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

2

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/

 

5

S – Secularism | #AtoZChallenge

S – Secularism | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

We witnessed one of the most barbaric acts of terror in the recent past yesterday in Sri Lanka. The ones who were present in a church and met death; their only crime was that they practiced a specific faith, which wasn’t acceptable to some followers of other faith. This was fuelled by not love towards their religion but hate against all the other. No religion teaches that but sadly this ideology doesn’t suit anyone.

When I was in school, I was taught how, which and when was the words added in the Indian constitution. Secular was added to the constitution in 1976 by the 42nd amendment but those who claim to know the 5000-year-old history of this land would unanimously agree that the land was secular in its virtues ever since.

Read also: What if there was no religion.

Oxford dictionary defines,

Secular as, ‘Not connected with religious or spiritual matters.’

Secularism as ‘The principle of separation of the state from religious institutions.’

The sad reality is that in India most of its politics founds a foundation in religion and when religion begins to exhaust then caste system takes over.

Discrimination is everywhere; in some places, it is on the basis of your skin, in some on the basis of language, in some on the basis of religion and in some on the basis of how much wealth you hoard. So what should be done – shall the countries be made on the basis of religions? I am sure the ones already formed on the backdrop of religion; the citizens are still discriminated with one tool or another.

The spineless and toothless EC continuously begs not to bring in religious context during public speeches but each and every speech is spewing hate on the name of religion. This time they have started even threatening the public – that if they won’t vote for them then they will have to face consequences. Don’t think I am blaming only the ruling party. Each and every candidate is a perpetrator. The best solution is since we can’t stop them for doing this, to remove the words like secular and democratic from the constitution, which the ruling party anyway wants to do.

The idea of nationalism and patriotism isn’t bad, but the idea of nationalism based on one religion is dangerous. It is often (read always) propagated through the machinery of hate.

Every party when comes to power begins to paint the city in their color but this time around the coloring of institutes, public transport, and government offices in a single particular color was on an all different level. When you continuously preach, ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’ and at the same time aren’t even open to accepting any other faith or ideology then it literally exposes the shallowness.

All the developmental promises that were made; on which you rode to the power galleries of New Delhi are now nowhere in discussion. All you feel, hear and see is hate, hate and hate.

How ironic it is that for some their religious identity because of their birth in a certain family becomes the reason for a lifetime of miseries.

As former vice president Hamid Ansari pointed out about the current regime, ‘Religious pluralism will be tolerated (but not accepted) but cultural pluralism will not.’ That is what the current dispensation is out to do.

Let’s go by their logic and for a moment consider that, Hinduism is the greatest religion, then by sensible reasoning, it should not have been defeated on so many instances in the past. Have the Hindus or the so-called upper caste Hindus gave a thought why so many people got converted? It was only and only because of discrimination and atrocities against them.

For the sake of discussion and not to demean any particular person or religion, there are a lot of things that are done and contributed by some minority – Would the so-called best religion and its flag bearers take up those tasks as well? I am sure they would not otherwise slavery would have never existed.

When a Hindu girl marries anyone of other religion, you tag it as ‘Love Jihad.’ Let me buy that argument for a moment; so what you are saying is that the girl didn’t marry for love but was misguided and in a way hypnotized to marry. In other words aren’t you saying that the girl is so ‘dumb’ that she cannot think for herself? If the girl is a Hindu, then as per you she should be the most intelligent creature on the planet…right!

When you compare with our neighbors that they are a state with a declared official religion, then you need to compare what has been their growth in each and every respect. All their focus is on proving that their majoritarian religion is the greatest.

I know this is a pessimistic view of the future but over the years observing how things are shaping and how the mainstream public is endorsing and getting convenient with the idea of hate – the first thing that the world would be devoid of will be ‘Morals’ and ‘Ethics’ since the thing that originated to comfort is the only reason for their miseries. I am afraid it will all come in the name of God and religion.

Then at the same time, you see some hope when a collective of 1.24 lakh students in Kerala chose to skip the caste and religion column. However, I am sure, they will be collectively discriminated as atheists.

A friend commented on a post that he will still support the current regime to get another term and then ended up the conversation congratulating me to take up this theme in such ‘charged’ times. All I had to reply was ‘read your comment slowly and you will find the irony lying naked’.

For all those who believe all religions are equal,

For all those who believe only their religion is great,

For all those who believe there should be no religion,

And

For all those who believe in secularism…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 19th post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Politics Category is ‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’, where I would be covering some relevant issues with the General Elections 2019 through the course of 26 posts.

Read the previous post here: IPL – Indian Parliamentary League

Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with letter ‘T’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘Dubai – City of Gold‘. If you love travel head over to the Travel Theme and share your feedback.

4

H – Hindutva | #AtoZChallenge

H – Hindutva | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

Hindutva is defined as, ‘An ideology seeking to establish the hegemony of Hindus and the Hindu way of life’ as per the Oxford dictionary. The current ruling party is synonymous with it. In fact, their rise to power was on the basis of Hindutva. A Supreme Court 1995 judgment defined Hindutva as “a way of life and not a religion”.

