Monthly Archives: June 2012

Review: The Valmiki Syndrome

The book this week was “The Valmiki Syndrome Finding the work-life balance” by Ashok K. Banker. As I mentioned in a previous post I won this book in a twitter contest, courtesy the author and the publication house Random House India.

This is not from the mythology genre and not a fiction. In this book Banker has described his take on the life’s eternal 3 questions i.e.

1. Who am I?

2. What do I want to become?

3. How can I become that?

Now sometime or the other every person in this world has asked these questions to himself/herself. And many yogis, gurus (self-proclaimed or otherwise) and scholars have tried to give the answers that they thought were right.

There are 3 stories that go simultaneously namely Ratnakaran, Suhasini & Ravi and Sara. Where Ratnakaran’s story is age-old from Ramayana era  and Suhasini and Sara’s story are contemporary.

Ratnakaran was a dreaded dacoit in the age of Ramayana who used to rob and kill people as a profession until the day he meets Narad who explains to him that what he is doing is not what his family wants him to do, he realizes his mistake (although he was just trying to fend for his family through this profession) and starts on the path of enlightenment and later comes to be known as ‘Rishi Valmiki’, the great seer who wrote the epic Ramayana.

Suhasini is a modern-day career oriented woman who earns more than her husband and in the process of going forward in her career leaves behind her husband and kids and as a result her husband Ravi falls in love with another woman Karen and marries her, the kids also don’t love Suhasini. Suhasini later realizes her mistake that her career advancements, her promotions and high salary are worth nothing if she doesn’t have anyone to share it with.

The last story is of a young girl Sara from a middle class Maharashtrian family who gets selected to IIT but leaves it for a job in the real estate business. Her parents (specially her father) does not agree and are very angry, she leaves the home but continues to advance in her career and only in a few years she is a successful, young career woman and then she finds love of her life Aamir who helps her in mending things with her family.

Banker tries to illustrate it through different stories (even giving example of great Siddhartha or Buddha) that asking the question is important and the first step. If one doesn’t ask the question, one would never change. Change is inevitable and we should not be scared of it, it will be for progress or for decay or for transformation.

But if we do not ask ourselves who we are? or who we want to become then we will never find the perfect balance between work and life. Whereas having a career is important so that we can earn enough to remain happy but equally or even more important is family and life for which we are doing all the hard work. If the people for whom we are working (or think we are working) are not happy then nothing is worth. Every person some or the other time gets affected by this situation he terms as ‘The Valmiki Syndrome’.

It is not a self-help book, he has mentioned it in the beginning only (which I was very happy about). I too believe that self-help books or seers or gurus, etc. no one can help you, only you can. One can find answers to these 3 questions (and every other question in life) from within and there is no need to search it out or ask anyone. You can listen to everyone’s advice but should be using your conscious and mind to resolve your issues.

Banker has tried to give a Vedic angle to these eternal questions and tried to explain it very nicely (after all that is his forte) through different stories and by expressing his views in the middle of the stories.

I would rate it as a good read however I was not very happy with it. I expected more from the book (not in terms of the answers to those questions for sure).

May be I think he should have let the stories do the talking rather than he expressing his views in between  as it felt at times that the stories were biased due to his views regarding the topic (I do understand stories are always biased but…) and so a reader it not able to take decision on his own and rather is drawn to the conclusion that the author is trying to drive him at. From Banker I expect more. As even he mentions (through the medium of a story) that Narad tells Ratnakaran that let the ‘katha’ do the talking, it does not preach but it just puts things in perspective. The listeners of the katha should use their own विवेक  (it’s such a beautiful word) to draw conclusion.

I would have wanted  not to brand any character (including Suhasini, Ravi or Sara or Ratnakaran) as right or wrong, as good or bad. I didn’t want to even say that Ravi was wrong as he indulged in infidelity or Ratnakaran in killing people. But let the reader to make his views for himself. Because I think the way 3 questions can be answered by a person himself so the good or bad, right or wrong that decision should also be taken by that person alone and not by the society.

