Even in 2017, a person suffering from a psychological illness continues to face stigma from the society. This holds true even in the most urban city like Mumbai. Author Susmita Bagchi’s Beneath A Rougher Sea is a fine encouragement in speaking out about mental issues. But instead of being preachy, it puts forth its point while telling a compelling story.
The novel revolves around an experienced psychiatrist, Aditya. He has been practicing out of Bangalore since years. He treats all types of mental disorders; from simple depression to something as complex as schizophrenia. His wife, Prachi is a general doctor working in a hospital. Something new happens in Aditya’s routine life when he bumps into his old friend, Prakash.
The two of them had met during their medical college days. After getting irritated by Prakash initially, Aditya became his best friend in no time. But later on, they went out of touch as both got busy with their respective lives. But the real twist comes in Aditya’s life when Deepa, his first love, resurfaces after 22 years.
As is evident from the above synopsis, Beneath A Rougher Sea has an interesting, dramatic storyline. But Bagchi has smartly weaved the issue of psychological illness into it. To provide awareness on mental disorders in such an emotional personal story is no easy task whatsoever.
But the biggest challenge was to present and explain the condition of individuals suffering from psychological disorders. And the author has succeeded here too. Thankfully, she has steered clear of making it sound technical. In other words, a layman or someone with no knowledge of the psychological world would find it easy to grasp.
The conversation between the psychiatrist and the patients was the means to it. The dialogue with every patient is interesting and insightful. And having witnessed the working of psychiatrists from close quarters, I can vouch that it is realistic too. The reality is seen in the numerous characters too. There is a good amount of relativity with them.
Moreover, the pace is crisp. The book is a fast read throughout. As far as the writing is concerned, it’s simple yet appealing. The author has maintained the balance between rich and easy language.
There are few issues that stop the book from being much more. There comes a period where the story doesn’t move much and a lot of footage is given to the discussion with patients. Tragedy with one of the characters should have at least been reduced. This is because the purpose of the character and its story was already achieved.
Overall: Beneath A Rougher Sea is an insightful and interesting novel. It carries out the much needed task of removing stigma from patients suffering from psychological problems.
Reviewed by: Keyur Seta
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing
Price: Rs 299
Cover: A sketch on blue perfectly depicting the storyline
By: Keyur Seta
Vidya’s final year in college was about to end. She was studying in Commerce in Symbiosis College in Pune for the last five years. Their tenure was supposed to end with the annual day function. Vidya was keenly looking forward to the day as she was supposed to enact a one-act play.
Her performance was met with a standing ovation. The play slammed the practice of forceful marriage of girls and that to at a tender age of early 20s. The subject and Vidya’s passion towards it deeply struck a chord with the audience. Not many from the audience knew that even in her personal life, she is like a silent rebel.
The act made Vidya’s final moments in college deeply memorable, along with loads of bagful of memories from five years. As she was on her way to her home in Mumbai, she had mixed feelings. While she was sad to see her college life ending, there was a sense of joy to reunite with her family – mother, father, elder brother and sister-in-law. While alighting from the train, she had a wide smile reading a text on her mobile phone.
It was joy indeed for her to be back home. She spent the first few days relaxing. There was a sense of contentment she experienced in Aamchi Mumbai, despite the late September heat and all other issues the city suffered from. After she realized she had enough of those restful days, she decided to hunt for a job.
Vidya’s father, Ramanlal, entered her room while she was busy doing something on her laptop. A single peep on her screen made him realize that she was surfing a job site. He gently sat down in front of her with a smile. Vidya adjusted herself as she became conscious of his presence. She had no idea that his father’s casual visit to her room will change her life forever.
Ramanlal calmly told her that there is no point in searching for a job. Vidya, obviously, was surprised. He elaborated himself saying that her marriage is fixed. Vidya got the shock of her life. As she showed signs of contempt, Ramamlal raised his voice and said that this is their family tradition; a girl is married off when she reaches her early 20s.
Ramamlal further said that the guy is from a good family and the son of their family friend. More importantly, he is from the same community, caste and sub-caste. And being a father, he cared for their status in their biraadri or samaaj. A teary-eyed Vidya explained that she plans to do MBA right now. Marriage can happen later.
