on Fake News as well. The book suggests a series of eminently feasible, doable solutions  - such as the Costa Rica Example on the Judiciary; or the example on Corporate Governance. But will these suffice, in the light of the nature of the problem that is confronting us as a people? Will this bring about a change in the basic nature of the people? In order to answer that, we have to understand the nature of the beast: corruption.

Given its endemic nature and sidespread support as well as systemic tentacles, we need deep seated reform – true. But not one of the reform steps can check the problems emanating from peer pressure, task hindrance, ability to deliver, intra-dependency with – the corrupt people, who are people like you and me, just like you and me. How do we ensure that we, as a society, can ensure the righteous get their just rewards in an environment where someone who is incorruptible is not considered foolish. Where the price of righteousness is a lesser pay, higher risk and ridicule? And in all points of interaction that an individual has in his daily routine – keep in mind Governance, Politics, Legal, Corporate and Media is a comprehensive look at society, leaving nothing? These are the questions we as a nation have to answer and it is a high time now.

In summary, the book admittedly is a start in the right direction; all of the problems it identifies are almost spot-on accurate. Some of the suggested solutions are actually excellent, and workable – provided we find the will for the same. The straightforward data-based analysis leaves no scope for much debate insofar as the problem description & diagnosis is concerned. The solutions aspect, though, is another matter. Take the examples of Property, or Manifestos, or party whips; are the changes implementable? I fear not. The only place where the book falls marginally short is in corporate governance and corporate corruption. The problems are systemic, deep-rooted and endemic, and will need deep change at entire organizational systems and processes level. The problem identification is incomplete, as it looks at only one small aspect of Corporate Corruption – the reality is far scarier, and virtually endemic… all the rest is spot-on, and the author deserves a standing ovation for putting together this masterpiece…

The Readers Cosmos Rating: 4.5/5

About the Author:
Srijan Pal Singh is a gold medallist MBA holder from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and has worked with the Boston Consulting Group. He is a social entrepreneur who has been involved in studying and evolving sustainable development systems with a thrust on rural areas. From 2009 to 2015, he also worked as an advisor and an officer on special duty to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam on promoting the concept of energy independence and Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA), and co-authored with him three books, Target 3 Billion (2011), Reignited (2015), and Advantage India (2015). He has been named as one of the Global Leaders of Tomorrow by the St. Gallen Leadership Symposium in Switzerland in 2014. He has also co-authored Smart and Human (2015) with GRK Reddy.

Book Reviewed by Vishal Kale and edited by Nimi Vashi

Vishal Kale has an MBA in Marketing with 16 years of experience in Sales, Marketing & Operations across various industries, with end-to-end specialisation in telecom sales and marketing. 

He is an Indian Top Blogger {on ITB Website} for the past 2 years and counting; Nominated in top 5 Political Bloggers by Blogadda in Win-15 & Among the top 200 bloggers worldwide on Invesp. He specialises in deep politico-economic analysis; Books off the beaten track, and a value & fundamentals-based approach towards the Indian Economy, Corporate India - And Especially Indian Colonial History"

Friday, November 17, 2017


As we grew also grew the distance,
we were made conscious that we were different,
something we never felt while playing those games,
now we are two different genders,
the smiles we attracted when we played together are now stares,
the distance grew further everyday,
until one day when it was impossible to reach you,
ironically this was called "life".

Monday, November 6, 2017

Book Review: Europa by Hywel Pinto

Title: Europa                                  
Author: Hywel Richard Pinto
Category: Science Fiction
Publisher: Story Mirror
Price: Rs. 225                                                                  

Snapshot: The year is 2250 and we are witness to a historical trial of one of the Silver Fleet’s youngest and most promising captains - captain Richard Sparks, who has been accused of murdering a fellow crew member during the Silver Stars lengthy trip to Jupiter’s moon – Europa. But the crew are divided as to whether the captain is to be blamed for the fiasco or whether there was a bigger conspiracy on board?

Can another murder on board the Silver Star be attributed to the unusual mission that the ship is on? Does someone want the crew of the Silver Star to fail in their mission to locate one of her sister ship, reportedly lost near Europa? And just how many of the crew can captain Richard Sparks can trust, if he is to be believed as being innocent?

