Mar 2, 2015

Book review: The Guardians of the Halahala by Shatrujeet Nath

Let me start by stating the obvious.
The Guardians of the Halahala is unlike any book you have read in the Indian historical fiction genre till date. The beginning of a trilogy, it effortlessly combines religion, legend, history and even one of the most iconic characters from our fables, bringing a unique perspective to their story.

review Godyears bookIt all begins with one of Lord Shiva's most iconic moments - one that requires not just the devas and asuras but also Lord Vishnu to work beside each other. The churning of the Ocean of milk to attain the nectar of immortality (Amrit) first produces something else though - the deadly Halahala poison, which is swallowed whole by Lord Shiva as per mythology.

Only that is not entirely accurate. A small portion of the Halahala was in fact siphoned away by an alert asura who hides it within an object. When Shiva finally gets his hands on it, he is faced with a conundrum - neither does he wish to retain possession of the object, nor does he trust the devas or asuras where safekeeping of such a potentially dangerous weapon capable of mass destruction is concerned.

The one he finally chooses is no deva or asura but a mere mortal - Chandragupta Vikramaditya, the king of Avanti, aided by his Navaratnas, the nine 'gems' of his court. Vikramaditya will find out that being the titular Guardian of the Halahala is not nearly as simple as concealing the destructive object as he becomes the centre of attention not just of his mortal enemies but also the devas and asuras.

What stood out for me in this book?

1. Attention to detail.
That is essential in any novel but almost paramount when you endeavour to write historical fiction because the characters already exist in some form in the minds of the reader, unlike unique new characters we create in normal fiction. And that is where Shatrujeet Nath shows his class. Each character is immaculately fleshed out and precise thought is given to world building for a larger narrative. There is a map at the beginning to visualise the world you are entering and a glossary at the end to aid you in knowing places and people from history who grace the storyline.

Feb 28, 2015

What if you gave me a chance to be God?

What if you gave me a chance to be you? 

What if there were no shades of grey in us - just white and more pristine white?
What if like the rest of the animals on this planet, there were no rich or poor?
What if the worst evil we were capable of was saying no to third helpings of dessert?
What if leaders fought their wars over chess sets and allowed human beings and innocent children to live? 

What if we could actually strive for world peace and attain it instead of preaching about it behind firearms?  
Image courtesy: Here

What if love was a disease we all contracted and cancer merely an emotion that we could control?
What if the good you do made you prosperous and gold & cash were just worthless baubles and papers?
What if we took a step back from the castes, creeds and religions and just saw the world as one shared foster home inhabited by over a billion children in love?

What if you did not need to waste the resources of this planet for wood and oil but could make what we need just by accumulating selfless deeds?
What if you knew your soul mate from the moment you began to exist rather than suffer the pangs of loneliness and fear?
What if you did not know your hands could be used as weapons?
What if rapes and molestations could not occur because like the penguins yonder, such a  thought did not even exist? Would our women be able to walk free then and share a smile of kindness without fear?
What if we all had the choice to lead a joyous life, without harming everyone we come in contact with and got the chance to die with a smile on our faces?
What if loving God was not a criteria to being loved by God?
What if God just revealed himself and we saw him for what he or she truly was instead of making our own versions of him and then killing to defend that version?

What if it were all possible at the snap of a finger and you just forgot you could do it, God?
What if you trusted me and gave me a chance just for this infinitesimal moment in time to be you?
What if you allowed me to be God, my Lord...

Authors note:
 “I am participating in the #TheWorldRemade activity at BlogAdda in association with India Today #Conclave15 “.

Feb 24, 2015

Book review: Twists of Fate by Dr Priyanka Naik

The Dr Priyanka Naik I know as a fellow blogger would write lovely poetry that was filled with such wonderful visual imagery. So when she told me her debut book was being released, my interest was definitely piqued.

book review Godyears

Twists of Fate begins in Mumbai, a city which over the course of the novel comes alive through the eyes and viewpoints of not just the author but her protagonists as well. Sharvari Joshi, Nandini Muzumdar and Parizaad Sethna are three colours of a rubik’s cube that form the heart of this book, their very varied backgrounds intercepting during childhood and the ever memorable teenage years before life takes them away in different directions. The three who finally come back into each other’s lives as adults are altered by what life has dealt them and yet, in each other, they find the chance for redemption, hope and solace once more.

Feb 20, 2015

The World is Not a Bad Place #1000Speak

In spite of everything that you read in the newspaper, I need you to believe in one thing – the world is not a bad place.

