Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Walk to Remember Review: The best love story of all times

I have read quite a few epic love stories over the past few years. I have read ‘Gone with the Wind’, I have read ‘War & Peace’, I have read ‘Pride and Prejudice’, I have read ‘Wuthering Heights’. I have also leafed through Eric Segal’s ‘Love Story’ and ‘Only Love’. From a classic like ‘Jane Eyre’ to a modern day internet romance like ‘I too had a love story’ and ‘Love@Facebook’, I have read them all. And then finally, on that fateful night, I read ‘A Walk to Remember’. This book is, without a doubt, the most beautiful love story I have ever read.

Prior to reading it, I had never read anything by Nicholas Sparks. So, I opened this book with zero expectations. The moment I went through the first few pages, the hungry reader within me could sense that something good is on cards this time. And my heart quivered in anxiety after it smelt an emotional upheaval lying ahead.  
The prologue introduces you to a near-60 year old Landon Carter who takes you down his memory lanes into the 1950’s when he was a 17-year old high school student. You see the younger him through his ageing eyes and go through the tumultuous experiences of happiness, then joy, then bliss, then ecstasy and then heartbreak.
Since the story is set in the quaint era of 1950s, it makes it all the more appealing for someone like me who is obsessed with the good, old world and never lets go of an opportunity to read a classic. So, when Landon steps back into time and relives his high school days, the reader is in for a phantasmagoric voyage. The girl who steals his heart is his classmate Jamie Sullivan. She is geeky, unfashionable, overtly religious, annoyingly polite and irritatingly philanthropic. She is everything that a girl should be not! And Landon has always held a strong dislike for her, right from his childhood as they grew up studying in the same school.
So, when Landon falls for this girl out of the blue, the love is all the more sugary, all the more sweeter. But when has love come unaccompanied! It has always been accompanied by bitter pain. The pain at the end is aching not just for Landon but for each and every reader. This is one of those rare books which will really (and I mean ‘really’) make you cry.
The climax, despite all its gloom, is one which will put back that smile on your face. You will go through a rainbow of emotions and your tear will flow down and be greeted by that refulgent smile below! ‘A Walk to Remember’ is the glorification of love, it is a true epitaph for undying love, and it is the greatest love story that has ever been told by a mortal human.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Love@facebook Review: The most gripping book I have ever read

‘Love@facebook’ is the debut novel of the young Indian authoress Nikita Singh and she has definitely made a huge impression with her very first book. As the title gives it away, this book chronicles a love story set in a social networking site in the internet-dominated 21st century world.

Personally, I share a sweet but extremely short memory with the book coz I was through it in just a few hours. I picked up the book (from my collections) at around 11:45 pm, read the info given on the back cover (I always do that first), scanned through introductory acknowledgement and launched myself into chapter 1 (numbered as chat 1). I read the first line and I was hooked. I have read over hundred books in the past 8 years (including 50 in the year 2005) but never before has a book got me hooked right from line 1 (not even Harry Potter). I read and read and read till my eyes dried up and the clock showed 2:45 am. By the time, I had already finished 70% of the book (the book is not quite voluminous with barely 208 pages of large print).
I thought that I would finish it up the next night (I don’t read during the daytime as a general rule) but I proved myself wrong and also broke my self-made rule by running over it in the morning before, in between, and after my breakfast. So, in a matter of 12 hours, I had swallowed the whole book (and also slept 7 hours in between; yes I am talented).
The protagonist of the novel is a 19-year old chic girl (yep, pretty much like the ones we have out here) called Vatsala Rathore who develops a huge crush on a MTV VJ Ron. She sends him a friend request on fb, he accepts, she likes & comments on all his oomphy photos, she messages him tirelessly, and finally he replies. In the weeks that follow, the two have on-and-off conversations through chats, and her crush takes the demoniacal shape of obsession. She becomes his virtual stalker and begins to worship him as a God (mind you, she is not a lovey dovey sort of a girl but has her girlie ego and panache; it’s just that all these go for a toss in his case).
Oh, and did I tell you that meanwhile her best friend Ankit (her best real, non-fb friend) loves her the way Snape loved Lily. He even proposes her a few times but she always turns him down since she doesn’t believe in the concept of love.
In the climax, she finds herself in a dilemma. She has to choose between a virtual VJ Ron whom she has a huge crush on and a real Ankit who has always been by her side.
‘Love@facebook’ is a breezy book which takes no effort on your mind and can be read even if you are not in the mood to read any book. Actually, I was supposed to read ‘A Walk to Remember’ and ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ which my nerdy bookworm friend (remember, I had made mention of this friend during my ‘Life of Pi’ review) has so generously lent to me. But I had taken a 15-day sabbatical from book-reading and thought I would break the hiatus with a light read before launching into heavy books or classics.  So, ‘love@fb’ happened and it couldn’t have been timed any better.
Overall, it is an excellent read and the author has weaved every line with so much wit that a smile will never leave your face. Sample this: “He’s getting hyper. Do something. I made my best lost puppy face and said in a low, scared tone, ‘I don’t know yet.’ His expression changed almost instantaneously. It worked. I’m a genius.”