Meanwhile, a shadowy organisation back on earth contends with a dangerous, corrupt and ambitious Indian politician, with the Europa mission being used as the counter weight. Will this affect the crew on board the Silver Star?

All trials are not as simple as they seem – not when the accused has a story to tell and some people will go to great lengths to protect what actually happened on EUROPA.

Review: Europa by Hywel Richard Pinto is a space science fiction. The moment I laid my hands on it, the enchanting cover seemed to promise a feeling of wonder and adventure of travel among the stars. I expected a space opera with modern technology and Europa partially delivered it. I applaud the author’s extra ordinary imagination brimmed with adventure, action, aliens and suspense. But the problem is I was not enchanted completely.
The story set in year 2250 begins with the historical court room trial of captain Richard Sparks who commanded the journey of Silver Star to Jupiter’s moon Europa to restore help to the crew of Silver Wind. Suddenly few crew members along with Captain Sparks are awoken from their medical induced hibernation. 

To add more mystery and misery, there is a death of a crew member that puts guilty charges on Captain Sparks. Eventually, the team soon realises about a foul play in store for them on the ship. During the time of the journey, there were some bad high profile influential men like Draco and Pramod on earth who planned to influence and play their own dirty games secretly into Mission Europa.  The author has pulled the strings on the conspiracy from US to India. The course of the journey of the book reveals the truth and states the actual facts that occurred during Mission Europa.

It won’t be wrong to say that I liked the book in bits and pieces. It had a breath of fresh air but could not hold for long. Some parts were simply too dragged and were dull while some were interesting. For instance, the moment the crew and Captain Sparks lands outside their ship and discover aliens was written well. Nominal glitches in the book were printing errors and repetitions. I wish it had been edited well. Writing was plain and lucid. The characters like Duncan, Draco, Mario, Jewel, Robbie and Pramod are sketched well with their back stories. However, too many characters were noisy and annoying. The author has carved a well crafted story but I wish the loopholes were stitched well too. 

Rating : 2.5/5

About the Author:  Hywel Richard Pinto, born in Bombay and brought up in Mumbai has always loved reading, right from the time he was in school, beginning with Enid Blyton's Famous Five and moving on to The Hardy Boys once he had exhausted all of Enid Blyton's series of mystery novels. Hywel works full time in a Media agency as a Sr. Director - Media Planning. In addition to this book, he has also written a murder mystery set in Mumbai by the name of "The Monday Murder" which was shortlisted in the top 20 manuscripts from nearly 300 entries by DNA-Hachette India in January 2013 during their Hunt For The Next Indian Bestseller contest.

Grab a copy here:

Book Reviewed by Shaily Bhargava:

Shaily is an Equity Technical Analyst by profession and an ardent reader, freelance writer, book reviewer by passion who enjoys most of her jolly little life in her cocooned dreamland cooking up stories. Her short stories are published by online literary magazines of repute like Storizen, eFiction India and in anthologies like- ‘Tell me a Story’ by Penguin India and ‘The first Brush on the Canvas’ by Half Baked Beans. Shaily finds her strength in the 3Cs-Coffee, Chocolates and Candy Crush. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Second Chance by Dr. Sandeep Jatwa

Title: Second Chance
Author:  Sandeep Jatwa
Category: Fiction
Publisher: ebooks2go
Date: 2017
Price: Rs. 190
Pages: 198

Book Blurb: Shekhar Kapoor is a successful businessman who has never done a decent thing in his entire life. For him it is all about what he can get and how fast he can get it. He goes through life cheating and insulting people, even after he receives a mysterious telephone call from what is called the City of Justice. Ignoring the cryptic warnings, Shekhar continues to live his life as he pleases, until one day, shortly after insulting a beggar in the street, Shekhar crashes his car and is killed. And it is only when he is standing before the Bookkeeper, and being shown where his life had gone wrong, that Shekhar finally understands what life is all about. But is it too late for him? Can he be given another chance, to undo all the wrongs he has done? Or is there a chance that Shekhar Kapoor can find redemption where there had previously been no hope?

