Friday, 30 March 2018

Interview with Author Ambica Uppal for her book Malhaar:

Being a reader, it never occurred to me, to be reading poetry. May be because I wasn’t inclined towards reading it, say after I finished school. The last I remember contemplating on poems were my English classes in school. Until recently, when I received a mail about her book of poems from author Ambica Uppal. May be it was time to try out the poetry after all.

I read the first segment of her poems, and some of them really tug at your heart.

I did my first ever author interview with her a couple of days back. And it was great getting to know her and her book which is just a few weeks away from the release. We could communicate only through the screen because of the geographical constraints, as she resides in Canada. Below are the fun questions I asked her:

1. Tell us something about your new book. Malhaar is a book of Poems, prose and spoken word poetry. It’s a mixed bag with Lyrical and free style of poetry. 

2. Did you always want to write poetry? I have written poems from when I was perhaps 9/10 years old! I would write poems in my diary. Then in university I shared them in the college magazine and later through email with my family and friends. So, I have been writing poems for a while, sharing on Instagram has been quite recent. 

3. Do you have a target audience? I don’t write with any particular target audience in mind, though I do know that a lot of young girls between the age 18-25 follow me. 

Tell us your favorites:

1. Favorite poet: Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Neruda, Hieu Nyugen, Salman Rushdie

2. Favorite book: hard to pick one! I like the book thief, when breath becomes air, Room 
... I can go on and on and on.

3. Favorite drink while reading:  coffee! I love my cup of coffee. There’s a Starbucks in my building. I think the Starbucks baristas in my building consider me as a family now! 

4. Favorite childhood memory: many memories, hard to pick one and narrate. Growing up in Delhi cantonment area there were a lot of pink Bougainville flowers. I love those flowers! 
(Oh! Bougainville are my favorites too!)

5. Favorite corner of your house: my kitchen, when I am in the mood to cook. 

6. Favorite things to use as bookmarks, or are you a religious bookmark user/reader:  I really like to read and also am a huge hoarder of books. I lose my bookmarks very often though! I buy many and lose many. Not very good at keeping them. 

7. Favorite Indian food: ah! Yellow home cooked daal with Basmati Rice, with ghee. (Looks like we have so much in common! <wink> )

What is it that you miss the most about India? Family and food

Any message for readers who will be reading your book?  Yes, to believe in themselves. And every phase in which life passes. So as they say, this too shall pass. 

I am really looking forward to reading all the other poems real soon and reviewing it here too. Pre-order your copy if you’d like a whiff of these poems. Leaving you all a link below to save you the hassles of searching it. Go grab your copy now!

Friday, 9 March 2018

My Sister’s keeper- Jodi Picoult

Sometimes, it’s the feeling that overpowers the words being said or heard, and when that happens words are never enough to express what you’d really want to convey. This book by Jodi Picoult raised a turmoil of emotions inside me as I was reading it and when I finished it, I was not sure if I had enough words to express the beauty of what I read.

My Sister’s keeper is primarily a story about two sisters, sharing the camaraderie just like any two sisters would, but there is much more to what they share. Kate, the elder sister is diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia and Anna, who was genetically conceived by her parents to serve as a donor for her sister, is the one who has kept her going by donating her blood, lymphocytes and bone marrow from time to time or as need be, but just like she says- ‘it never stops’. Her life is tailored completely around Kate's illness, and unlike a normal teenager her age, she is unable to take part in activities she would have wanted to or plan her own future. On a quest to find who she really is she takes a step far too bold against her parents by filing a law suit for medical emancipation when she comes to know that Kate’s kidneys are failing and it might be soon that she will be asked to donate one herself. She is adamant on fighting over it rather than putting it to rest. Though it only looks like it is the story of these two girls, there is much more to it as a family. A family of five, the Fitzgeralds have been going through this troublesome period for 16 years, in the course of which their thought process has changed, their equations with their closed ones have changed, and they have unknowingly neglected one child because they paid much more attention to the other one’s health, with the journey of the neglected child and what he has landed himself into just to crave the attention of his parents from time to time, it is a story of how they survive through their losses.

While the plot is pretty much about Kate surpassing each stage of leukaemia and the Fitzgeralds finding themselves deep in the law suit, it is really the way the situations and thoughts of each family member have been presented which bring out the best in the book. While the actions of Sara, the mother, seem to anguish us when we read about them through Anna’s point of view, we empathize when we hear Sara’s side of the story. Therefore, the moment you form an opinion about one of the characters you will soon realise that you are wrong about thinking that way about them, and this goes on until you do not know whose side to take in the debate, since all of them seem justified at their own stands. This is exactly the reason why it raises a storm of emotions within the reader as he or she keeps on diving deeper in the book. And talking about the thrill, it never dies.

