33

Parliamental – Book Review

Book: Parliamental

Author: Meghnad S.

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

Publisher: HarperCollins India (2nd July 2019)

Price: 299 INR

Pages: 220 (Paperback)

ISBN-10: 935357059X

ISBN-13: 978-9353570590

Language: English

Genre: Political Satire

My rating: 4/5

 

At 11 am every day, during a parliament session, we witness the proceedings of both the houses through their respective channels. A speaker or chairman heads the overall functioning and MPs from both the sides, in power and opposition, go at each other. For the majority of sessions, you will observe uproar or that the house is adjourned, while on some occasion regular business does take place. In all the confusing chaos that unravels the onlooker feels that given a chance they will simply behead each other.

Well a lot goes on behind the scenes too – while a bill is being introduced, while sharing meals in the canteen, while the members interact with each other outside the parliament, etc. ‘Parliamental’ by Meghnad S. is a political satire, which tries to showcase what goes behind walls and in those power galleries.

I keenly follow politics and have opinions about them; sometimes they take the form of words and end up as tweets or on my blog or like most of the times they simply remain between my ears that gets replaced by a new topic almost every morning. I would like to express my gratitude towards Blogchatter’s Book Review Program for considering me this book review, which gave me an option to explore and review a favorite genre like humor and satire.

About the Author

Meghnad is a columnist, public policy professional and podcaster. He has his own show, Consti-tution, on the Newslaundry and is an influencer on Twitter with the handle @memeghnad. He also travels all over the country to conduct civics classes under the banner Democracy IRL. His articles have appeared and gone viral on BuzzFeed and other content websites.

My Review

The cover of the book is ‘cartoonish-ly’ done and you might recognize some of the faces from a current lot of politicians. ‘Parliamental’ is a great title for the book as it is in complete sync with what goes on in the parliament as well as the satirical tone. The back cover contains the blurb along with a unique thing – some one-line reviews; they are from the characters of the book, for better understanding you will have to grab a copy.

The story mainly revolves around two characters – Raghav Marathe, a young policy analyst bustling with restless energy to bring about a change in the system and Prabhu Srikar, a first time MP whose analyst Raghav is. The story throws up some important supporting characters too – Nikita, a journalist, Helen, a YouTuber, Dushyant, a lawyer, etc.

The story begins with Srikar receiving the news of his surprise victory and how he becomes a first time MP from being a sharp businessman. Raghav, his neighbor, who helped him during his election campaign and speeches, is entrusted with a similar responsibility along with helping Srikar with policy analysis. Srikar tries to stick his neck out whenever he isn’t comfortable about a certain political situation even if it meant going against the wishes of his political party.

Back Cover with Blurb

When a new bill is introduced that threatens freedom of expression on social media, they all unite together to take on the might of the system. During all of this Raghav through his twitter alter ego, @Arnavinator tries to expose the hidden secrets and things that were not meant to see the light of the day. There is a back-story as to why he decides to choose this particular name.

Meghnad craft fully uses satire using simple words and not heavy political jargons. He shows his funny side through the footnotes that are meanings of the regional words but with a comic twist to them. You will constantly have a smile on your face throughout the book. It was smart of him to use a story as the backdrop to highlight the issues rather than putting it out as non-fiction with real names and characters. He even takes potshots at himself with lines like – ‘Raghav felt like the protagonist in a political satire novel.’

The book is crisp and unputdownable and the vocabulary helps. The editing is sharp and polished and it definitely reflects. With less than 200 story pages it is a fast read and even though the book is a fictional political satire, it goes at a thriller pace and keeps you invested till the very end.

Using his sardonic style, Meghnad touches many contemporary serious issues like social media regulation, anti-defection, corruption, etc. He has about seven years of experience of working with members of parliament and none of it goes to waste. No real-life names have been used but that can’t be said for the reference. If you read closely and look widely you will figure out who is who.

The plot is predictable and a bit clichéd and the story end up abruptly. The build-up is nice but once you reach the end you might get a feeling that it ended in a rush. I have mentioned this previously; an extra chapter would do no harm to such a fast-paced book till the time the story is perfectly spaced out.

Overall, it’s a story about how a common man gets entangled and travels through the corridors of power and tries to change or at best question and expose the system. Does he become successful in his motive, for that you need to pick a copy of the book?