The Review:  The book is a fictional tale on karma or broadly a thought passed on about our decisions, behavior and actions in life. The lead character Shekhar Kapoor is a rich businessman with worst qualities a human can have, treating people badly, usurping their businesses women, money and pride to name a few. There are reasons he is the way he is. Loosing his mother early on in life, hatred for his father and practically no one to love or care for him since long, he is what he is. Though he is not all dark, like all of us and has some bright streaks which surface sometimes, rarely but certainly. Overall his karma is in the negative and many of his actions are not even thought just driven by feelings of misplaced rage towards his father. Taken together he hasn't lead a good life. He isn't what one should ever be. However an event gives him a chance to rethink his life, will it be the same?

First of all the book has karma as a focal point and some depictions of situations are very lively, making you really think hard about yours. The book asks one to reconsider their actions, especially those that effect other negatively. He does so by the help of a story with real life-like characters and situations, asking what if you had another chance at the same life? Will you still do things the way you do? Treat people the way you do? Take your blessings for granted? What is a good life? The story is vivid in making these questions extremely clear to the reader and it will stay with you for a long time after you have read it. What I found lacking however was that it could be better written as the writing is too simple and direct. The concept needed a more flavorful depiction. 

Rating: 3/5. Read it and rethink about your actions.

   About the Author:

Dr. Sandeep Jatwa was born in holy city Ujjain and grew up in Dewas, in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. He is married and still lives in Madhya Pradesh today. Having attained an M.B.B.S. from MGM Medical College, Indore, Sandeep went on to secure a job in medicine and now works at the Government Hospital Sarangpur District Rajgarh. He has an amazing imagination and spends much of his free time dreaming up stories. He has been writing since 2006 and has completed two novels. The first has yet to be published, but his second one, which he self-published and is entitled Second Chance, is an exciting and moralistic tale of how one man comes to realize the error of his greed. In his free time, Sandeep likes to relax and spend time with his family and friends. He is also a food lover and enjoys trying new and exciting dishes. Sandeep's most urgent wish is to be able to educate children who work in the street and have little opportunity to make something good from their lives. He believes that everyone's childhood should be awesome, and not a struggle.

Crossword book award winning author Ravi Subramanian launches Sanya Runwal's book " Ten Dollar Bride", published by "The Write Place".

On 6th October 2017, 17-year-old  Sanya Runwal launched her debut book "Ten dollar bride" in the presence of Smt Amruta Fadnavis at Crossword Bookstores, Mumbai. The book was launched by best-selling writer Ravi Subramanian.

This week there is a new writer on the block, who has already created headlines in the past for setting up a foundation that aims to provide low-cost and high-quality menstrual hygiene products. Inspired by personal, real-life events, her book showcases the fear and ignorance with which many young girls in India live in the shadow of our country's ruthless & patriarchal setup. 

Commenting on her debut novel, Sanya said, “My intent to write this book was to enable people to empathize with girls from a lower socioeconomic strata, and how they don't even have basic  amenities that we take for granted. I wanted to bring to light the critical situation that exists in this day and age. The book has also been written with the intent that my stories urge everyone to collectively do something and rectify the wrong, with our actions ."

Smt. Amruta Fadnavis who has always been vocal about social issues and has worked towards a better today commented, "I think every woman is a powerhouse but somewhere the realisation that she has massive courage within her is missing. There might be various reasons for that. Sometimes, she is not economically independent or lacks support from her family because of backward social norms. Luckily for us, the new breed of women realise that they have to stand up first for themselves. This gives courage to other women, and helps society grow positively."

Ravi Subramanian, winner of three Crossword Book Awards said, " If the men in our country read this book, I think the life of our women  would be much better. Men don't realise what women go through with small acts which infact are not all that small! Some acts are even scary to women. I think India will be a much better place than it is today, if men read this book."

Shaina N C too  graced the occasion and was seen in animated conversation with Amruta Fadnavis. Having served as a catalyst for change in the society at a young age, Sanya hopes to highlight the plight of young women in our country and propel action with her book -  "Ten Dollar Bride." 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Author Interview: Jamal Merchant - Author of One Enduring Lesson

Today we have with us Jamal Merchant, author of One Enduring Lesson. It is a story of a tale of the undying human spirit of survival against all odds is his debut novel that is getting some rave review (read ours here: ), so we decided to understand its creation and the writer better. Lets hear about his journey from the author himself....

