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Silver Hair Sins | Book Review

Silver Hair Sins – Book Review

Book: Silver Hair Sins

Author: Saumick Pal

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

Publisher: The Write Place (26 March 2019)

Price: 249 INR

Pages: 158 (Paperback)

Language: English

My rating: 3.5/5

Religious fundamentalism is on the rise and the world is experiencing more and more barbaric acts in the name of God and religion. It has reached a fanatic level. Witnessing all this I, earlier, wrote a piece – What if there was no religion. Well, today I would be reviewing a book that suggests another alternative – merge all the religions into one and with the use of artificial intelligence create a more futuristic utopian society.

Silver Hair Sins by Saumick Pal gives a peek into a similar world. It is his first novel. I would like to express my gratitude towards Blogchatter’s Book Review Program for considering me this book review and towards Saumick for the wonderful personalized message. If you have been following my reviews, then by now, you would know how much I love thrillers. A thriller with religion and AI as its background suits perfectly down my alley.

About the Author

The author, Saumick Pal, is an engineer and has been working for 13 years in myriad fields. Also, he is a mentor to the youth of the country. He has worked as a scriptwriter too. His writing style is crisp, compact and will leave you wanting for more even after you read the whole book.

My Review

The cover of the book, along with its title doesn’t give much away but once you start reading, it will slowly begin to make more sense and now I can say that the cover is equally thought-provoking as the pictures inside the book.

The back cover blurb highlights Silver Hair Sins as one of India’s first visual-fiction novel, with more than half of the book narrated by cinematized photographs.

They say that the picture is worth a thousand words. It surely is true in the case of Silver Hair Sins, which has only 158 pages out of which about 60 pages are full-page photographs/pictures. These pictures are strategically placed in continuation of the chapters that streamlines the flow and pace of the book.

The message from the author.

The story is set up in a futuristic world some 200 years later and mainly revolves around three characters – Mary, Azad and Aasma. You will also read about two more characters that form the background story – Meera and Akbar. The story takes you to a time when the religio-politico divide reaches a tipping point and technology steps in to save humanity – AI merges all religions to create One God AI.

The algorithm picks up populist virtues of all the religions and not necessarily the best ones. This leads to a terrible dystopian environment of murder, manipulation and love where a father is justifying the rape of his daughter as a sacrifice.

The book also makes you think what if AI actually becomes so powerful that it begins to dictate the lives of each and every individual. What will be the outcome of that? Read the book to find out whether the AI remains powerful or the humans rise above technology and win over it with their instincts.

I am sure the writer takes a clue from the all-time classic 1984 by George Orwell where he spoke about the atrocities of a dystopian world disguised as a utopian society set in a time in future.

Pros

It is a very fast read and even if you are not a big fan of thrillers you are bound to finish it in one sitting. The vocabulary is simple and you don’t have to go looking for meanings of every alternate word. The pictures are very figurative yet abstract and each reader will have a different understanding of them.

‘Not everything is black and white’ – I will like to compliment Saumick on how he has used the colors like black, white and silver to showcase the criminality of a person. The colors, the day – Sunday and the dressing have a lot of significance in the narrative. The naming of the characters also has been done keeping the backdrop in mind and by the end, you will realize their importance for their characters.

Cons

The book doesn’t have many flaws apart from the fact that some incidents feel a bit rushed up. Given its size, it would more fit in the category of a novella. I personally didn’t like Kabir’s Dohas being quoted every now and then. For a book that is futuristically set it was a bit awkward for me to visualize the AI enabled beings speaking Kabir’s Dohas. I felt a little disappointed as there isn’t much description about the futuristic setup and many-a-time it feels as if the discussions are in context to present times and not two centuries later.

When I first received the mail to review this book, it reminded me of an important incident that occurred with my friend and me, just when I started writing about a decade ago. He came up with a photo-book, exactly like what this is, but after going door-to-door of various publishing houses all we received were rejections. ‘A book or novel full of pictures will never sell and it will totally add to the cost’, was all we got constantly. I am glad the Indian publishing world is changing for good.

This positively has the potential of being a game changer as far as the layout of a book is concerned in the Indian context. I have seen Dan Brown books having pictures for better illustration and explanation of certain facts.