Verdict

India is a country where after cricket, which is a religion, and Bollywood, which is everyone’s fascination, political discussion is like a meal. You will find people banging their heads with each other about current political events or ideologies at every tea stall, or during any train journey or while simply waiting in a queue.

The book is a welcome fodder for all those political analysts. I am going with four stars for ‘Parliamental’ by Meghnad S. – three and a half for the satire and the extra half for the amazingly humorous and creative footnotes. This page-turner is a must-read.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This review was done as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program. Please sign up if you are a bibliophile.

My side of the bargain – an honest review – Find the Book here on Goodreads and Amazon.

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5

Alumni of the Year – Book Review

Book: Alumni of the Year

Author: Tomson Robert

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

Publisher: Notion Press (24 June 2019)

Price: 180 INR

Pages: 156 (Paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-68466-825-0

Language: English

My rating: 3.5/5

Almost everyone these days, especially the ones working in corporates and living in urban inhabitations are struggling to manage ‘time’, maintain a work-life balance and cope with the stress associated with it. We are losing a lot on life while chasing materialistic things, paying EMIs, not being there for our family and by the time we realize it; its always too late.

Alumni of the year by Tomson Robert is a book about what truly matters in life and what are the things that hold us back. This is his second book and I would like to express gratitude towards Writersmelon for considering me this book review. I loved reviewing this book as it gave me an opportunity to explore other genres other than thrillers/mystery books.

About the Author

Tomson is a storyteller. He lives in Dubai and works as a Director at a top-tier Management Consulting firm. He has completed his MBA from Loyola College, Chennai and is a professional Management Accountant. Tomson is married to Cini, and they have an adorable daughter, Lea. His first book was a collection of short stories titled Stories of Work, Life and the Balance in Between.

My Review

The book is a little bigger in size compared to the regular ones and the cover is nicely done. In the beginning, the cover doesn’t make much sense but when you finish the story, it all comes to you. It abstractly showcases a certain event in the protagonist’s life, which is of utmost importance to the theme of the book.

The book begins with a prologue ‘In another universe’ and is important considering how the events at the climax shape up. It also tells that the protagonist witness a recurring dream with increasing frequency, that has started giving him sleepless nights.

Back Cover with the Blurb

The story revolves around mainly five characters – Dave, Ann, George, Nitin and Divya with Dave being the protagonist. The story is spread across a time frame of around two weeks where Dave travels from Dubai to Goa to Kochi. Some other yet important characters ably support the story and every character has a role to play in the plot. There were no unnecessary characters.

The book alternates between flashback and present time, but it never hampers the pace or the flow of the book. In fact, the writer craft fully leaves a hook at the end of every chapter that he uses in taking us forward or I should say backward in the flashback. The book has a light breezy feel to it mainly because it gets the nostalgic notes right. Each and every one of us has had that tea stall during our school days where we would end up spending more time than in actual classes. Things like the school days childhood romance getting materialized in the two actually getting married makes you think of all such people you know in real life. It touches such finer things pretty well.

Dave buys his way in the ‘Alumni of the year’ contest held by his school in Kochi and during these two weeks, from the start to the events leading up to the contest, he has certain realizations that makes the reader look around and ponder what are the true things of meaning in one’s life. Questions like – Are we chasing things uselessly – start popping up inside the head.

The simple vocabulary gives legs to the pace of the book and it is a fast read with only 156 pages. I must highlight how Tomson has incorporated humor in the storyline. He has used situational humor and you will hardly find it out of place. There are some nicely understated things like the phrase ‘we were pregnant’. It’s a small statement but tell me where have you read it earlier, saying such a deep thing with fewer words.

Some chapters could have been more elaborate; a couple of them were shortened and felt as if ended abruptly. I would not have minded some extra pages. He has used the recent flooding in Kerala and incorporated in the narrative. Many a time writers try to mix real events in fiction and end up messing both, he has avoided that. There is a trend emerging with fiction books now going below 200 pages; I am not sure whether it is a positive or negative thing till the time the story is beautifully spaced out.

The strength of the book lies in its relatability, whether they are the school days or the present family days both have been touched with an everyday simplicity, which we encounter in day-to-day life. Anybody working in a corporate would know how the bosses are when it comes to deadlines and getting work done. No matter how much we promise our family members and more importantly ourselves that we won’t let the work affect them, it invariably does.