But Ramanlal pointed out that girls from their community aren’t allowed to work. She will have to be a wife and her only concern should be to look after her husband. Despite being shocked, she tried protesting saying that she doesn’t even know the guy. But his father cut her short stating that the guy is from a rich family and runs a profitable business. What else does a girl need?
Ramamlal left the room in a hush and ordered his wife, who was witnessing the scene near the door, to make sure she gets ready for marriage. With tears flowing down her cheeks, she asked her mother why did they send her to college then. Her mother said without emotion, “A well-educated girl gets a good husband.” Vidya further asked frustratingly, “But what about my dreams?” Her mother replied coldly, “Your only dream should be to be a good wife and mother.”
Vidya was hell shocked! She just couldn’t believe what happened to her. In the days to come, her parents’ behavior changed towards her drastically. Vidya was numb. She couldn’t believe these are her own parents. She felt as if someone else is impersonating them. She came to know from her cousin that the same thing happened with her. She too experienced the same change in her parents’ behavior when she had refused marrying so early.
This made Vidya recall the disturbing conversation between her parents and brother when he refused to marry so early. Being just 16 during that time, she hadn’t thought much about that incident up till now.
Vidya was insulted by her parents and relatives even if she slightly protested against the marriage. She was trapped. There was just no way out. Finally, she had to give in. Yes, she extinguished all her dreams for, what her parents described as, a heavenly bond.
The engagement was fixed on the day after Dusshera. It was one day away. Vidya was sitting by her window overlooking the rapidly developing area of Kandivali east. Her phone beeped. Instantly she replied to the message with, “Yes, all set.”
The day arrived. On one hand, all the preparations were made for the engagement. At the same time, the city was gearing up to celebrate Dusshera. Various Ram Leela pandals were all set to ignite effigies of Ranava. The act symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
It was just an hour to go for her engagement. Vidya was seated comfortably by the window. She recalled the time when she read Vicky’s text while getting down to Mumbai from Pune. The message said that his parents had agreed for their marriage. She was then reminded of the traumatic times that followed. Her flashback ended when she had replied to his text with, “Yes, all set.”
Vidya took her eyes off from the window, turned towards her right and smiled. Vicky smiled back and they held each other’s hands warmly. Soon, the flight attended instructed the passengers to fasten their seat belts.
As the plane took off, Vidya’s eyes fell on the effigy of Ravana that was being burnt much below her. She had witnessed this sight numerous times before. But it was only during that moment that she truly understood the meaning of the phrase 'victory of good over evil.'
By: Keyur Seta
The early sunrise succeeded in making its way in an otherwise cloudy month of August. The day marked the arrival of India’s 69th Independence Day. It seemed that the energetic group of people at Shiv Shakti Society in Mumbai’s Shivaji Park area was just waiting for the first rays to commence preparations for the Independence Day celebrations.
The group consisted people from all age groups and both genders. The only common factor that united them was their traditional attire neatly worn.
The folded national flag was slowly getting tied on the pole amid the playing of patriotic songs like ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti,’ ‘Jai Janani Jai Bharat Ma,’ ‘Mera Rang De Basanti Chola,’ ‘Aye Watan Aye Watan,’ etc.
A figure emerged from the building oblivious to the events around him. He was in his early 20s wearing three-fourths and a T-shirt. This, along with long hair and unshaven face easily made him the odd man out. He looked disinterested in the proceedings around him as he listened to ‘Kala Chashma’ in his earphones. This didn’t go down well with the crowd present, which gave him a look of contempt. Some were also offended by the absence of tricolor on his T-shirt.
An uncle in his 50s emerged in front of him greeting him through a hand gesture. The boy removed his earphones and smiled. The man said, “Come, join us for the Independence Day celebrations. Almost everyone from the society is here.” The youngster simply said, “Sorry, but I need to go somewhere.”
A middle-aged woman added, “Come on beta, it’s our country’s independence day!” The boy, now uncomfortable, replied, “I know aunty. But I have some other plans.” A couple of people also tried convincing him but in vain. Finally, he walked away out of the compound plugging his earphones.