Q.    Tell us a little about your journey into writing?

A: In my school days in Zanzibar, Tanzania I used to write scores of essays. As a Property Finance Broker in London, I have to write project reports to banks So writing is a habit for me from my young days In 2009 I came up with the idea of writing a novel. It was a sudden inspiration.

Q.    How did the book “One Enduring Lesson” come into being?

A: The title of the novel is inspired from the last paragraph of “The Memoirs of Aga Khan” wherein the late Aga Khan III wrote :-

 “Life in the ultimate analysis has taught me one enduring lesson. The subject
 should always disappear in the object”.

Based on this theme, I developed a tale of the undying human spirit of survival against all odds in which my protagonist totally immerses himself in everything he does to achieve victory in love and life.

Q.    What inspired you to create a character like Rahul Saxena and how much you feel readers could relate to him?

A: I was inspired to create a character like Rahul Saxena from hundreds of young men and women who come to Mumbai from all over India to seek a new life in Bollywood or in other walks of life but end up destitute. I have made Rahul struggle but also showed him the path of success and salvation through religion to fight back internal and external demons and emerge victorious from his horrific struggles and be triumphant in love. I feel today’s young people can relate to Rahul and feel encouraged to seek inspiration from their faith after reading mynovel.

Q.    One Enduring Lesson is a great book that teaches never to give up attitude. What's your that one enduring lesson during your journey as an author.

A: Never give up if you believe that you have a good story and you want the world to know about it.

 Q.    We know writing and getting published is a long journey.  So was it easy to write a book and manage your full time job along? How did you manage it?

A: I had an original story in mind, but had no idea of how to write a novel. I had to self-tuition myself in the art of storytelling, scene construction, dialogue development and creative writing. To do this I started reading novels written by famous novelists and also watched many films. In all I read 75 novels and saw 260 films. I also attended a few short courses in London in creative writing. I made extensive study notes from all these resources.
    The story is based in India. I did extensive research on many aspects of life in India and issues covered in my novel. In all I had 235 print-outs on various subjects to read and draw knowledge from.

    In January 2011, I made a special trip to India and visited Mumbai and Amritsar and visited all the places in these two cities where the action takes place involving the protagonist Rahul Saxena. It was a fact-find visit which greatly assisted me in describing the places and events in my novel.

    I used to get up at 4.00 in the morning to write. As a debut novelist, it was a slow and painful process. But I persevered and completed my first draft in September 2011 which I      later enriched with scores of improvements and newideas, culminating in a draft which was finally accepted by Rupa Publications of India.

Q.    Did you ever face writers block?

A: Yes, but luckily it would not last for too long.

Q.    Your inspiration in writing? What are your favourite books and authors.

A: I have no favourite authors as such, but I liked books written by Nicholas Sparks like The Notebook and Message in a Bottle. I drew inspiration from many other books including some which won Booker Prize like The White Tiger and Midnight’s Children.

Q.    How do you motivate yourself in situations of disappointment?

A: I genuinely believed that I had a good story and wanted the world to read it. I did not allow disappointment to overwhelm me. I kept persevering. Motivation came from my desire to succeed.

Q. What are your upcoming writing projects?

A: None. I will write another novel only if and when I have another brilliant and original story coming to my mind.

Q.  Words of wisdom for the budding authors.

A: Read! Read !Read !
And then
Write ! Write! Write !
Till you get it Right!.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Razor Sharp by Abhinav Kumar

Title: Razor Sharp
Author:  Abhinav Kumar
Category: Fiction- Short Story Collection
Publisher: Amazon Kindle Only
Date: 2017
Price: Rs. 130
Pages: 166

Blurb: In my debut collection of short stories, I explore relationships and friendships, bits of the past and the present, and changing times. Each story explores a world, a relationship or an incident unto itself: while they are disjointed, my sole purpose is to touch the reader's mind and enhance his or her pleasure. Too many short stories, I believe, aim to befuddle and confuse, and in the process, lose sight of what is most important. Having been in this position several times in the past, in this collection, I present little bits of myself in the hope that you, the reader, feel happy or sad, laugh or despair - but never feel cheated. Happy reading!