Verdict

I would end it with a quote from Walt Disney – “Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.” This book serves well as a commentary on the current religions and the perils existing in them.

Silver Hair Sins is a good debut effort by Saumick Pal, which stirs up a lot of questions about the existing religions and the extremism attached to them and how in the future technology can be used for mankind in the religious spectrum as well. I am going with three and a half stars for this visual-science-fiction thriller that will definitely make you think.

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.

About the author reference: https://www.marketingmind.in/saumick-pals-silver-hair-sins-is-a-must-have-if-you-love-thrillers/

 

19

Happy Birthday Papa

Happy Birthday Papa

The year was 1991. I was about 5 years old then. Papa always motivated us to be courageous, brave and work on our fitness and had this habit of saying that his body was made up iron and how I should also exercise and eat right to get that perfect balance for the body.

It was a hot summer morning and my summer vacations were going on. Papa was following his daily routine of exercise. I was in a fun mood that day and somehow got hold of a huge stick. He was sweating profusely and was exercising bare-chested. I was always a naughty child and was always ready with one or two tricks everyday.

That day I dared him, “Papa you always say that you are made of iron. Right. I want to test it today.”

He casually replied, “Yes I am and so are you. So how do you plan to take the test?”

Exuding my childhood innocence I stupidly suggested, “I will hit you with this stick on your back and lets see whether you feel any pain or not.”

One thing I would like to highlight about him; he was exceptional with kids especially when it involved their curiosity. He would never shy away from answering lamest of queries and encouraging them to try out new things. He always taught you would never learn until you fail.

He persuaded me to go ahead.

I kept on asking him again and again whether he was sure. Each and every time he confidently replied, “Yes! My son. Bring it on.”

I thought that I had thought this through but I was too naïve.

With all my might I swung the stick hard and bangggg!!!

Papa and Me

A crimson cylindrical line appeared where the stick hugged the skin.

Moments later similar crimson lines appeared on my cheeks with the love that was showered by my mom after the Iron Man test was completed.

Everybody in the family including my mom was shocked that I actually did it. They all thought I was just playfully bluffing. For a moment I was appalled too that I actually did it but it was all too late by then.

This was the kind of bond Papa and me shared for the major part of our lives. I remember he being either my partner at the running end on a cricket pitch or would be bowling to me being as part of the opposition. He always said that we are friends first and father-son later.

I clearly remember the nights scarred with power cuts and me spending most of them on his shoulders bombarding him with innumerous ‘whys’ and then would doze off on his chest. I would suck the juice out of oranges and then would give him the pulp to finish. How he would take me to buy cream rolls every evening. How he would take me on a bicycle round and round every time it rained. The memories are uncountable and the vacuum is forever.

For the last 3-4 years he would constantly say to me that I want an hour from you and want to discuss something but destiny always deceived us. In fact there was a trip, which we both undertook and the only time that we were separate was the time when we would use loo. I guess this sums up what a father-son relation actually becomes when they grow old. Both of them have so much bottled up to say but none of them has the courage to look weak.

Everybody loses someone in his or her life and my case isn’t special. It’s just that sometimes when the people are alive you don’t have the words and expressions to convey your feelings and this is my way of communicating to him. I am sure wherever he will be he will be in peace and would definitely be smiling over me; reading what all I write. It’s been 530 days since he left us and he would have been 65 years old today. There hasn’t been a single day where I haven’t craved to speak to him and hug him. Some would say he left too early…All I would say is that he lived like a king and he left royally too where he didn’t give anyone a chance to serve him in any manner and take care of him.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

A poem by my sister Shraddha Mukul

Life has moved on, and yet you still remain,
Your absence your memories is unbearable pain.

Every day I wait to sleep wait to be with you in my dreams,
I hug you, I hold you so close … your presence makes me smile,
And then I wake up and see you gone,
And that you were never there …you are gone for a while.

I waited on my bday … coz you promised you will always be there,
No matter which part of the world I am, you will come to me to celebrate,
You didn’t come … I am still waiting…
And now I wonder I might go crazy at this rate.

When I was little I always thought … nothing will ever happen to you,
And that you are “my daddy strong”
Look where I am standing Papa,
I feel so so very wrong.

I am angry at you and I feel cheated,
You promised you will never let go of me,
I am falling in the dark Papa,
Don’t you care anymore, can’t you see?

