Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The other side of the story.

As a child, Dusshera was special. Not just for the fun and food that accompanied it, but also for the “Raavana Dahan” or the burning of the effigy of the demon king Raavana at the Gandhi Maidan on Vijayadashami day. While we watched in awe, someone dressed as Lord Rama would shoot an arrow at the larger than life, ten headed effigy of the cacodemon, stuffed with crackers, and it would splutter his ten heads, setting him on fire. I remember cheering and clapping with the crowd, feeling what everyone felt- no matter how evil someone is, goodness will ultimately prevail and engulf it in the flames of righteousness.

I am no stranger to the Ramayana, I have read and re-read dozens of different versions of the epic. The approach to the narration might be different, but all of them propound the same theme - Raavana was evil, he deserved to die.

I grew up thinking that the world hates Raavana. 

But it is now that I know I wasn't entirely right. Because not all do.

There are versions quite contrary to what we have been reading all along! And here, Raavana is definitely not the evil one!

Noted 17th century French writer and noble, Francois de La Rochefoucauld, says it best,

                           “There are heroes in evil as well as villains in good”.

We can’t really define the world in black and white, can we? There’s so much hiding amongst the grays! Perhaps, that is the thought behind the many temples dedicated to Raavana. While the whole world (or rather, most of it!) hates the demon king, there is a perceptible population in the country that worships him!

Was Raavana a Gond king?
A few hours from the place where I have spent my childhood watching Raavana being consigned to flames every year, is a tiny village called Gond. Its tribal population venerates the demon king and ascribes godly status to him. While the rest of the country revels in the celebration of Dusshera, the Gonds celebrate the ‘Raavan Mahotsav’. They call themselves descendants of Raavana–the ‘Raavanvanshis’ and have their own version of the story of Ramayana which is nowhere near to the story we have heard so far! To them, Raavana was a Gond king and Lanka does not refer to Srilanka but to a ‘hilly place’ in their local dialect, Gondi. He was apparently slain by Aryan invaders.

They say Raavana was born here!
The Bisrakh village in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh is believed to be the birth place of Raavana. A 5.5 feet idol of the demon stands alongside a 42 feet Shivalinga. 

They claim Raavana is their son-in-law!
There are many such temples all over the country. Ravangram in Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha district has a temple dedicated to Raavana. Constructed somewhere between the 9th and 14th century, the temple has a 10 feet reclining idol of Raavana, which has been worshipped as a symbol of prosperity for over 600 years now. The demon king is regarded as the son-in-law of the village as his wife Mandodari is said to belong to this village.

And here’s where the wedding supposedly took place.
Speaking of Mandodari, there is also a village called Mandor named after her near Jodhpur, in Rajasthan, the place where she is supposed to have wed Raavana. The people of this village also worship Raavana and observe his death anniversary on Vijaydashami day, offering “pinddaan” or obeisance to the departed soul.

Here, he is regarded as a learned man.
Vijayadashami is also the day when some people in Kanpur, worship Raavana at his ‘Dashanana Raavana’ temple that opens only once a year. These people believe Raavana to be a highly learned individual who had immense knowledge of the scriptures, especially of the SamaVeda and was a great exponent of music. 

Similar sentiments echo at the Kakinada Raavana temple in Andhra Pradesh and Koteshwar Temple in Gujarat.

Are we prepared to see the other side of the story?
This Dusshera, when I look back on those times, and remember the symbolic slaying of Raavana year after year, it makes me wonder if he was indeed so evil and if he deserves to be punished thus! Especially, when there are alternative versions of the story to look into. Especially, when I look at the savagery happening in the world around me.

The brave and learned Raavana, was among Lord Shiva’s greatest devotees. On a particular day when the combined grey matter of all his heads were in resting stage, he unceremoniously kidnapped a married woman and whisked her off to his exotic land.

He regretted his decision pretty soon. For he paid for it with all his heads rolled off his proud and arrogant neck.

What a dreadful thing to do! With just one act of immorality, he drew a cloak over all the goodness that he could have stood for.

He sure did have a glad eye for Lord Rama’s wife, but no one disputes the fact that he never misbehaved with Devi Sita, neither did he force her to marry him. He waited. Waited for her to consent. It irked him that she never did consent, and he probably knew that she never would, but that didn’t turn him into a monster.

Most men these days wouldn’t have half the patience, quarter humility and one-tenth the respect for women! Where’s the respect for women these days, anyway?

The once mighty Raavana is paying for it every year since. Thousands of years later, people still find it entertaining to see his head blasted off with crackers…amidst festivities and distribution of sweets.

In the very same place as the festivities, thousands of women are being whisked off unceremoniously every day. Putting even the mighty Raavava to shame! Unabashedly displaying ten times the barbarianism, with a single head over their shoulders than Raavana managed with his ten heads together! But the modern Raavana walks tall with his proud and arrogant head still intact on his head, the wails of the outraged women notwithstanding. 

No. I don’t intend to glorify Raavana.