Verdict

If you are looking for a simple light breezy read then this is the book for you. It is a good read on a perfectly relaxing day and you will become a part of the story in no time. Sometimes the life lesson books become too heavy to digest, ‘Alumni of the year’ by Tomson Robert is the exact opposite of that. I am going with ‘three and a half’ stars for this nostalgic simple book. An extra ‘half’ for keeping it light.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

My side of the bargain – an honest review – Find the Book here on Goodreads and Amazon.

Tomson Robert can be reached at authortomson@gmail.com, tweet to @tomsonrobert or visit his blog https://medium.com/@Nosmot

15

9th Year Anniversary

9th Year Anniversary

Its 9th day of June and my blog, ‘The Contemplation Of a Joker’ completes 9 years of its existence. Yes, today is its 9th birthday. 😀 Happy birthday to my blog.

By that logic, it belongs to the Zodiac sign Gemini. Some of the characteristics of a Gemini are that they are surprising, unpredictable, adaptable and indecisive. 9 years is a long enough time to figure out that these features totally align with my blog.

It has been surprising with the kind of content it dishes out. Totally unpredictable with the frequency – it has successfully completed an AtoZ challenge and there were times when it didn’t come up with a post in six months even.

Adaptability is one of its key features as to the various genres it has catered too. Some might see it as a negative but I would like to believe, it is a positive for my blog till it figures out and carves out a niche for itself. It is at times indecisive when it comes to picking and sticking to a theme while undertaking a challenge.

I still remember the day when I started this blog. I wanted to reach out to an audience and test waters before actually taking the writer/author route. While I have still not fully taken the plunge I am happy with the progress my blog has made. I know…I know it has been slow, but at least I never gave up.

The last year…the 9th was the best year for it as it saw the most number of posts being published and saw a better consistency and hence a better Alexa rank. While blogging, on the whole, is on a decline with fewer and fewer money being pumped in by the brands but I still believe that if you keep publishing quality content you will develop an authentic readership however small it may be.

A couple of days back a blogging community-based platform, Indiblogger declared that they would be going offline and shutting down operations. I was shocked and a bit heartbroken but I could see it coming with more and more of such platforms closing down. Last year it was Blogmint and this year it is our beloved Indiblogger.

Indiblogger was famous for its blogging challenges and competitions; some of them had literally big prizes. All these years of blogging it was a constant companion and these challenges kept motivating to come up with better content. Some of my best work has come as part of these challenges only.

Their Indimeets will surely be missed by the whole community. They hosted some of the best blogging meets hosted across the country and gave a true opportunity to make friends with the faces behind the blogs we visit on a regular basis and have made a bond with them.

I remember winning a PS3 at one of those Indimeets and now since they are going away forever its meaning has become even more for me. Indiblogger – you will surely be missed and thank you for being such an important part of my blogging journey. I dedicate this birthday to you.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been a part of my blogging and writing journey – the ones who regularly visit and comment on my blog, the ones who have just read a post or two, the ones who motivate to do better work, the ones who painstakingly review and read the initial drafts, the ones who don’t read at all but still are gracious enough to share my posts. I thank you all ‘Dil se’.

For all those who have been a part of my blogging journey,

For all those who read my posts,

For all those who regularly share my posts,

And

For all those who still believe in my writing…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Thank you ALL 🙂

Manas’ Sameer’ Mukul

 

17

Things I wish I knew as a First-Time Author | #BlogchatterEbook

Things I wish I knew as a first-time Author

It was around the same time last year when my relationship with Blogchatter started. They had announced their annual BlogchatterEbook Carnival, which transforms a blogger to a self-published author. Since I didn’t have much time to create new content for the Ebook and I desperately wanted to test publishing waters; I decided to edit and compile the existing top blog posts from my blog ‘The contemplation of a Joker’ and give this activity a real chance.

Today I can proudly say I am an author of a ‘self-published’ book. This year Blogchatter has given me an added responsibility. They took from a blogger to an author and now they are converting this author into a mentor for the people who would be participating in this years’ carnival.

I am proud to be considered a mentor for this year’s #BlogchatterEbook and I am here to help you out with your doubts and queries. Since the last years’ affair was so rushed for me there were many questions and things that bothered me right before compiling and putting the content in a book format. There are multiple questions that pop up from what font to use, what should be the order of the content, how to go about formatting the content, what is the ideal word limit and so on.

Based on my experience from last year and the questions I have been getting, I am writing this post on the ‘Things I wish I knew as a first-time author’.