People say I am silly,
that one who goes never comes back,
They don’t know our connection, Papa
I know you will find me even in a world pitch black.

– Shraddha Mukul

12

Through the Mist – Book Review


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Through the Mist – Book Review

Book: Through the Mist

Author: Sona Grover, Abirami,

Adhithya, Nimitha & Rupali

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

Publisher: Jimpify Publishing (29 Aug 2017)

Price: Rs 99

Pages: 92 (pdf)

Language: English

My rating: 3/5

One picture – Five Authors – Five stories – One Book. This in itself is an interesting premise for anyone to enlist ‘Through The Mist’ in his or her reading list.

About four years back I took part in a collaborative effort to come up with content worthy of publishing. Collaborative writing can sometimes turn out to be very tricky. It can be less writing ‘effort’ but it can surely be more ‘headaches’. When too many heads collide taking a story in a definite direction then sometimes the story takes the back seat and ego begins to power the engine. Anyway, let’s not digress.

Sona Grover, one of the five authors of the book, to do a review for them, approached me. My bargain was; an honest review in exchange for a free copy.

I found the overall premise very intriguing. A picture, which is also the cover page, was shared with the authors and each was expected to start with their version of the story keep the picture as the pivotal point.

Usually when authors collaborate the book turns out to be an anthology but what makes ‘Through the Mist’ interestingly unique is that each author will share their unfinished draft with other authors in a sequential manner and after all the authors have written on every story then only it will be considered complete. So that means each author will contribute to every story.

It is like a relay race of writers. You don’t know how the next is going to imagine and write or how good the outcome would be; all you could manage is your own leg.

The Motivation

The team:

Jithin, who provided the inspiration for the book. He blogs at www.trablogger.com

Abirami, the teenager who’s obsessed with writing and blogs at www.theobsessivewriter.com

Adhithya, the youngest teenager of the team who blogs at www.wordstuggedatheartstrings.wordpress.com

Nimitha, the writer who finds time to write between her busy work schedule. She blogs at www.nimzrevealed.wordpress.com 

Rupali, the teenager studying maths and writing poems at www.literatureismyporn.wordpress.com

Sona, an avid reader and the resource person to lend any help. She blogs at www.sonaonline.wordpress.com

Aadhira, the in-house editor who pushed everyone to write this book, blogs at www.aadhira.me

The five stories are:

‘A Middle Class‘ story brings us Pari, the independent, headstrong girl whose parents want her to marry and settle down. Love has other views and comes unexpectedly through Rehan. In this comedy of errors, blunders pile on and the protagonists head a laugh riot.

In ‘A strange Life‘, Aarya, bored with her profession and disappointed with her personal life, finds an unexpected adventure that is a little too much for her to comprehend. Can she manifest the life she has wanted to have, by reclaiming her power?

Aakash cannot forget Anavya, the love of his life. His longing turns him into a poet and he hopes and waits for her, years later. ‘Languish in Love‘ is a delicate story that explores love, longing, pain.

‘The Lone Man‘ is hard-hitting. All John wants is to forget his wife Sarah’s death and get on with his life. But his nightmares and visions would not let go of him.

‘Turn of the Tides‘ is set at sea and the men who have lived with the sea and loved her are the ones who fear her now. Can they conquer their dread and have the sea lose her power over them?

PROS:

What surely works for the book is the diversity that each of writer brings to the table. With their experiences and thought processes that vary from a teenager to a mom, it definitely adds on to the flavor. The love of writing is what makes this a ‘team’ irrespective of the difference in their culture, language, preferences, age groups and perspectives.

The standout thing in the book is that each story is completely different from each other and do not belong to a single genre. That is very refreshing, as it doesn’t overdo a single theme or genre.

One thing which I would like to highlight since each story exchanged hands five times that there was consistency in the storyline and the theme in all five stories. It is a swift read with only 92 pages.

CONS:

The role of an editor in such a collaborative effort becomes crucial and critical. I felt that the authors were let down by average editing, judging by how the stories were stitched.

The other thing, which I believe, could have been a bit better is the vocabulary. There are far too many grammatical errors. So the onus lies with each author as well as the editor. I can understand the flow of the stories not being smooth because of the format but still, that’s no excuse for the grammatical errors.