The characters are strong and do complete justice to the story, no extras and none useless. The Fitzgerald family comprises of Sara, Brian and their three children- Jesse, Kate and Anna. Anna’s attorney- Campbell Alexander and Guardian Ad Litem- Julia Romano, both of which are impressive as characters and have a side story running too, but at no point does it feel that it was unnecessary. Just like a story is important for any book to be good, the weaving of the characters sometimes decides its fate from good to fabulous. And, there is no doubt that Jodi Picoult left no stone unturned here. The portrayal of each character has been done proficiently with vivid character traits which sync with their thoughts and do not feel out of place.

While everything in the book keeps impressing us – be it the immaculate writing, the presentation, the characters, the pace of the story, the suspense caused in patches; it is the conclusion which is the most surprising, shocking, heart riveting and unbelievable. I say unbelievable for two reasons- 1. It wasn’t expected, the method in which the story was moving, the death of the sister was sure, but which sister, is the question, and the answer was shocking. 2. It didn’t convince me much. No doubt, I was shedding tears at the end of the book and I loved reading it, but really, it didn’t convince me and I felt an ache in my heart for such a beautiful book to be ending like this. It was not required. The end could have been predictable and we would have still loved the book. But, looks like such extreme ends instigate strong reactions in the reader, which decides whether they love it or hate it. The end makes Anna’s fight for the emancipation and the law suit look useless, it makes her look like a selfish rebellious thirteen year old who just went against her parents for nothing at the end, the family’s survival through the law suit with their other daughter on the death bed worthless. It appears as if to keep the motive alive of Anna being her sister’s keeper, the conclusion was thus designed; because you definitely feel strongly for Anna all through the book. I was hung over it for many days until I discussed it with my sister, who is an avid reader herself. This is an interesting point to discuss with readers and I am in the hope of receiving mixed but interesting views.

It is a must read for the string of emotions expressed and presented flawlessly, and also for the love of perfect writing.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Little Maryam – Hamid Baig

The thing about book mails- they are like surprise gifts and while opening them you always have the eagerness and zeal like that of a child. Indeed, it was a surprise, more so because it was a romance tragedy novel. I thought I would give it a try with an open mind without any inhibitions, and who knows, just like fantasy is my new found love this year, romance could be too.

The story is about Saadiq and his little Maryam, childhood friends, close knit, growing up to fall in love only to be faced by multiple tragedies not in the favour of their unison. And here he is, reminiscing the past sitting on a plane to see his little Maryam for one last time, narrating the odds that were against the two, to a journalist Anne who is all ears to what Dr. Saadiq Haider has to say about his tragic bygone years which is loaded with bitter sweet memories. As a child Saadiq was a brilliant chap, intelligent enough to build things out of junk. But, what was never in his favour was his tongue. He never learnt to shy back from saying the truth with a hint of sarcasm. During one such event when he is being awarded for his excellence in school, he opens his mouth only to realise what a ditch he has created for himself, giving a tongue in cheek remark to one of the politicians. This incident changed his whole life ahead, he was accused of a murder he says he didn’t commit to rot in prison for 5 years. He was capable of something more, something remarkable in his life than being in the prison and fighting the sickness and dinginess. What you read ahead is a journey from prison to a noble prize laureate. Does Maryam believe Saadiq to be innocent of the crime imposed on him? Does she wait for Saadiq to come out of prison and settle as happily married? Is she there by Saadiq’s side when he receives his noble prize? A lot of questions, and all answers to be found in the book.

Besides being a romance tragedy novella, it is also a mystery thriller. True to its genre, it does explore mystery in patches throughout the book, which are more appealing than the romance and tragedy portions. Or, I would rather put it, the thrill holds the book together and spikes up the interest of the reader, I enjoyed reading those segments. The characters which are of interest are Saadiq’s and Anne’s rather than Maryam’s. Some of the punches made by Saadiq during their conversation on the plane are interesting and witty. His grief of all the years after getting separated from Maryam have been defined aptly, the change in his nature with his new stature in the society complement each other. And, Dr. Saadiq Haider’s journey from rags to riches inspires a tad bit too.  The thought process of Anne, the journalist makes for a nice read, and the bond the two form as friends is fascinating to know. The aforementioned worked for me in the book.

What I did not like were the emotional and romance sections, which fell flat a couple of times and look bizarre if the intention was to portray a matured love story which starts at childhood.  I am not a tear shedding romance fanatic, but had I been so too, the story fails to tug at the heart. At the end you only feel sympathetic for Dr. Saadiq for going through so much to attain success, and yet his loss is unmeasured. The parts where Maryam is amnesic appear false over genuine, a sudden character change of Dr. Saadiq Haider when he meets Maryam for the second time, is immaturely put. The story is full of twists and turns with too many elements, so much so that some screws look unrealistic. The writing doesn’t stand out except for some portions which are sprinkled with wit, and fails to connect with the reader.

For the romance enthusiasts, this book might be a little refreshing because it has more to it than just getting wet eyed and feeling sympathetic for the protagonists. A new take on romance which we thought only Ravinder Singh had the copyright to. Pick up ‘Little Maryam’ if you want to experiment and are looking for a change in terms of storytelling.

Goa- A new revelation. All credits to this dainty place- Literati Bookshop Café   The ceiling-high bookshelves I was in Goa last m...