Apart from that as I said it’s a good read but definitely not near any of his Ramayana or Krishna series. I would look forward to more such books from him.

PS: Trivia : The one thing I was missing was (as I have read his Ramayana Series also) that if this story of Ratnakaran was right then when did he in this duration got together with Rama and fight the demons (as is mentioned in his Ramayana series) ?

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Week 12: The book this week is The Valmiki Syndrome

As I enter into week 12, surprisingly I have many choices for the books to read and the book that I picked is quite new and from one of my favorite (as close as it can get to favorite) author Ashok K. Banker and it’s not from mythology genre, the book is titled as ‘ The Valmiki Syndrome Finding the work-life balance‘. The other good thing about this book is that I got this book free of cost courtesy the author Ashok Banker himself and the publication house Random House India as part of a contest on twitter (you can follow me on twitter @AlwaysAbhinav).

Now as you all (who have been following me for a while) know that I have already read many of the books by Banker but till now all of them have been from mythology genre, such as ‘Ramayana Series‘, ‘Krishna Coriolis‘ and I even have ‘Forest of Stories‘  first book of his Mahabharata Series sitting with me, which I have kept for a later date. I wanted to read his books from other genre such as Iron Bra, Vertigo etc and I think this book is a perfect start towards that goal.

Now the title is interesting and I would like to see how Banker approaches towards suggesting work-life balance, almost every person today needs that.

I am happy to tell you that this blog’s readership is increasing by every passing day and when the readership increases, so would the ideas and suggestions to improve the blog and the writings too. I am looking forward to that.

As I mentioned in a previous post that I have also started a ‘Picture Review‘ section recently with Krishna Coriolis and intend to that for many other future books. If you have any thoughts/ feedback about that then please do write to me.

Till next time Happy Reading!

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Review: Breakfast of Champions

The book this week was ‘Breakfast of Champions‘ by Kurt Vonnegut. Now before beginning the review, let me first tell you, that this was my first Vonnegut book. I have never read him, never heard about him and I can’t very well recall where I heard about this book but I did hear some good things about it and so I picked it up from my library.

It turned out to be a ‘different’ book, I know I said that after doing 3 mythology genre books I wanted to read something different but this book was way too different. It’s hard for me to say if the book was good or bad.

However I would honestly concede that I didn’t understand the book completely (I think that I understand some part of it but even that is debatable).  I did get that part (at least) that the book was sort of satire on American issues, it was humorous but the entire book was so full of it.

The story is based on two weird man who crossed the paths and weirder things happened, Dwayne Hoover a Midwest car dealer and sci-fi novel writer Kilgore Trout are the main characters. Apparently Kilgore Trout’s character has been there in earlier Vonnegut’s book too. The book even has some funny sketches drawn to drive home the point.

The book tackles most of the big & small issues plaguing America in a funny way, such as war, sex, racism, politics, etc and it does it in a unique way which I (at least) have never heard or read before. I have been exposed to some of the american jokes (satire would be a big word for those guys) by the likes of Colbert, Jay Leno, etc. but Vonnegut take is different.

I did follow some part of the book and I think I did understand what the author was trying to say but then there were instances where I thought may be I am not following or the author was drifting. By the end of the book it became all the more difficult to understand when the author introduces himself as a character.

Honestly speaking it took me an effort to complete this book and because I am exposed a little to american culture, understand their lifestyle, a few of their issues, their politics, etc so I was able to follow some part of it. For an average Indian reader who is not so much familiar with all these this book will do no good.

Also even though as this book is a bestseller and also turned into a movie (starring Bruce Willis and I think the movie crashed at the box office) , I don’t really think that every person who read it understood it completely or understood what the author was trying to portray. May be it was sold and even embraced more for its shock value than anything else, which I don’t despise but surely its success could have different reasons than mere readers liking the story.

So that’s about it, I have tried to put my honest review of it and surprisingly as I said earlier, it’s difficult for me to describe this book in one word nevertheless I am happy that I have read it and certainly I did not hate it and most definitely it is not a low quality writing. Although I might be a tad bit cautious in future before picking up Vonnegut.