How it came about:

My favorite story:

The last story how it personifies the sea. I like it for its poetic and metrical tone and how expressively it gives ‘Sea’ a voice.

The pros definitely outweigh the cons in ‘Through the mist’. It’s definitely worth a read once. I give two and half stars for the stories and another half a star for the concept. It’s 3 out of 5 for the unique collaboration i.e. ‘Through the Mist’.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

Grab a copy here: Amazon

30

I wish an Alarm Clock would Ring


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Mom was seemingly perturbed by the last call. Her uneasiness was pretty evident and had started sweating profusely. I knew I had to talk to her.

“Mom! What happened? Who was that on the call”, I asked worriedly.

She was in a state of shock. I asked her to sit down, handed her a glass of water and questioned again.

This time she somehow managed to articulate that an aunty in her close set of friends has committed suicide. I was astonished to hear that.

On further probing mom told that the lady was suffering from depression. Depression was successful in claiming the second life in the past two months in my neighbourhood. Mom informed that she had two kids, a loving husband, a well-off background and a perfect happy life. Mom is still not been able to completely come to terms with the suicide.

Such is the beauty of depression. You never know that it is eating you till it suddenly engulfs you completely.

I said to her, “If we were aware that she was suffering from depression…if only we could have got a chance to speak to her…a life could have been saved.”

The WOW Prompt

There are many people who seem completely normal and happy but are suffering from depression and most of the times they themselves don’t know. Their lives may look perfect on the outside and you won’t find a reason as to what’s the cause but depression sneaks in silently. All you need is to talk to someone. If one feels that someone is suffering from depression or exhibiting certain symptoms, please, the first and the best thing you can do is to talk to them.

Some startling facts related to suicide & depression:

  • About 135000 people commit suicide in India per year.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the 18-29 age group.
  • Most suicides in India are by people aged below 44 years.
  • Around 57 million people are suffering from Depression, an astonishing 18 % of global estimate, as per WHO.
  • About 15-20% of those who are clinically depressed commit suicide.

Some days ‘I Wish An Alarm Would Ring Loud And Notify Me Whenever someone is about to commit suicide and I could speak to that person and bring a smile to their face and somehow manage to save a life.’

Anybody who feels like they want to talk…just about anything…I am all ears 🙂

For all those who are sad,

For all those who are depressed,

For all those who have these scary thoughts,

And

For all those who consider such steps…

PLEASE SMILE AND TALK TO SOMEONE.

It’s not a Goodbye…

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

 

References:

http://yourdost.com/blog/2017/03/depression-statistics-in-india.html?q=/blog/2017/03/depression-statistics-in-india.html&q=/blog/2017/03/depression-statistics-in-india.html&

http://www.allaboutdepression.com/gen_04.html

https://www.medindia.net/health_statistics/general/suicide-in-india-statistics.asp

From depression to suicide: Why more Indians are falling into the trap

205

Death on Karnataka Express

Death on Karnataka Express

The sudden jerk of the train coming to a halt shook me out of slumber. I was sleeping on the middle berth of a three-tier AC coach. I moved the pungent smelling inflexible curtain and tried to peep through the window. The sun was yet to rise but the morning blue had taken over the milieus. It looked like the train was moving through the outskirts of a city. I got my wristwatch out of my backpack and checked the time. It was 6:30 am.

We were travelling in Karnataka express from Bangalore to New Delhi. My initial job training got over in Mysore and I got posting in Chandigarh. Mom was paying a visit to my sister in Bangalore and hence was accompanying me back till Chandigarh.

The last time I checked in the night, when we reached Bhopal, the train was running on its scheduled time.

I thought, ‘we must be approaching Agra by this time.’

I slid to my left and looked down at the lower berth. Mom was still sleeping peacefully. A sensation urged me to use the washroom. I slowly got down in a crouching position, making sure not to wake her up, slipped into my slippers and walked through the narrow passage towards the washroom.

Death on Karnataka Express

After using the washroom, I decided to look outside the entrance door of the coach, since the train hadn’t yet moved. There is no more serene sight than countryside right up early in the morning. I leaped outside the gate but there was no one in sight. ‘Probably most of the people are still sleeping’, I supposed. ‘It was a good four hours still left for us to reach New Delhi, if the train reached at its timetabled arrival time.’