The Review: I am a lover of short stories and can barely control myself for reading a book with such a collection, once it is in my hands. This book therefore was no exception. However, as I began reading I realized within the first few stories that the writer does means every letter of the two words that constitute its title "Razor Sharp". These stories cannot be described aptly by the minimum usage of words and so aptly. 

The first of the thirteen stories is Razor-Sharp, from which the book derives its title, which is an amusing tale of relationships confusion and clarity. The author exhibits brilliant word play here during his session with the road side barber. I have a few favorites in the book Prejudice, which depicts the ironical lens with which we judge people and the circumstances that pressures of the society lead us to, emphasizing the point that the exterior is just a coat. The writing style of the writer and the brilliant depiction of the ending is powerful and perfect. A Breath of Fresh Air, which to me was a perfect flash fiction. 13(I)(VII)  is a story that will stay with you forever and the best of all is Gone,  aptly convoluted and the most bizarre and fresh story I have read in a long time. The other stories are good too and only two of them were predictable. They are diverse ranging from relationships, friendships to the way children play pre- and post computer era. One play Day deserves a special mention too for it is a much needed tale, especially for children who never knew what is it to play without gadgets.

The stories are crisp and well-written. You might have to read some more than once to really get it but the ultimate discovery of meaning is worth the exercise. Also the author's comments at the end of each story are hilarious sometimes and a bonus post the confusion and mild catharsis of stories.

All in all a great read for short story lovers and a perfect travel companion. Waiting for more from the author.

Rating: 4/5

A Thousand Dreams Within Me Softly Burn by Sahil Sood

Title: A Thousand Dreams Within Me Softly Burn
Author:  Sahil Sood
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Woven Word Publishers
Date: 2017
Price: Rs. 200
Pages: 124

Book Blurb: Siddharth, a middle-aged school teacher, struggling with an unfinished manuscript, leads a solitary existence in a remote village in Shimla. Gautam, a twenty-two-year-old writer, burning with a desperate longing for romance, finds solace in Siddharth's old essay on Thumri and spends years in search of him. Phil, a young Jewish traveller from Missouri, beset by a difficult alliance with his Christian girlfriend in the face of orthodoxy, travels around the world and meets Siddharth at a café in Manali. The answer to their longings resides in Siddharth's letters and manuscript--the silent witnesses of the fate of two men and their love for each other. A Thousand Dreams Within Me Softly Burn explores the depths of love and the power of writing that helps the human soul triumph over loneliness, alienation, and shame. 

The Review:
We all desire love. Be it the rich the poor, the king or the pauper, the ambitious or the content, at some stage in our lives the desire manifests and then begins to grow, eventually overpowering us to find that one person who would love us unconditionally, faithfully and forever. But alas! humans are faulty and such love is only a thing to wish for, something very few get. With evolution of technology, the next person available on the next swipe and sex no longer a taboo this love is almost non-existent. Fidelity now is a thing of the past. Yet what is heart if not an uncontrolled beat we hope to tame, it has desires, of soul and flesh, often wishful, expectant from others, only to be broken. This book in short is all about the above, the longing, the search, the imperfections and at some rare places the perfection whose existence is not realized.

You might think, this is another book on love, but no matter how much is written on the subject it still doesn't explain it all. Perhaps the writer thought of writing his own perceptions through the stories he read, through his characters. The book begins emphatically with a letter and then an essay. This essay is the most beautiful amalgamation on relationships, books and movies, I have ever read. It was as if the essence of some of my favorite books could come out so clearly in just a few of its paragraphs and sometimes only a single line. For a voracious reader it is a treat. 

It is a book that might have different impression on each reader who reads it. The characters, their lives and stories all try to philosophically map relationships of love, as if trying hard to understand and define them. It is not a road going from one destination to another but a journey each one of us must take.

An unbelievable feat by a debutante, its almost poetry to my senses. A highly recommended read.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, September 25, 2017

Book Review: One Enduring Lesson by Jamal Merchant

Title: One Enduring Lesson
Author:  Jamal Merchant
Category: Romance
Publisher:  Rupa Publications.
Date: 2017
Price: Rs. 295
Pages: 274

Snapshot: Eager to start a new phase in life, Rahul Saxena, 27, a half Indian-British citizen, recently out of job and rejected in love, lands in Mumbai from London to study film making. But little does he know that Mumbai, the city of dreams, will turn his life inside out. From the dark corners of the streets as a professional rat killer to the vermin-infested confines of the jail, from shady dance clubs to the homes of Mumbai’s rich women where he is paid to provide pleasure- fate takes him on a roller coaster ride that challenges his very will and determination to survive. When his secret life threatens to destroy even the love that he finds, Rahul seeks recourse in spirituality.  Inspired by India’s synergic religious traditions, Rahul fights back internal and external demons to write his own destiny.
One Enduring Lesson is a tale of the undying human spirit of survival against all odds.