I just wish we could punish the Raavanas of the modern times - the “rakshasas”who are ten times guiltier, ten times more demonic, and ten times more fiendish than the original was.  If Raavana deserves to be burned every year, so do they, who defile and degrade women every day, everywhere. Don’t you think so?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Book Review: This Love that feels Right! by Ravinder Singh

The Plot:
Finding love has never been easy. Especially if you have been brought up in a conservative family and your mind has been conditioned to think in a certain conservative way. But sometimes you do find love in the most unlikely of places even if you haven’t been looking for it. But what if it seems wrong but feels right? That’s what the story is all about.

The story:
The book explores the journey of Naina Singhania, a girl from a well to do family married to an ambitious businessman Sid, who has no time for her. She joins a gym to get in shape for her anniversary and ends up making two very close friends – a TV journalist Manvika and her personal trainer Aarav. Love blossoms between Aarav and Naina but both know that their relationship has no future. What happens when a neglected wife finds love outside her marriage? Will Aarav fall in love with some's else's wife? Does Naina have the courage to find her voice amidst an orthodox family who does not expect women to give voice to their feelings? Do Aarav and Naina find the courage to admit their love to each other or does their love perish? What is Manvika’s role in the story? Saying too much will reveal the plot, so all I’d say is it is nothing like you imagine it to be! It is not a regular story with a regular ending, and will have you hooked till the very end.

What I liked:
The story has several plusses. The narration is a delight to read; especially the roller coaster of emotions that Naina goes through is very well described. There is this ‘moment’ that Naina and Aarav have in the BMI room; the narrative is sweetly sensuous and beautiful. The narration is so vivid that you can actually imagine the bead of sweat trickle and drop into Naina’s navel!
Then there’s this conversation that keeps happening between Naina and Manvika; Manvika’s views may come across as too progressive to some and they may completely disagree with her while others might find it resonating with their beliefs. But irrespective of whether you agree with her or disagree, it might still force you to spare some thought to her words. As for me, call me old school, but I might not necessarily agree with Manvika.
There aren’t too many characters, which is again a huge plus; you don’t have to keep remembering who is who! The existing characters have a well-defined personality and that is significant. Their roles are pretty prominent and exciting.     

What I would have liked:
There are no visible faults in the storyline, except the fact that Naina and Aarav have a pretty tight leash on their emotions for each other for most part of the story. I wonder if it is really possible. It is like holding this cup of your favourite ice cream in your hand and not eating it because, well, you think the ice cream doesn’t want to be eaten. On second thoughts, maybe there are people who do have the will power to exhibit such restraint!  But I would have liked a few more ‘moments’ like the one in the BMI room. 

Final words:
The story is a first person narrative, but what’s interesting is that a male writer has effortless penned the story in the voice of the female protagonist. The emotions flow so beautifully in the story that at no point does it cross one’s mind that the writer is not female. So kudos to Ravinder for that!  The story is not really new but the handling of the story definitely is. I loved reading the book. It brought me some tears, some smiles and some gush-worthy moments. This is a fun read, go for it if you are a diehard romantic. This book definitely feels right!

The Blurb:
Life would have been easier had it been possible for us to plan falling in love; more importantly, avoid falling in love . . .
‘Love is not for you,’ she told herself. Inside—just like any girl—she desired to be loved. She had accepted her life the way it was, till one day love showed up unannounced, uninvited! That's the thing with love. It doesn't take permission. It's in its very nature to gatecrash into our lives. Standing face-to-face with love, she finds herself asking, ‘Is this love right?’ The answer is not simple. It never was . . .
This intense love story will shake every belief you've ever had about love.

Title: This love that feels right!
Author: Ravinder Singh
No of pages: 230
Genre: Romance

Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Review : The Smitten Husband

Looks like we have our very own Mills and Boons series now! The queen of contemporary romance, Sundari Venkatraman, is back with yet another romantic novel – The Smitten Husband. The good news for lovers of romantic novels is that this novella is the first in a five book series called ‘Marriages Made in India’. Marriages in India are anything but ordinary and the series holds a lot of promise. I can’t wait to read all the books in this series!

The Smitten Husband is the story of love blossoming between a couple tied together in an arranged marriage. The protagonist and the smitten husband is Ram, the eldest son of the Maheshwari family, who falls in love with the feisty Sapna at first sight. It is an arranged match brought together by the two families and while Ram has no qualms about the marriage and is more than happy to wed Sapna, she fails to see her prince charming in Ram.  She puts forth a condition to stay in the marriage. What is that condition? Does Ram accept it? And does he manage to win over Sapna? Does she finally accept him as a part of her life? To know, you will have to grab your copy of the Smitten Husband and find out how the drama unfolds.