PS- The book's cover page (see above) is just perfect too. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

When I went for a dinner in a posh restaurant

It just so happened that I planned to dine out one evening. I am very averse to eating out, but it so happened that the day turned out to be my happy birthday and I had magnanimously, in a moment of emotional outburst, promised myself a treat. So, I finished my office and set out to feed my hungry belly with the luscious stuff that the world had to offer.

 I am unmarried and do not have any family as such. I stay alone and happily so. Now, don’t jump into an assumption that I am a social recluse. I have some good and even the usual not-so-good friends in my office and neighborhood. So, I could have easily asked my friends to join me for my birthday treat. It’s not that they would have refused. On the contrary, they would have excitedly canceled all their prior engagements just to gorge on the succulent dishes for which the poor birthday boy was paying. But, I myself chose not to send out invitation to any of them. By nature, I am very frugal and nurture no desire to empty my bank balance to feed lustful friends who have lost the habit of saying ‘no’. Besides, in these circumstances, when they sense that the bill will be on me, they fast for the whole day so that they may sink their salivating mouths into a culinary more palatable than the ordinary home-food. It is a common belief that when the treat is on someone else, then our gluttonous soul lying dormant for all these years suddenly decides to wake up and sniff around. Even the non-foodies begin to lust for the expensive food and even the teetotalers start to plunge their nose into the red wine. Therefore, and wisely so, I deliberately maintained a low profile during the build-up to my birthday, shying away from any limelight and feigning poor health over the week.
So, as I trudged along to the restaurant all alone, there was a spring in my stride and a happy whistle playing on my lips. I chose one of those restaurants in Park Street where I had never been before and was, therefore, looking forward to a fresh ambience. A swish-looking restaurant called ‘Rachel’ caught my eye. I love this name very much and so, despite some initial trepidations, headed towards it.
I stood, somewhat uncertainly, below the flashy neon light. The attendant at the gate looked at me with a not-so-friendly look, eyeing me suspiciously. Perhaps, my shabby clothes made him question my financial viability. But I’m not the one to take such things lightly. I fished out a coin from my pocket and handed it to him. He turned the coin from one side to another with a look of incredulity that I couldn’t fathom. Having surmounted the first obstacle, I puffed out my chest and entered. As I stepped inside, I could make out what the managers were trying to do. They had only installed dim, little lights so that the electricity bill is low. The last time I was in a restaurant in Park Street (it was some 6 years back), the managers were quite considerate about the customers’ requirements and provided ample lights so that they are not inconvenienced.
I poked around. There were quite a few cozy-looking tables. All the ones in the corner had been occupied by couples who were making coquettish sounds as they munched leisurely. Unaccompanied by any lady, I felt a touch out-of-place. Nevertheless, I puffed out my chest again and walked towards an unoccupied table settling down there like a lion about to eat his hard-earned prey.
 I looked around. A waiter caught my eye and walked towards me carrying a menu and a glass of cold water. I swallowed the water in one go and began to study the menu in meticulous details. As I scanned through the dishes, my eyeballs popped out. They had raised the price by what looked like ten times, a contingency for which I wasn’t prepared.  I knew that the country was under an inflationary grip these past few years. But never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that the restaurants were literally toying with the sensibilities of a food-lover. My first reaction was to walk out of the restaurant instantly, return to my humble house and go to bed with an empty stomach and a filled wallet. The stomach and wallet are inversely related to each other. When one of them is fed, the other feels malnourished. But then I told myself that it’s your birthday. And besides, the waiter was standing not far from my table and, for some mysterious reason, had chosen to fix his eyes entirely on me.
I made a mental calculation of the amount of money I was carrying. Then I made a quick price comparison of the items printed on the menu card. The cheapest item was something I had never heard of before. Perhaps, it was a foreign cuisine or maybe a mash-up of different local foods. I am very choosy about my food, but the risk here was worth taking, as my wallet firmly suggested! Putting on a look of pretentious confidence, I raised my hand and gestured the waiter to come. He came mechanically. Despite my inner turmoil, the sheer professionalism in his stride did not miss my eye. I gave the order. I think I noticed a vague sneer on his lips, which I chose to ignore.
I waited for around 13 minutes (or was it 14) surveying my surroundings. The room was quite dark & dull and most of the customers were eating in inexplicable silence and communicating in romantic whispers. And then the waiter arrived carrying a small tray of food. As he placed the plate on my table, I was quite flummoxed by the sight that greeted me. The thing that I had riskily ordered looked unfamiliar. More importantly, it appeared to be a meat product. Being a strict vegetarian that I am, I stay miles away from meat and hence, you can well understand my state of perplexity. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ask the waiter about my fears for I didn’t want him to think of me as an ignorant chap who doesn’t know what he has ordered. I already had a sinking feeling that deep down he wasn’t showing the kind of awed reverence most waiters are accustomed to showing to the wealthy clients.
He went away, leaving me in a state of disturbed melancholia. The food before me looked repulsive, but I had no other choice. From the corner of my eye, I could sense that the waiter was staring at me from his desk. I held the fork and the spoon and put food to my mouth (and not mouth to my food, as some of my gluttonous friends would have done). My intestines began to squirm in protest as I clumsily gulped down bite after bite. Like the expert strategist that I am, I smartly dropped quite a few pieces (almost half of the food) under the table during the course of my birthday dinner. Finally, I was finished with the grotesque thing which I somehow ate and then washed it down with 3 glasses of water.
The bill arrived along with the sneering waiter. I drilled my eyes into the electronically printed bill. The bastards had added about 20% of the menu price for some taxes and services. My blood boiled in wrath and agony. But the waiter was almost leaning into my pocket and I had to maintain an indifferent & unconcerned look to protect my dignity. My wallet threw me a disgusting look after I nearly emptied it of its contents, and the waiter did the same after I gave him a seemingly unsatisfactory tip. As I quietly walked out of the restaurant, I was no longer the haughty lion that had walked in, but a meek rodent who was scampering away. It was a disturbing yet a memorable birthday and my first and last one with ‘Rachel.’