I want to begin by saying; this is YOUR book and is a reflection of you. You are here to have fun and make sure you enjoy the journey from a Blogger to a published Author. There are no set mandatory rules, just a set of guidelines to help you come up with a better version of your book. Many people get scared because of the guidelines and never publish the book itself.

Just remember – Every Criticism is good criticism if you are a writer. Reach out to as many people as possible and ask them if they can give feedback for your work. That will certainly help in boosting confidence and correcting errors. Even if you aren’t finding people to dedicate time for you, do a couple of thorough self-reviews.

To begin with I would say just pick up a random book and go through the look and feel; how the content is formatted, how the chapters are starting, what the margins look like on each side, how many lines are there in a page and how many words in each line and so on.

Let’s start with the cover page:

Do include a cover page, with a pic, title and your name and/or any tagline. You can use Canva and Snapseed to design and edit. If you are looking for free pictures; Canva, Unsplash and Pixabay are good resources. Since it is an Ebook, you can choose a picture in either a vertical or horizontal format. I consider it a mistake since I chose a horizontal picture that might not ideally look like a book cover.

Length/Size of the book:

Personally speaking, there is no defined limit – It’s not an essay contest. Just make sure whatever story you are conveying and the central plot are complete. Don’t worry about word count – still, try to keep it around 15k at least. The more the merrier. If you are going with a compilation of let’s say recipes or travelogues then try to focus on each chapter and make it complete. In that scenario, keep a healthy count of somewhere around 12 and more.

About Content:

It will be best if there is a central theme around the work. Last year I compiled random short stories and that worked too. A theme gives an insight to the readers about what they are getting into. Sometimes, since it is the first time, the book might have two themes – then also go ahead with it and divide it into two sections. Remember there is no right or wrong here.

Title

I wasn’t sure what the title of my book should be – when I looked around it was right in front of me. It was the same as my blog’s title. When you have a THEME, it becomes easy. If it’s a compilation, my advice is to pick the title of most imp story and write ‘other stories…’ If the book has more than one theme, then the title should focus on the theme with more content or importance.

Formatting

It is always about the content in a book and not fancy fonts. Try to keep any ‘serif’ font – Times, Courier, Century Schoolbook, Palatino.

Size – ideally 10 or 12 points (also depends upon page formatting n font)

Indentation

Well, it’s not important but if you want your book’s content to look like a regular ones’ then indentation gives that look and feel.

Select-All (Content/Chapter) and then Control+J. Your content is perfectly done.

Margins

Margins give better readability. Usually, keep half an inch as margin.

Page size – I have mostly worked on A4 so I can recommend that. If you want to convert it into paperback later then A5 for a 6*9 layout is good. Try to keep 250-300 words on a page. I have seen the regular books have somewhere around 20-25 lines on a page. Try to keep that depending upon the size of the font and page.

Header and Footer

Try to keep the name of the book as header and a page number as footer. Start page numbers from the first chapter. I kept the author name too in the header.

For page numbers – go to Insert – Page numbers and then format. Insert only page numbers and not Page1, Page2… The beginning pages like Title, preface, acknowledgment should be devoid of page numbers or if you really want then go for roman numbering.

The order of the book

There is compulsory order but the one that is usually followed is – Cover Page – Title Page – Copyright page – dedication (optional) – Acknowledgement (Optional) – Table of contents – Chapters – About the author (it can be placed before Index as well). If you are writing non-fiction or content that requires a lot of references, then you can add the list of references at the end. If the book has more than one part then you can also add a teaser for the next part in the end.

How to save as pdf

Everybody is not tech savvy and since I received a couple of questions on this – After you have put everything in order – verify the order of chapters and pages. Close the file, open again and re-check. Go to ‘SaveAs’ and then in the format or file type change it to pdf from doc or docx. Save it and your ebook in pdf format is ready.

Headings

Try to keep consistency in the formatting of heading throughout the book – it looks very professional. It is not pleasing to the eye to look at different fonts on different chapters. Similarly, for sub-headings, if your book has them, then keep them same everywhere.

How to reduce the size of a picture

It is not advisable to stack-up your book with a lot of pictures as it will dramatically increase the size of your book and might not meet the maximum size criteria provided by the platform. Hence if it is unavoidable then you can follow these steps to reduce the size of any picture. I use Mac – in that when you open a pic in preview – Go to tools – adjust size, there you can reduce by percentage or pixels or cms. It definitely reduces the size in MB by 50% in one go itself.

Just remember no question is a silly question.