Sundari’s previous novel, The Runaway Bridegroom, features the love story of Ram’s sister Chanda. With this story, Sundari brings forth yet another shade of love. The Smitten Husband is a delightfully breezy read. That the story is set in an Indian background, makes the rituals and customs associated with arranged marriages relatable and fun to read. It is commendable how Sundari’s female characters are always so strong and independent. Take Sapna for instance, though financially poor, she is still an independent girl with a mind of her own. She is a no-nonsense girl who will not compromise with her ideals. Another feature of Sundari’s novels are male characters like Ram, who are sensitive, caring and loving and make you wish that all men were like him. You almost always end up falling in love with the hero!

While the story unfolds at a steady and smooth pace, my only grouse was that the novella got over too soon. I wished it had gone on a little longer. That, and the fact that the story was a little straightforward. Perhaps a little twist in the plot like we got to read in An autograph for Anjali or some terse moments like we read in The Madras Affair, would have been welcome.

 But having said that, The Smitten Husband, is quite a delightful read. If you are a fan of romantic novels, and the Mills and Boons kind of romances make you go all mushy and weak in the knees, do grab this one! 


Ram Maheshwari is a successful jewelry designer who has a huge showroom on MI Road, Jaipur. He’s tall, dark, handsome and a billionaire to boot. He’s twenty-nine and falls in with his parents’ wishes when they try to arrange his marriage.

The lovely, stormy-eyed Sapna Purohit is from Pushkar. She’s managed to finish school and makes a living by doing mehendi designs during weddings. She’s always dreamt of a Prince on a white horse, sweeping her off her feet.

One look into Sapna’s grey eyes and Ram is lost. Only, Sapna’s unable to see her Prince in Ram. Being from a poor family, she has no choice but to go along with the tide when the Maheshwaris offer to bear all expenses of the wedding. 

Does that mean that the feisty Sapna is all set to accept Ram as her husband? She puts forth a condition, after the wedding. Will The Smitten Husband agree to it?

Title : The Smitten Husband
Author : Sundari Venkatraman
Number of pages : 104

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Book Review: The Guest by Mitali Meelan

The Blurb:
Eighteen-year-old Neha Ranade is perfectly content with her life—a singer boyfriend, a group of loyal friends and with the college annual festival around the corner, her days are full and exciting. But when her father’s Canadian colleague arrives home, Neha’s grand plans are uprooted. What could be the intentions of this curious guest’s sudden visit—for better or for worse?
My review:
What breezy read this one was! I finished the book in one go. The story moved at such a fast pace that I just couldn't put it down! The language is fluid and impeccable, and the story flows smoothly. The emotions of the protagonists especially that of the central character Neha, are so beautifully depicted, that the reader can feel her anguish, dilemma, and fears. 
I usually prefer a second person narrative, but reading the story as a first-person account was also surprisingly delightful. What I also found adorable is that there is no attempt to glorify the main character or project her as a 'holier-than-thou' kind of person. She is a hero in her own might, despite the flaws in her character. She could be anyone of us...us, with all those little imperfections that make us human - the way we are quick to judge, quick to own and disown people, act a little selfishly at times, and yet manage to hold unadulterated love for the people who matter to us the most. 
If the debut novel is so wonderful, I can't wait to read more from Mitali! 
No of Pages: 237
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
ISBN: 9788192982229
My rating : 4/5

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Little Princess is 5 today!

For once, I remembered The Little Princess' birthday!

I have forgotten almost all milestones of TLP that could have caused me to add and deduct a few more pounds, the former to my waist and the latter from my purse. Blame it on my ant-like memory, but unless someone points it out, I am wont to forget milestones and to celebrate! Not this time, though!

The Little Princess is all of five today, and what a long way we've come together! She took in my ramblings and stories with equal ease. She brought me friends, who read what I wrote, praised and critiqued, but most importantly held me when I faltered. For all this and more, I remain eternally thankful - you know who you all are!

These 5 years have taught me a lot. It taught me the importance of good content, it made me realise the strength of effective networking, and most of all, it helped me realise that my greatest joy is in writing. TLP happened without a thought, I had not paid much attention to the naming of this blog, nor to the content that I'd be featuring here. As a result, I have been rambling about everything I can think of here - dabbling in poetry and fiction with as much flourish as in parenting and relationship topics. But I guess, most of have been in the exact same spot and we need a nudge in the right direction to help us know where we should be heading.

An inspiring post from a fellow blogger, Sid, made me question if TLP is a brand yet, and also made me realise that I do not have a niche. I had to push myself to introspect, but the Eureka moment occurred when a friend happened to accidentally reveal to me what it was!

Armed with a new thought, I wondered how I could revamp TLP without taking away the essence of the blog. Over the years TLP had developed a character of her own and I was not sure I wanted to tear down everything to start from scratch and develop this into a niche blog. So TLP stays till she wants to! So I went on to the next best thing...

On her birthday, TLP announces the birth of her little sister, "Ground Coffee Bean". The 'About' page tells you the idea behind Ground Coffee Bean.

Do hop over and say hello to TLP's little sister! She needs all your love!  Let me know what you think.

P.S. I'm experimenting with WordPress for the first time, and hence I'm still trying to get used to it. The site is still in its infancy. Blogger definitely seems like a more user-friendly interface.
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