This enraged most of the people in the group as they started criticizing him among themselves. “Well, these are today’s youngsters. What else do you expect?” “No respect for the country.” “He must have gone to meet his girlfriend.” “Did you see how he was dressed?”
The uncle, who had stopped him, added thunderously, “Such people are anti-nationals!” Everyone present agreed with him wholeheartedly.
The atmosphere cooled down in few minutes and they got ready for flag hoisting. Everyone present passionately sung India’s national anthem after the eldest member of the society unfurled the flag. Chants of ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ followed. They chit-chatted for some time after wishing ‘Happy Independence Day’ to each other.
Some 30 kilometers away at an orphanage in Andheri, a group of kids were eagerly awaiting Krishna bhaiya and his friends. They visited every August 15 and January 26 to serve them delicious meals and donate some amount to the trustees of the orphanage. The kids didn’t need to wait long as they could see Krishna, along with few others, crossing the road outside their gate. He was still listening to ‘Kala Chashma.’
Back at Shiv Shakti Society, the group of patriots retired to their respective flats after the function. They spent the rest of the day doing activities like watching TV, surfing the net, going for shopping, watching movies, eating at a nearby restaurants, meeting friends over drinks, etc.
Just before midnight, Krishna, the odd man from the society, smiled as he thought about the events of the day. As he closed his eyes satisfactorily, he remembered the words of his late father, “Never announce or publicize charity. If you do, it no longer remains charity.”
Do not stand on a high pedestal and take five cents in your hand and say, “Here, my poor man”; but be grateful that the poor man is there, so that by making a gift to him you are able to help yourself. It is not the receiver that is blessed, but it is the giver. Be thankful that you are allowed to exercise your power of benevolence and mercy in the world, and thus become pure and perfect.
- Swami Vivekananda
By: Keyur Seta
Kuchh log kehte hain main kahin kho gayi hoon.
Kuchh ke anusaar meri kabki MAUT ho chuki hai.
Koi kehta hai main humesha se kewal ek BHRAM se zyada aur kuchh nahin rahi hoon.
Jabki sach yeh hai ki mera ASTITVA tha, hai aur rahega.
Kabhi main BOODHE vyakti ko sadak paar karvati hoon.
Kabhi kisi madhyam vargiya insaan ko DAAN dene ke liye prerna deti hoon.
Kabhi kisi ko durghatna mein ghayal hue ANJAAN aadmi ko aspataal pohochane ke liye tatpar karti hoon.
Agar NAKARATMAKTA ka chashma utaar kar dekho toh main har jagah maujood hoon.
Kal subah ugne wala SOORAJ bhi is baat ki gawahi dega ki...
...main ZINDA hoon.
By: Keyur Seta
“This is utterly shameful,” said Ashok with a disgusted look on his face. The 55-year-old bank employee was sitting with his gang of like-minded friends at their usual hangout place at Shivaji Park. Located in the Dadar locality of Mumbai, the place is thronged by people of all ages.
While teenagers and the ones in the 20s are either seen playing some sport or jogging, the elderly ones like Ashok and company usually, after a leisurely walk, gather around at their habitual spot to discuss and debate on various topics, mostly cricket or politics.
Today was the turn of politics. The reason for Ashok’s anger was a statement by an MLA from the opposition party in Uttar Pradesh. The state elections were due and the wily politician smartly played the caste card to woo voters belonging to his ‘caste’. Even in 2015, vote bank politics, especially with regards to religion and caste, was still prevalent in India.
“There are already various forces that are dividing the country on the basis of religion,” continued Ashok, “If this wasn’t enough, morons like him are stooping even lower by using something as shameful as casteism, even in 2015. How further backwards are we going? Only God knows when our late freedom fighters’ dream of a united India would come true.”
Normally, the gang would debate and, at times, argue like panelists on a news debate show. Over the last few years, people, who generally hated politics, have strong political opinions, so much so that any disagreement makes them aggressive. But as far as Ashok and gang are concerned, their debates or arguments always automatically ended with the rise of darkness as all disperse to their respective homes.