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Week 11: The book this week is Breakfast of Champions

As I mentioned in my earlier post that I was able to complete 2 books last week i.e. Week 10 and all the last 3 books read/reviewed were from mythological genre (Ashok Banker to be precise) so I wanted to read something different this week.

I also happened to join a library recently (which I wanted since a long time), the major reasons for not joining a library till now has been

1. I might not get time to go to the library fetch the books and return the books

2. The book catalogue I wasn’t finding up to my satisfaction, the ones with good catalogue were too expensive

Due to these 2 reasons I kept on buying the books, but now with the increased speed of reading, it was becoming difficult for me to keep on spending so much money also in addition make the room for so many books at my house.

So I decided to give the library a try. I subscribed to Tenderleaves library, whose books I saw at a local cafe, I went through the website, I liked their concept & their social initiatives, moreover they were addressing my issue no. 1, they deliver and fetch the books from home. Their book collection is decent but not as good as I want, nevertheless I think I can start with this and may be they will keep on adding to their collection.

So I got the first 2 books home delivered and one of the books that I would start reading is ‘Breakfast of Champions‘ by Kurt Vonnegut.

Now I have added this book a few months back to my wish list but I can’t remember who suggested it, nevertheless I think I have read a few good things about this book online and recently one of my distant cousin has read it (his update from goodreads.com) and rated it 4/5, which is pretty good. So I have huge expectations from this book now. But I really don’t know what to expect, the jacket doesn’t give much details, so I would have to delve in it to find more details.

But I am very excited to start this book and even more happy that the Monsoon has finally arrived and it would be so good to read books in this beautiful weather.

So as I pour into this book this week, be with me and let me know if you have read about this book, your views and any other book you can suggest me.

Till next time, Happy Reading!

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Recap of the books Read till now

I was wondering how many weeks have passed till now in my 52 weeks 52 books challenge and though I knew at the back of my mind as to which all books I have read, I couldn’t put a sequence to it perfectly so I stared looking at the old posts. Thought I would also share this Recap of the books read/reviewed till now:

I started this journey from the week of 8th April 2012.

 

Week 1: Talk to the Hand
Week 2: Vengeance of Ravana
Week 3: The Bridges of Madison County
Week 4: The Namesake
Week 5: The Devotion of Suspect X
Week 6: Wise & Otherwise
Week 7: –
Week 8: The Malgudi Days
Week 9: Slayer of Kamsa
Week 10: Dance of Govinda and Flute of Vrindavan

Will try to do a similar recap again after week 20

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Picture Review

I had been meaning to do this for sometime and today after spending sometime I am able to achieve a little. I am talking about reviewing a book in pictures or better presenting a book through a collage of pictures.

As I read a book every week and write a review of it, I thought why not present the story in pictures for easy, short, interesting and aesthetically better way.

So what better way to start this work then with the recent books that I have read, the three books of Krishna Coriolis. So I have put together a photo collage which explains the story of the 3 books i.e. Slayer of Kamsa, Dance of Govinda and Flute of Vrindavan.

All the interesting pictures that I can find from the internet that could explain the stories I have collected and showed them. You can find this Picture Review or ‘PicView’ here or can scroll down to the end of this page and click on the link PicView -> Krishna Coriolis.

It could appear raw to you but its my first attempt and I intend to do better with time. I intend to do this picture review with the books that I read in future as far as feasible/possible.

Do let me know your views, how you like the idea or what else can be done to make it better.

Access the Picture View of Krishna Coriolis

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Review: Dance of Govinda And Flute of Vrindavan

Oh yes! I did manage to finish 2 books this week, i.e. Week 10  (that covers for my default in an earlier week) and now I am going head to head with my promise of 52 Weeks 52 Books.

Last week if you remember I started with Ashok Banker’s Krishna Coriolis first part ‘Slayer of Kamsa‘, I had the other 2 books of the series also sitting at home and the Krishna stories are ever so intriguing that I thought why not finish the other ones too before moving onto some other genre.