PS- The above account is a work of fiction and definitely not related to my personal life :))

Saturday, November 10, 2012

55 word story: Mom, I’ll miss you

I lay on the shriveled bed in imbecile placidity.  My 35-year son stood before me perhaps musing over the money required for my kidney transplant. With ageing eyes, I vaguely felt tears in his eyes as he whispered, ‘Mom, I’ll miss you.’ But then darkness descended as a pillow was pressed tight against my face....

Friday, November 2, 2012

Life of Pi book review: Surviving in the sea for 227 days

Some of you may have heard of the name ‘Life of Pi’ while many of you may have not. The movie is about to come out in November (2012), so it’s likely that you would be hearing more of it in the forthcoming days. ‘Li of Pi’ is a novel penned by a lesser known author (now more than just a lesser known author) Yann Martel, who picked up the coveted Booker Prize for this book.

I hadn’t heard of this book till a few weeks back. But after I did, I couldn’t stop myself from buying it. It is the storyline of the novel which attracted me. Here is the basic premise I’ll present to you:

“’Life of Pi’ is the story of a 16-year old boy called Pi who finds himself in the middle of Pacific Ocean (after a ship-wreck) in a lifeboat which also houses an adult Bengal tiger. Can the boy live to tell his tale? Can he survive the salty waters, the scarcity of food, the climate, the sea, the desolation and the ferocious tiger? He will, and not for one day or one week or one month, but for 227 days. The question is ‘how’.”

‘Life of Pi’ is the tale of hope in the backdrop of hopelessness, it is the story of courage amidst desolation, and it is the saga of divine faith amidst utter despair. The story is also inspiring, if one can say that even though you are unlikely to get into a scenario where you will have to share a boat with a killer tiger. It is also a story which will, as the prologue claims ‘make you believe in God’.

Pi (the story behind his name is quite interesting as well, as you would learn once you pick the book) is a 16-year old South Indian boy whose father runs a zoo in Pondicherry. When the family decides to sell the zoo and move to Canada, Pi braces himself for a change in his quiet lifestyle. But, in just a few hours, his life turns topsy-turvy when the ship sinks and he is the lone human survivor.

A lifeboat is where he finds shelter as the callous sea devours his family in that fateful stormy night. The morning dawns bright & sunny bringing with it incalculable anguish and agony. But Pi realizes that he has survived and now he needs to survive further (until some help is sent). Inside the boat, there is the tiger; out in the waters, the sharks are waiting! How will he survive the hunger, thirst, starvation, the tiger, the sharks and the sense of extreme loneliness? And then, it hits him! Only one person can help him stay alive! And it’s the tiger! (How’s that, I am not going to tell you!)

‘Life of Pi’ is extremely gripping. I remember one day I just went on reading till 4.30 am before finally chiding at myself and shutting the book to go to sleep. You just want to read on and on and on just to know what will happen the next day and the day after and the day after!

The first half of the novel traces the pre-shipwreck life of Pi and is filled with various interesting anecdotes and funny incidents. The author has masterfully laced the story with humor and has also taken a subtle dig at religious bigotry (though without being didactic or preachy). Pi’s innocence is touching as he secretly follows Hinduism, Islam and Christianity without anyone’s knowledge. He believes in God and not in religion. And it is this belief which will help him during those days when he would be homeless, foodless, humanless and roofless with only the sharks, tiger and the limitless sea for company.

This is a book which is a must-read for adults, youths and even the kids. I thoroughly recommend to all my readers, except one (who will get it directly from me), that you purchase this book or borrow it from a library or from a nerdy bookworm (he is bound to have one copy). And yes, I have my copy, I’m a nerdy bookworm too.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

100 word story: The Mother and the Son

‘Wake up, son. Don’t you have your college today? You have been sleeping like a log.”
‘Oh mom,’ mused Rohan as he lay on the bed, ‘as if I care for the stupid college attendance. I would rather go to the club today.’ He tried to stir but sleep seemed too tempting.
‘Any chance,’ his mom whispered.
‘Not much’, a man spoke in his stony voice.
A desperate tear tried to find its way out as Rohan listened through his state of coma. ‘It was fatal. He was riding the bike too fast,’ the doctor finished. 

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