But today, that was not the case. The statement by the MLA found no takers. Agreeing with him would mean defending the indefensible. So, this time, each went to his respective home in a calm state. But Ashok was not only calm but also excited for what he had planned before dinner.
Swati, his 25-year-old daughter, was of marriageable age, he thought. Like every parent, he wanted her to have a life-partner, who would shower her with happiness and care. Ashok’s excitement knew no bounds as he braced himself to prepare a matrimonial advertisement for her. It took him 40 years back in time. The feeling was similar when he was filling his college admission form after passing 10th standard.
Despite the digital age, people from Ashok’s generation still couldn’t do without the morning newspaper. Daily he used to eagerly wait for the newspaper guy. But today, the excitement was uncontrollable. Unlike other days, Ashok didn’t even glance at the important front page news. He quickly turned to the matrimonial page. He couldn’t stop smiling as his eyes fell on Swati’s matrimonial ad that appeared…
… under the section of their ‘caste’.
By: Keyur Seta
Veteran actor Anupam Kher was booed quite a few times yesterday from a large crowd during a debate at Tata Literature Live festival. The topic of the debate was – Freedom of Expression is under imminent threat.
Sudheendra Kulkarni and Shobha De were for the motion while Anupam Kher and BJP’s Nalin Kohli were against. Kulkarni and De put forth their points related to recent incidents and statements by politicians. Kulkarni specially stressed on the statement against the protesting authors by Arun Jaitley. “If the government thinks this is a manufactured protest, they are mistaken.”
Kulkarni also condemned the act of Shiv Sena members who had inked his face for launching a book by Pakistani author Kasuri. He also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of making sure the atmosphere of intolerance is nullified.
“The PM and his colleagues should ask themselves why the President of India Pranab Mukherjee had to appeal for peace and remind India of its 5000 year old history of tolerance?”
Kulkarni was most vocal against the fringe elements demanding a Hindu Rashtra. “The idea of Hindu Rashtra violates the idea of secularism, which is against the Constitution of India. India never was and will never be a Hindu Rashtra.”
Kohli gave a clichéd government whataboutery response by citing incidents of the past. But his response was quite peaceful. But the arguments put forth by Anupam Kher draw huge outrage from the audience. He was booed regularly and rightly so.
Here is the gist of Kher’s arguments:-
- Firstly, he said he wasn’t told the debate would be in English and he is weak in it. Everybody knows such literature festivals are always in English. Plus, we have seen him debate in English on news channels regularly.
- He started going off track right away by personally attacking De for editing a gossip magazine decades ago and mentioning who slept with whom.
- Then went on to call her pseudo-intellectual, just like those Bhakts.
- He expressed his disappointment towards Kulkarni for agreeing to launch a book of a Pakistani by citing how our neighboring country has been executing terrorist attacks here. Once again, completely off topic. Somebody should remind Kher that he acted in Veer-Zaara where he preached harmony between both nations.
- He said, “People returning the awards have an agenda. They can’t handle a chaiwala becoming a PM.”
- Here comes the KILLER. Towards the end when he realized most people from the audience are against his views, he accused organizer Anil Dharker, a respected figure, of having a PAID AUDIENCE!!!
What else do you expect other than boos? Never expected this great artist to debate or argue like those Twitter trolls.
Other highlights of the debate:-
- Reacting on the point raised by Kher and Kohli as to why people didn’t protest against the atrocities in the past, an elderly person from the audience said, “You mean to say, just because we were quite earlier, we should continue to remain quite? How long shall we remain silent?”
- Kiron Kher, BJP member and wife of Anupam Kher, took the mic to defend her husband. However, her arrogant ways also garnered boos from the audience.
- Before the debate, most people from the audience voted for the motion. After the end, close to 90% took that stand.
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Publishers: Westland Ltd.
Genre: Theological Thriller
Original Price: Rs. 295 (Reduced rates on Flipkart & Amazon.)
Rating: * * * ½
Review By: Keyur Seta
Even before the halfway stage in The Rozabal Line, you realize that Ashwin Sanghi’s knowledge about various religions, conspiracy theories related to some religions and other global issues is simply outstanding. This coupled with his amazing writing and storytelling skills make The Rozabal Line a roller-coaster theological saga, despite some glaring issues.