People like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, K. B. Hedgewar and Syama Prasad Mukherjee popularized the term. It became the ideological base of organizations like RSS, VHP, Hindu Mahasabha and Hindu Sena. The lucidity of their idea lies in the fact that they think Hindus were the original inhabitants of this land.

Who were the original inhabitants of this land? The answer lies in the current fabric of India. Many reports and theories suggest that Dravidians were the original inhabitants. The Hindutva idealists would say that Aryans were the first. But didn’t the first chapter in our school history class was that one of the reasons why Indus Valley civilization was killed because of the migration of Aryans.

There is genetic evidence that suggests that the original habitats of India were some tribal and adivasis. Rest each and every person found on this land is a descendant of some old migrant from various parts of the world.

I often hear that we have never attacked or invaded any country…that may be true…but don’t say that our religion is free of violence. Even the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata are full of violence and war.

Rather than finding out fallacies in other religions why don’t we first look inside and see what our teaching are and are we following it to the fullest? Weren’t things like ‘untouchability’ and ‘sati system’ given preference on the name of religion? But with time, education and protest, they were abolished. I sometimes think what outrage Raja Ram Mohan Roy would have faced in that era.

Making people like Yogi the poster boy of Hindutva is realistically and statistically detrimental to the society. Coining terms like ‘Love Jihad’ would definitely get you more votes but it thrashes the practical reality.

I don’t know how many of you know this – People like Subramanian Swamy who speak so much in favor of Hindutva forgot to teach the concept in his own family. His son in law is Nadeem Haider. I am all in favor of her daughter’s choice but then he should only preach what he practices.

I have witnessed the massacre that happened during the Babri Masjid demolition. Who does it help? For years the emotions and sentiments attached to the temple have been used by the ruling party for their electoral gains.

On the issue of Ram temple, they say that they will follow the top courts’ directions but on the other hand on the issue of ‘Sabrimala’ they give precedence to faith. Frankly, they follow the strategy that will get them more votes in that particular region.

By instilling the fear in the hearts of common masses that Hindus are under threat – they continue to commit and justify atrocities against the minorities and Dalits. 82% of the overall population is of Hindus and still, they want us to believe that we are under threat. I dare them to declare India as a Hindu state and they will come to know the real fabric of India.

Don’t forget that this strategy only works where there are people of other religion. The moment it shifts to Hindu majority places, their strategy shifts to upper caste and lower caste. It was these brutalities committed on these minorities and lower caste people that forced them to convert and seek solace in other religions. I would be blunt here, but if your concept and methods were so correct then why did even one Hindu leave and embrace the other religions.

For years I have been hearing that foreigners have ruled us for the last 1000 years. What they don’t teach and create awareness about is that barring the last 70 years the concept of India included current Pakistan as well as Bangladesh. Nepal and Afghanistan were formed during the 18th century, before that they were also the part of India.

Even in the current government, there is a trend to ‘saffronize’ everything down south. From traffic boards to road milestones…from billboards to government hoardings, things are being repainted using Hindi. Imagine what difficulty it causes an illiterate person traveling on the road, which is only aware of their regional language. The hypocrisy is that we would patronize a foreign language like English but would simply hate our own languages.

To be honest, without offending anyone, given the rise in the number of hate crimes on the name of religion and caste – it is believed that Hinduism is the oldest religion. That means if Hinduism wouldn’t have found roots the other religions would have never followed suit and the process to prove their superiority would have never begun. Just a thought!

The ‘Varna System’ was formed on the basis of what ‘work’ people did in society. My understanding of it is that it was or should have been horizontal where everybody was equal and was divided only on the class of work but unfortunately the ones who were making it wanted to place them on the top and hence the vertical understanding of the system percolated.

No true human forget Hindu would have taken sides with the rapists of a girl child irrespective of her religion. That is where it is really dangerous. Did anyone hear the condemnation from the PM or the top ruling leaders of the government.

If the previous PM was abused for taking orders from a certain family then everyone knows to which office in Nagpur the current PM bows down to. It is no one’s job to tell what a person should wear, eat, follow and marry to.

Nobody questions, which side they are actually on – They themselves are confused whether to go with Mahatma or Godse.

I pity those people who on the name of religion are ready to kill. No religion teaches that and if you do that then you know no religion. Even during the times when this land was getting formed, the fabric of the soul was secular. Let’s keep it that way.

For all those who are against hate,

For all those who believe everyone is equal,

For all those who don’t side with this ideology,

And

For all those who are flag bearers of Hindutva…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 8th post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Politics Category is ‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’, where I would be covering some relevant issues with the General Elections 2019 through the course of 26 posts.

Read the previous post here: IPL – Indian Parliamentary League

Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with letter ‘I’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘Dubai – City of Gold‘. If you love travel head over to the Travel Theme and share your feedback.

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