The huge iron wheels slowly started moving making a screeching sound. I shut the door and walked back to my berth. The berth opposite to mom’s berth was empty.

‘The elderly man would have got down at a station somewhat late in the night, as I was pretty much awake past midnight’, I pondered.

Five more minutes passed by and the train gathered momentum. The rural dwellings in the landscape were being replaced by more urban infrastructure. I knew that the railway station was about to arrive and considered having a cup of tea and some biscuits. Mom usually is an early riser and it was way past her regular wake up time. ‘

‘I guess she wouldn’t have an idea what time it is’, I assumed.

She didn’t prefer tea prepared at stations but I, nevertheless, thought of asking her before the station arrives. I feebly called out, “MOM.”

“Mom…Mom…MOM”, I kept calling gradually increasing the pitch of my voice. She didn’t respond leave alone waking up.

I touched her feet to wake her up but she didn’t respond this time either. I started shaking her arm slightly and simultaneously calling out ‘mom…mom…mom.’ It felt as if she was intentionally not waking up.

I touched her forehead. It was damp and cold. Initially I thought that the air-conditioning might have done it. Her cheeks were even icier. I didn’t know what had happened to her. I kept shaking her arm and calling her for more than two minutes but she didn’t budge a single bit.

I was beginning to get worried. I didn’t know what to do. I could see the train slowly entering the station through the window and thought of trying to wake her up one more time.

She didn’t respond.

By now the glitter of sweat was shining on my forehead. I was getting more and more nervous and anxious as time passed. Somehow in these sorts of situations, negative thoughts are the first ones to swarm your mind.

They didn’t spare me either and for a second I thought, ‘Is Mom dead?’

The more I was trying to wake her up, the stronger the sinking feeling became. I knew I had to remain calm and try to think my way through, ‘what if she was actually dead.’

In my custom and tradition the first thing that happens is, as soon as you get to know that either of your parents or any blood relative has passed away, we aren’t supposed to eat anything till the final cremation rituals are performed.

I quelled my mind and focused on the difficult task at hand. I started deliberating, ‘should I get down at Agra or should I continue till New Delhi and seek some help there? Should I call someone right away?’ Should I seek some medical help in the train itself?

My heart was breaking in fact shattering.

I knew it was going to be a long…really long day ahead. The thought of not eating anything for the next two days was already eating my mind. I decided to get down to at least have a cup of tea and couple of cookies. The train was about to move and I had to act fast.

I immediately got down and went to a railway tea stall. The vendor was selling some stale tea but there wasn’t any other option in sight. I decided since I might not get anything else; let me purchase two cups of tea. I purchased a packet of biscuits and put it in my jeans’ rear pocket. I thought of having one cup right away but that same screeching sound of the iron wheels started.

I hurriedly reached the metal door and a fellow passenger helped me board the train again.

I was making my way through few people who were beginning to wake up, making sure I don’t spill any of it.

The eerie feeling of having tea right next to my dead mom also came over me for a second but the contemplation of being hungry for the next two days made a starving sensation in me and I thought, ‘what the hell! Let me have it. There wasn’t anyone who knew me or would complain that I had tea and cookies after mom passed away.’

As soon as I reached my berth, I was dumbfounded and speechless by what I saw.

Mom was wide-awake sitting upright and combing her hair. She annoyingly looked at me and began, ‘how many times have I told you not to get down on every station. What happened to you is everything all right? Why do you look so astonished?’

I handed her a cup of tea interrupting her and sheepishly said, “I got down to bring you some tea and biscuits.”

“In all these years have you ever seen me have this railway station tea?” she added.

I knew it was embarrassingly awkward what had conspired into my head and decided to tell her the ordeal of buying two cups of tea.

She broke into a loud uncontrollable laughter. I joined in. I told her that the first thought that came to my mind after seeing my mom dead, was to have tea and biscuit.

We kept on laughing till we reached New Delhi.

To this day, whenever we discuss a train journey, we roll in fits of laughter remembering this episode.

For all those who love their moms,

For all those who have lost loved ones,

For all those who are fed up of such rituals,

For all those who love trains,

And

For all those who love humour…

It’s not a GoodBye…

But It’s a GOOD BYE

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

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