All the mentors including me are here to help you out to get your book ready.

All the best of love’n’luck for your journey.

For all the first time authors,

For all those bloggers who will take the plunge,

For all those who found this helpful,

And

For all those who now know things as a first-time author

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

8

Do the Wardrobe | #ShareTheLoad

Do The Wardrobe | #ShareTheLoad #Blogadda

“Papa who will prepare the breakfast for us”, I asked hungrily.

“I will beta I will”, he replied. “Don’t worry! What will you have for breakfast? What did mummy generally cook?” he questioned.

I answered, “We would usually have a dry vegetable to go along with Paratha.”

He said, “OK don’t worry.”

What he didn’t say was he had never cooked before in his lifetime.

The year was 1997 and mummy was admitted in a hospital for an ear operation. It required two surgeries to be performed and it would have required her to be in the hospital for a whole long week. She had never left us alone for so long without guidance. 10 min into the ordeal he was yet to light the stove.

My sister and I knew that there was no way we were getting any breakfast before school time to forget about getting paratha and bhindi.

After a few minutes, he gave up and handed us both 20 rupees each and asked to eat something from the school canteen.

A week later mom returned and we told her the complete episode. Since then she made it point to teach me all the things necessary related to running a household and the so-called things that are supposedly done by females of a house. Today I can proudly say that there are days when I cook better than my sister.

She taught me everything from cooking to washing clothes from cleaning and mopping to arranging wardrobes. I guess that is the biggest reason I don’t have problems staying alone. Btw everybody claims that my partner would be forever happy (Anybody listening!).

Mom and Me

I make it a point to help mom every now and then with all the things. In fact, whenever I am visiting her I try to spend most of the time with her and help her out with her chores. With age catching up fast on her, it is my prime priority to spend as much time with her as possible and what better way than performing her tasks along with her.

Another comical thing that happens every time my sister pays a visit – The mom-daughter duo gets into a war mode to clean up and dust the house. They are so good with it that most times there are many things that will be forever lost in the black hole of cleaning.

For this, I have taken upon myself to make and arrange my wardrobe. To reduce the load on mom and to prevent further things to get forever lost, I do it on a weekly basis usually on Sundays. After every wash, mom hands over my clothes to me and they are neatly ironed and then folded into the wardrobe. I being me never lose an opportunity to tease them how nicely I have done it.

Every time someone chases me with the question of getting married I either show them my wardrobe or cook a wonderful dish for them and most times they get the answer. There was an era when a washing machine was a privilege and status symbol – Mom even taught me to wash clothes with bare hands.

Even if you cannot wash clothes or put a load in the washing machine, at least, try to keep things in your wardrobe by yourself. This way it will save a lot of time for you every morning when you shout at the top of your voice for your handkerchiefs and socks. It is just like if you can’t cook at least cut a vegetable or do the dishes (I know I know a lot of wives and moms would be rooting for me).

Many guys, especially bachelors, would still find it daunting. Well, you can always start with baby steps – forget about folding clothes and ironing them. Start with creating separate sections for shirts, trousers, socks, undergarments and so on. Once you will get into this habit then all that would be left for you to do is to fold them neatly and arrange them. After washing, always tie up a pair of socks together – it will prevent them from getting misplaced.

I am not complaining, I guess the culture or the society was weaved that way but I often thought that if my father didn’t learn to light up a stove then half of it was his fault but half of it was my grandmothers’. If she would have been strict with him or even encouraged him to try his hand at all this, we would not have gone to the school hungry that day.

Somehow the society is like that. When a guy doesn’t learn all this then a certain section of society blames him to be patriarchal but it becomes even difficult when a male learns all this and simply tries to help their mother, sister, wife and daughter, then he is blessed with so many negative names. Anyway, it’s their mindset and you cannot help it. I am happy till my mom is happy and every time I do these things I feel, even in a smaller way, I have honoured her teachings.

All the mothers with young kids please teach your sons right from an early age that there is no shame in doing household chores and I am sure they will grow up as better understanding and empathetic adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all those who males help their mothers,

For all those males who can cook,

For all those who can wash clothes with bare hands,

And

For all those who can arrange their wardrobes…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Let’s convert our Sundays into SON-days.

Don’t just be a Mamma’s boy, be Mamma’s real SON. Let’s start with #ShareTheLoad every Sunday.

‘I pledge to #ShareTheLoad in household chores in association with Ariel and BlogAdda