I see so many of your shoulders slump when you talk about the way things are today. You are worried about terrorists and fanatics, persecution and poverty. You look at one another with suspicion even though you have never met each other in real life. There are daily reminders of blood spilled and heinous crimes committed and you say “This world is such a horrible place to live in today.”

That is not true. It is as bad as it has always been. These struggles for religious dominance, power or money have always been a part of mankind… but so has compassion and selfless love. There is so much love and humanity within us. There are so many people still making the extra effort to brighten someone’s day. They are not world leaders – they are ordinary people like you and me. They are living proof that you can be an angel in someone’s life just with a simple gesture of love, compassion or gratitude. 

 You only get to see the power hungry world leaders and the fear mongers in your newsfeed and you think this is what the world has become now because you are flooded with the negativity that is showcased. But what if I were to turn it around? What if instead of the sorrow and suffering you see in the news, you were flooded with the good that we do everyday? Can you then find it within you to believe once more in humanity?

What is compassion and where is it found, you ask?

  • Compassion is a police officer who decides not to arrest an impoverished woman caught stealing food for her children and instead pays for her food, her act motivating others to donate for the woman’s children and eventually getting her a job.
  • It is celebrities who do not forget their humble beginnings and help out in soup kitchens for disaster reliefs; who know their presence can motivate a young child and so make the extra effort to help the needy.

Feb 10, 2015

Love in the time of lockdown

If you have ever been blessed enough to have been in love, you know how wonderful a feeling it can be.

This incident happened many a decade ago when mobiles were non-existant and Chandrakanta was still the most popular show on television. It was a time when Titanic had just waltzed in and out of theatres and hand written love letters on scented stationary was still fashionable. It was also a time of political unrest in my dear old God's own country with the usual tirade of attacks on party workers often resulting in days-on-end lost to hartals.

And somewhere in between all this was a young teenager in love with his classmate. I could use a lot of words to describe her and how she made me a better person and had a pivotal role in transforming me into who I am today but I will simply suffice with a single statement: two decades since I first fell in love with her, I still remember her as the nicest, kindest, sweetest human being I ever had the privilege to know. ( Well, she did have her flaws, of course! For one thing, she was not particularly bright, surely... I mean, she liked me, of all people! But hey, everyone is allowed a mistake or two! )

I remember this moment from the past because it was a particularly trying time for us. We were a young couple in love during a time when mobiles and instant communication was science-fiction and sadly, carrier pigeons were also not considered cool enough to be used. Yet, we made it work like any other set of teenagers from the 90's with our secret code words, love letters and landline calls.

But this time things were different. She had been hurt badly and was hospitalized in the same city I was in and there was nothing I could do about it. Unlike the norm today, there was no status update on Facebook or even phone number I could dial to talk to her while she was in the hospital.

After the second day with no news, I really needed to see her just to hear her voice and know she was okay. I knew her family would be there and frankly, had no clue in the whole wide world, how I would deal with them when they asked me who I was. I just knew that the person I loved was hurt and I needed to see her.

Image source: here 
Would you believe it... at the same moment that night that I was working up the resolve to see her the next day after school, somewhere in a distant corner of Kerala, a bunch of political party workers decided to play dandiya with their opponents using sharp instruments! The next morning, I woke up to the news that there was no school... no buses, autos or shops either. The city was on lock-down as a hartal had been imposed owing to the actions of the warring factions. I would like to believe that they had some genuine motives for their fight. I imagine they did. But then what did I know? I was a guy in love who had just been told there was no way to see the person he cared about who was hurting too somewhere in a hospital bed.

Feb 6, 2015

When Doctors follow the plan

I was lost.
I could not come to terms with the absurdity of all that was going on in India. Suddenly, caring about fellow Indians and being compassionate was resulting in me being called various expletives. Not caring about a person’s religion or my own personal grudges while treating patients – something we are supposed to do as doctors – suddenly was a bad thing.

A newspaper seller could be arrested because ‘the newspaper’ had something that was offensive to somebody else. A comedy roast could take place and even though the roasters, the roastees and the audience had no problem with it, people who were not there that day and who were not even mentioned by religion/name/innuendo could still feel insulted after watching a video at home and a police case was successfully filed against not just the roasters but also people sitting in the audience and laughing. Books written thirty years ago were burned because suddenly they became morally corruptible.