The story takes place across continents and time zones. In 2006, Father Vincent Sinclair, an American Priest, starts seeing weird visions after a tragic incident. His aunt Martha helps him decode them through her knowledge of Indian spiritualism and mysticism. Swakilki, a young and beautiful Japanese woman, has been serially killing people across the world. She is following the orders of Alberto Cardinal Valerio, head of Crux Decussata Permuta in Vatican City.
The Lashkar-e-Talatashar, an arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, has vowed to create havoc in the world. Ghalib, their leader, and his 12 subordinates have planned something dangerously sinister in the year 2012. Their fate has striking resemblance with Jesus Christ and his 12 Apostles. How these unrelated characters cross paths forms the rest of the story. The book also explores the theory of Jesus’ connection with India.
Like all good thrillers, The Rozabal Line keeps you hooked from the very first page. As the story moves back and forth, from the period of B.C to 2012, it not only increases your excitement but it also gets you in awe of Sanghi’s vision, imagination and knowledge. To narrate your tale in 100 different time zones and various places is a mammoth task for anyone. Plus, Sanghi’s smart mixture of rich and simple language adds to the goodness.
Reincarnation is a major ingredient in the story. But it should be noted how the author has presented that aspect in a practical and mature manner. In fact, after going through the reincarnation process mentioned here, you might laugh at how Bollywood has presented this subject.
But The Rozabal Line is far from being truly superlative. Although the climax provides a spiritually enlightening feeling, you realize that various subplots, characters and incidents were unnecessary. Even the basic aim of the tale appears unclear. There is an overdose of information, which is confusing and difficult to keep track, especially since the focus keeps moving through these many time zones. It makes us feel as if the author wanted to flaunt his terrific knowledge.
Having said this, there are enough reasons to grab The Rozabal Line if you are a lover of thriller novels.
Author: Pratik Shah
Additional Feature: Prologue of the author’s next book titled ‘Unravelling’
Rating: * * * *
Review By: Keyur Seta
The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.
After going through the title, cover image and synopsis, debutant author Pratik Shah’s Operation Jai Mata Di appears like a typical hostage saga with the only difference being the number of hostages. But thankfully, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The book in totality is a motivating and inspiring political drama providing vision and hope amidst complete apathy by the political class.
The story is set in today’s era at Vaishno Devi. Thousands of devotionally and emotionally charged pilgrims are slowly trekking their way to the Bhavan of their beloved Goddess. But just some distance before their destination, 10,000 pilgrims are kidnapped by armed men in a daring midnight operation.
The Government of India and the entire nation is shaken by the audacity of the hostage-takers. The Prime Minister is under serious pressure not only from the opposition but also the citizens to act quickly to save the pilgrims. Worse, the PM has to deal with a selfish and opportunistic Defense Minister. Will the hostages be saved?
The USP of Operation Jai Mata Di is its main plot, which takes you by surprise and has the potential to appeal to every concerned citizen of India. The consequences of the kidnapping and the final culmination can be best described as emotionally overwhelming and inspiring. The only issue with the plot is some errors and the over-ambitious motto at times.
But mostly, Shah has succeeded in handling a sensitive issue with maturity, especially the working style and psyche of politicians and the government. His proper knowledge of the political process is also visible. The motivating dialogues also help the cause.
Coming to the writing, the language is rich but at the same time simple and understandable for all. However, some important sentences should have been less simplistic. The pace is fast and gripping but the build-up before the kidnapping gets tedious after a point of time. But the real problem area is the missing of comma and other punctuations throughout the book. The editor should have taken care of these basic issues.
Overall: Operation Jai Mata Di is for thriller lovers and also those who are fed up of the almost irreparable corrupt system. It will be hugely surprising if the book isn’t made into a movie.
Photographer & Author: Ashok Mahindra
Presented By: Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and Oxford Publishers
Rating: * * * *
Review By: Keyur Seta
The main aim of Wildlife Photographers is to make the reader experience a wild safari inside a jungle while sitting miles away. Their task is difficult than video shooters due to the reliance only on still pictures. Ashok Mahindra’s e-book ‘Capturing Wildlife Moments In India’ achieves this aim hands down. This is not the only achievement of the book though.