And as I finished both in the same week and both are more or less the same story (instead of one big book Banker broke it down in 6 volumes of Krishna Coriolis, which I think was a good move), so I will review both the books together.

‘Dance of Govinda’ started from the point where ‘Slayer of Kamsa’ left (obviously), the ‘Slayer of Kamsa’ is born and smuggled out of Mathura by Vasudeva and Kamsa’s atrocities continues by killing thousands of infants and children to make sure that his Slayer does not grow up to face him one day.

The focal point of the book I felt was neither Kamsa nor Krishna but surprisingly a lesser known character to all of us ‘Jarasandha’, who is also Kamsa’s father-in-law. Now I am sure not much is said or known about this character in our puranas and other historical book, all I knew about Jarasandha earlier was in context with the Mahabharata.

The character of Jarasandha is so vividly and powerfully described by Banker that at times it dwarfs the character of Kamsa himself and begs the question that why then the God took the avatar to kill Kamsa and not Jarasandha (may be he did for both and may be that answer I will find in Banker’s MBA series).

Another character introduced in the book is of Putana, again less is known about this character too and Banker is so precise and so crisp in his description of characters. That is the hallmark of Banker, he describes each of the character so beautifully that makes the character come alive. I still remember the asura, demons description in Banker’s Ramayana series, how immaculately he described different species of asuras, cross-breed and what not. I hail him for that, no other Indian writer has ever reached so close to describing a character which actually makes you visualize the character itself.

The story goes on where Jarasandha and his aides give potions to Kamsa which makes him weak and he looses all his powers and then Kamsa realizes his folly and make amends, regains his powers by drinking poisoned milk of Putana and gets back to his mission of killing the Slayer, in which Putana helps him and reaches Vrajbhoomi to kill the Slayer but only to get herself killed in the end. Here the revelation of Krishna and Balarama being Vasudev’s son is being made to Yashoda and others and Akrur, Vasudeva’s aide meets leaders of Hastinapur to kick-start an uprising against Mathura and Kamsa.

The story grows upon you and there is hardly any difference I could make out with the first book.

The third book ‘Flute of Vrindavan’ is certainly more enjoyable (if not better) than the earlier two books as it tells the stories of little Krishna growing up and his mischief and pranks along with his elder brother Balarama that become legendary in the entire Gokul. The stories of he raiding dahi-handis, making a vanar sena as a friend, tugging the tales of cows, etc. are so beautifully written. Also as Krishna’s pranks continue he is also faced against different demons and asuras with whom he always comes out as winner.

Even after realizing that their son is  a God incarnate, Nanda and Yashoda’s worries about their son never comes to an end and they migrate to the forests of Vrindavan. On the other end Jarasandha tests the increasing capabilities of Kamsa by inviting him to fight in a sports event and after he is confident of him, he tells him the entire story of the Slayer and that how the things have unfolded till now. The book thus shows the hidden powers of the King of Magadha Jarasandha, who in addition of having physical powers also is a master of sorcery.

The book as I said earlier is quite enjoyable and I would rate it one star better than the first two volumes.

The one point where I sometimes get slightly frustrated by Banker’s writing (ironically I have stated it as his strong point too earlier) is unnecessary detailing of not-so-important character (now this is debatable I know) and continuing to do that chapters after chapters, volumes after volumes. For example, the ‘Hijra Army’ of Jarasandha which is described from the first book itself to be very strong and their features, their loyalty, their fighting tactics, etc. are again and again described in the next two books and by the time I came to the third volume I was way too frustrated and wanted to shout out loud that yes Mr. Banker I get it, that Hijra Fauj is very strong, very loyal etc., can we please move forward? This happens a few times in the books, where I felt that some level of detailing (for not so important characters) and some unnecessary events and emotions can be and should be avoided as it starts to make the main story bland.

But that’s just my 2 cents, being an avid Ashok Banker reader, I think I have that much right 🙂

The next 3 books of Krishna Coriolis Series are yet not out (I think) so will have to wait for that but would love to start reading books of a different genre after 3 of mythological genre.

And this review has gone too long and like Mr. Banker I should have thought of dividing it in two volumes instead 🙂

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