Review: One Enduring Lesson by Jamal Merchant is not entirely a love story. It has edges and corners that are brushed with a lot of other stories. It begins with Rahul Saxena, the protagonist in London- his loving parents and his dreams to do a film course in Mumbai. Soon, the boy lands up in Mumbai and is robbed left in a dark alley with tears and fate. As the drama unfolds, we are introduced to the various characters, most of which may well be caricatures of real life individuals about whom one reads almost every day. They are the myriad shades of well wishers, kind and caring like Irfan and David- the taxi drivers, Mrs. Perizaad Pestonji or fondly known as PP Auntie and her son Ratan. Rahul takes a sigh of relief in their care but living in Mumbai in a dire financial situation forces him to look for ways to make money. He joins as a Rat-killer in the wee hours of night but drastically fails to put up with it. And then, he comes across a friend (a beggar) suggesting a line of work as a gigolo. Rahul then slips into the name and identity of Radium meeting many ladies of the urban Mumbai living a deprived, painful lonely life. They all have different stories but the same desire. For once, I understand that this was the storyline set by the author but still I fail to understand why a boy from London who was working in a bank look out and only qualify for a job of a rat-killer or ends up being a gigolo.  Radium then set free the lives of many females. He starts with just being a listener and then slowly falls as a pleaser to their physical needs.

All the characters are introduced with an objective and each of them has a separate character-sketch, even if their parts may be minuscule. Soon, Rahul’s life becomes as deplorable as it is enigmatic. In course of same, Rahul meets Julie Singh who is a widow struggling with her own dilemma. The two form an unspoken relatable bond. Starting as friends, they soon express their love for each other and Rahul suddenly feels in control of his life once again. However, life is not a smooth ride. A slip of Rahul’s truth about his secret life as Radium spills the beans turning his love life upside down. Lost in despair and dark, he seeks the spiritual guidance to piece his broken life back. At this point, it seems the author has smoothly pulled all the strings and tied it to the almighty for solace, redemption and absolution.

Any narrative, no matter how good, can fall flat. The sad sordid lives after a point could not hold interest for long. The author's take on those females is quite poignant and cast a compelling look at sophisticated urban lifestyle. The author has cited various issues through these stories chained in the locks of culture and traditions like homosexuality, childless couples or a plight of a lady bearing with a rich husband who converted his religion to marry.  Also, I applaud the author’s take on religion, the way he knits the best of every religion. The writing is simple and eloquent. The storyline can strike a chord with today’s youth. It was a fast-paced breezy read.

Positives: A thought provoking breezy read with lucid writing and well sketched characters.

Negatives: A bit too far stretched and slightly meandering.

Verdict: The book talks about the undying spirit of survival against all odds. And so in a way has taught an enduring lesson for sure- to keep up with life and never give up! I would go with 3.5 stars for that positive spirit.

About the Author: Jamal Merchant came to England from Tanzania, East Africa in 1972 and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1976. He then settled in London where he is now self-employed as a property finance broker.

Jamal has travelled widely including to India, China, Egypt, USA, Canada and the Middle East. His interests include reading, current affairs, movies and cricket. One Enduring Lesson, a love story based in India, is his debut novel.

Book Reviewed by Shaily Bhargava:
Shaily is an Equity Technical Analyst by profession and an ardent reader, freelance writer, book reviewer by passion who enjoys most of her jolly little life in her cocooned dreamland cooking up stories. Her short stories are published by online literary magazines of repute like Storizen, eFiction India and in anthologies like- ‘Tell me a Story’ by Penguin India and ‘The first Brush on the Canvas’ by Half Baked Beans. Shaily finds her strength in the 3Cs-Coffee, Chocolates and Candy Crush.