‘Capturing Wildlife Moments In India’ is a collection of wildlife images, which includes animals, birds, reptiles and also nature, clicked by Mahindra over a period of time at different national parks of India.
The book is a treat not only for wildlife lovers but also for city dwellers trapped in concrete jungles. The well-shot and well thought pictures transport you to the raw interiors of forests. But, as mentioned by Mahindra, wildlife is not only about wild animals. Therefore, he has also given importance to other aspects of jungles. Other impressive feature is the trivia about some species and the back story behind the capturing of a number of pictures.
- Images of the Royal Bengal Tiger
- Asiatic Elephants spraying mud over their bodies to combat heat.
- Sal Trees at Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh.
- A spider trying hard to trap a butterfly
- A crocodile, deer and a bird appearing together.
- The picturesque Jogi Mahal below Ranthambhore Fort, Rajasthan.
- A mother elephant trying to convince her kid to get inside a lake.
- A Spotted Deer ready for mating.
But apart from presenting wildlife pictures, the deeper intent here is to encourage sustainability of wildlife habitats that are diminishing rapidly. It is like a wakeup call to the people of today’s times. The photographer-cum-author has also provided a list of solutions for the same.
Coming to the minor negative points, the written matter on some occasions needs to be short since it is a pictorial book. This becomes more problematic due to the very small font as one is required to zoom in and out regularly.
Overall: ‘Capturing Wildlife Moments In India’ is a pleasurable jungle safari.
More pictures from the book:-
(Click to enlarge)
Author: Shubha Vilas
Rating: * * * *
Review By: Keyur Seta
Shattered Dreams is the second book in the six part series Ramayana: The Game Of Life by author Shubha Vilas. The first book, Rise Of The Sun Prince, succeeded in narrating the early childhood of Lord Rama in an enchanting manner (read its review HERE). The author has continued the good work in the second book. This time, Vilas has also overcome the challenge of presenting sad and serious turn of events with so much optimism and pleasantness.
The story commences when Rama is 25 years old. He is married to Sita while Laxmana is married to Urmila. Ayodhya is going through its happiest period until King Dasharata, Rama’s father, starts seeing disturbing dreams. Worried and anxious, Dasharata hurriedly organizes Rama’s coronation as the new king of Ayodhya.
However, Dasharata’s dream is shattered after Rama, Sita and Laxmana are forced to go into exile due to the trick played by the evil Kaikeyi, who dreams of seeing his son Bharata on the throne of Ayodhya. Will Dasharata be able to bear separation from his beloved Rama? Will Bharata accept the throne presented to him through treachery?
Rama’s exile is looked upon as a sad incident and rightly so. But the author has presented the episode and its consequences in a positive and hopeful light. Of course, the reader does feel sad by the turn of events but Vilas’ idea of looking at the positives even in a super tragic situation moves your heart.
The character traits and wisdom of Rama, Sita and Laxmana largely help in this. But in the end, you are most awestruck by the wisdom and humility of Bharata. Normally, Ramayana is more about the greatness of the divine couple and their servant. But after reading Shattered Dreams, the youth, its target audience, will consider Bharata equally great. His love, respect and devotion for Rama will overwhelm you long after finishing the book.
Talking about the language, Vilas has continued from where he left in the first book. It is a smart example of rich language that resorts to utter simplicity. This ensures that the book will be an easy read for English literature lovers as well as for those not much into English reading. Except for few dragged portions before the exile, the pace is fast throughout. The gripping drama peppered on every situation makes sure you are always glued.
Now, some minor issues. Going by the story and events focused, the book shouldn’t have been 387 pages long. The theory that a woman should worship her husband and should always be dependent on him shouldn’t have been glorified. The series is written for today’s youth, so such regressive, patriarchal ideas should at least have been limited. The words of wisdom at the end of the page are inspiring and enlightening. However, on few occasions, that portion is too long.
Overall: Shattered Dreams is a must read for mythological lovers, especially if you have read the first book in the series. It provokes anticipation for the remaining parts.
Publishers: Jaico Books
Price: Rs 350 (available at discount on Flipkart)