I tried making sense of it all and could not. Luckily, total strangers from social media were there to guide me. They told me that this is "the India of the future" – the one that will lead the way - and so old fashioned people like me with concepts like equality and freedom of expression could either go away to Pakistan (which is the obvious choice for equality and freedom of expression) or ‘get with the plan’. 
Spicy Saturday pick
of the week

Since Pakistan had neither Kerala styled jaggery coated banana chips nor puttu-kadala curry which I covet, I was reluctant to go with Option A. So, I did "get with the plan." 
I incorporated all that India is becoming into my medical practise. And while it does not necessarily blend in easily with the Hippocratic Oath, I say to hell with that, right? I mean, who needs that old piece of paper anyway? When we can remove words from the Constitution, why not be selective here too, right?
Anyway, this is how I deal with my patients now:

“Doctor, there’s a road traffic accident case coming! Small boy with pretty bad injuries.”
(My old questions) “What is the age? Consciousness level? Blood loss? Site of injury?”
(My new first question) “If he is from my religion, put him as the first case. Otherwise, the last case in the list and don’t give any painkillers. Let him suffer a little for the sins of ISIS/the Britishers.”

“Sir, my one year old daughter has high fever."
"It must be because she is having a mobile or wearing jeans. It is your fault.”

"Sir, this patient needs blood. Blood group is AB +."
"Forget the blood group. Get blood from someone who matches his religion. He is a vegetarian. We can't give him non-vegetarian eating rascals blood."

“Doctor, there has been a bus accident. Multiple casualties coming in.”
“Get the triage stickers out. We will need to see and prioritize them from the casualty.”
“Red, yellow, green and black for immediate, moderate, stable and deceased, right?”
“No, saffron, white, green and black for Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Godless seculars.”  

Image source: here

“Nurse, who left this Harry Potter book here?”
“The patient, sir. She was reading it.”
“Throw her out of the hospital. She’s reading about wizards and magic spells. Bloody blasphemy!”

Feb 2, 2015

Why India will probably have to give the World Cup back #WontGiveItBack

With less than a fortnight to go for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 to start, there really is no way to avoid discussions on India's chances at the World Cup. Having watched their recently concluded tour of Australia and even 2014's tour of New Zealand, it is really hard to be optimistic, I must say.

Going in as the underdogs and with minimal chances may bring out the cornered tiger in some teams (Imran's 92 WC team) but it would take quite a leap of faith to see the present Indian squad replicating that level of magic. Here are my reasons why - hashtags aside - we may have to give the World Cup back this year.

  • Dhoni is faced with the sad reality that he cannot be the finisher we want anymore, simply because even though he bats at 6, he knows there is not much batting below him to follow should he fail.
  • We are one of the few teams that toured both the host nations in 2014... we did not win a single match in 4 months and 3 formats.
    Tangy Tuesday Pick
    of the Week
  • The best teams enjoy the benefit of having some really consistent big hitters coming in at spots like 7 and 8 - Luke Ronchi & Corey Anderson for New Zealand, Haddin & James Faulkner for Australia, that young boy Shahid Afridi for the tumultuous Pakistan, Sammy and Russell for the Windies, Buttler for England... every team has something to offer in the hitting arena beyond batsmen number 7. That becomes essential when you need the added boost at the end of your innings to carry you from a good score to a great score. The fact that we could not groom a medium pace all-rounder in the last 4 years (or at least improve the batting skills of our tail enders!) is scary and speaks of a genuine lack of depth in a country obsessed with the sport.

Jan 30, 2015

What you see first

"How could you fall in love with someone like her?"
"Why do you say so?" he replied, arching his eyebrows at this unexpected assault on his girlfriend.
"Well... come on. Look at her and look at you. You're an actual model who's been on tv, Raghav. Whereas Anushka? The first thing anyone will notice when they see her is that horrendous vertical scar on her face!"
Raghav turned towards his sister angrily but stopped as he spotted Anushka across the room.

She stood there by the living room sofa, chatting with a small boy as she refilled his glass of Mirinda. The child smiled gratefully and gave her a high five before rushing off to be with his friends. Raghav watched as the other kids ran up to her, each awaiting their turn. She patiently obliged each child with a grin and a wink as she refilled their glasses, unaware of the conversation taking place across the room. Raghav smiled as he watched her tickle the last child and pretend to run away, allowing the little girl to gleefully chase her down. And he knew he had his answer. He turned towards his sister, a content smile upon his face.

"Those children see what I could and what you cannot. Part of being a model was realizing the value of how important - or insignificant - looks are in judging people in real life. You look at Anushka and notice her scar first. I look at her and see a smile that promises to brighten up my day, every day."

Author's note:
This is my take on the picture prompt from Blog-a-Rhythm's Wordy Wednesdays.